Firefox fortune hunters

Mozilla Foundation's browser may be free and open source, but that doesn't keep insiders from cashing in.

Just because Firefox is free and open source doesn't mean developers aren't cashing in on the popularity of the Mozilla Foundation's new browser.

On the contrary, new businesses are cropping up to provide organizations ranging from museums to software companies to the U.S. Department of Defense with Mozilla-based applications--for a fee.


What's new:
New businesses are cropping up to provide organizations with Mozilla-based applications--for a fee.

Bottom line:
Are people getting involved in Mozilla and other open-source projects to get rich? Not quite.

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"Business is pretty crazy right now," said Pete Collins, who last year founded the Mozdev Group in anticipation of demand for private Mozilla development work. "With the popularity of Firefox and the economy rebounding, we've been swamped. We don't even advertise--clients find us and provide us with work."

The Mozdev Group is still a small shop--seven employees scattered around the globe, including two new hires. In response to demand, Collins intends to hire two more workers in January, and hourly rates, which range between $75 and $100 per hour depending on volume, are going up.

The rise of Mozdev Group and businesses like it is but a small part of a broader corporate interest in open-source software. High-tech stalwarts such as IBM and open-source originals like Red Hat have long embraced the open-source model, selling services and pitching platforms for use with software whose underlying source code is made available online for free and licensed use.

Pete Collins
founder, Mozdev Group

Open-source software businesses have lured even Microsoft veterans into the fold.

The demand for Mozilla development work comes as the Mozilla Foundation's recent Firefox 1.0 release enjoys good reviews and brisk downloads. Mozilla, which then-AOL Time Warner spun off as an independent foundation last year, oversees the volunteer, open-source development of the Firefox browser, the Thunderbird e-mail reader and other software.

Firefox's success ends a long drought for Mozilla, which had racked up a six-year record of extensive delays and suffered from a badly reviewed Netscape release based on its code.

Developers' enthusiasm for Mozilla also fulfills, at least in part, an original goal of the open-source group, which was to establish Mozilla technologies as a platform for application development. To the degree that Mozilla continues to progress in that direction, it succeeds in countering one of archrival Microsoft's most formidable advantages: a far-flung army of independent software developers building software keyed to the Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer browser.

"They've created an easily extensible architecture," Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group, said of the Mozilla effort. "Once you've done that, all you need is an installed base, and theirs is growing....Plus (Mozilla) is cross-platform, so it has the opportunity to attract a broader base of developers."

Mozdev Group is the corporate offshoot of, a

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