Mozilla: The right attitude for a Web gatekeeper

The developer of the Firefox browser has a dream of winning, but not in the traditional free-market methodology. Its mission: keep the Web open and participatory.

I'm all for capitalism and bare-knuckled competition. In fact, much as I bag on Microsoft, it's precisely because I respect it as an organization that I devote any time to it at all.

However, there are some areas where I'd rather have a "public utility" running the show, and the Web browser is one of them. (The operating system is another, which is one reason I'm a big proponent of Linux.) For this reason, I loved this Seattle Times interview with Mozilla CEO John Lilly, in which he expresses the precise attitude that we want from an organization serving as a gatekeeper of the Web with a browser:

Q: You've said Mozilla is there to make the Web better. Is that all? No dreams of empire?

Lilly: No, no, no. We talk about our mission literally every day, which is to keep the Web open and participatory. When Mozilla started 2003, it felt that 96 percent of the Web being controlled by Microsoft wasn't good for anyone.

Our goal is to make the Web better. We have a single agenda. Beyond that, we're proud about a few things. Our open-source nature is significant. Our community is significant.

Q: If someone ever comes up with a better open-source browser than Firefox, and Mozilla disappeared, would that be a success or a failure for the company, or a little of both?

Lilly: It's not exactly plan A, but the mission is to keep the Web open.

I love that. No talk of kidney-punching its way to the top. No talk of FUD and other common mechanisms for gaining or keeping market share. Just open source and community, duking it out for market supremacy. That's the kind of Web domination with which I can live.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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