Mozilla's Firefox browser is a true community effort. Though Mozilla itself employs 45 full-time developers, there are an additional 1,000 community code contributors to the Firefox project with over 20,000 nightly testers and 500,000 beta testers to ensure the core developers can offload much of the test load so that they can spend more time on core development. With over 50 million daily users and 125 million total users, Firefox has a huge presence on the web.
With so many users Mozilla feels it has a huge responsibility as a guardian of the web for the 21st Century, suggested Chris Blizzard in a presentation he gave at the SCALE conference this week. Chris' slides are online and tell the story of an organization that takes its role as a community platform - with the aspiration to be an essential facility - very seriously.
I've been critical of Mozilla's muted voice in the community, but reading through a report on Chris' comments, I wonder if I've just been listening for the wrong voice:
Broad adoption of Firefox has placed Mozilla in a unique position for an open-source project, he says, and the organization is beginning to change the way that it operates so that it can expand its vision and make better use of its growing resources. The new mobile Firefox project and the ongoing work at Mozilla labs reflect the organization's growing focus on bringing the freedom and standards support of Firefox to a new frontier and incubating new technologies.
That's an impressive goal, and one that I Mozilla seems to have the ideological (in the good sense of the word) predilection to manage. With how important the web is, it's exceptionally important that there be an organization shepherding it, one without a particular commercial bent that puts freedom above profit. I hadn't seen it this clearly before, but Chris' words make it easy to see the importance of a truly open browser.
I still want Mozilla to speak up. We need to hear more of this. Chris' presentation is a breath of fresh air. More of the same, Mozilla. More of the same, please.