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Mozilla CEO: Why we're still shunned by corporate IT

Businesses still stick with proprietary technology, although Mozilla offers customization kit for business customers.

Mozilla, maker of the open-source Firefox Web browser and Thunderbird e-mail client, says a reliance on proprietary technologies is still an obstacle for IT directors looking to deploy open source in the enterprise.

Mozilla Corporation CEO Mitchell Baker readily admitted to that the enterprise is "not our sweet spot" but said the organization offers an enterprise customization kit created by an IBM developer and said it's interested in working with partners to address the needs of corporate IT.

"The gold is the company that steps up and says, 'I'm willing to do something,'" Baker said.

While many IT directors do allow the open-source browser to be used on company time, those who don't are often held back by the proprietary technologies employed on their intranets.

"Enterprises have intranets that only work with (Microsoft's) IE," Baker said. "We can't fix their intranet."

Another hurdle Firefox must overcome is the "heartbreakingly slow" process many enterprises go through to certify the use of a tool as critical as a Web browser, according to Baker.

It's this need to comply with proprietary technology--as well as general quality issues--which, Baker claims, keeps IT departments from going with client-side open-source applications, not merely the fact they're open source.

On the server side, though, she said, "I hear open source is in the enterprise--sometimes it's open and acknowledged, sometimes it's not."

The next version of Mozilla's Web browser, Firefox 2.0, is due out in the third quarter of this year. New features will aim to make "using information quicker, easier and better," said Baker. The new Firefox will sport improved tabs and search boxes, better use of RSS, and antiphishing and other security enhancements.

Baker said Mozilla's 2005 revenue was in the "tens of millions of dollars" range--and that the organization is now investigating ways to give some of that back to the volunteer development community.

"Some of that revenue should find its way into the community in some form," she said.

This compensation is more likely to take the form of hardware gifts or other resources, not fat paychecks, though.

"We could never pay enough people to make Firefox," especially at the level they'd make at rivals such as Microsoft, she said. "We won't be doing that."

Baker explained that Mozilla is in the process of hiring an individual to spend six months figuring out how to give some of its profits back to the community.

Sylvia Carr of reported from London.