Mitchell BakerChief Executive Officer, Chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation
2020 has been an unprecedented year. The global pandemic has made it clear how central the internet has become to all aspects of life. Work, school, connection, family, holidays, elections, protest — everything — has been mediated through the internet. And those without connection are left further behind.
This vastly increased reliance on the internet reinforces Mozilla’s view that we need a better internet, and that we need technologists involved in creating a better internet. This requires new products and technologies built in greater alignment with the values that Mozilla represents. In 2020 we restructured Mozilla Corporation to align our organizational resources and financial investments with this focus on innovation.
For Mozilla this means growing the impact of Firefox, while also finding new terrain, and doing this exploration in concert with other technologists and builders who share our commitment to an online future that is more open and humane. So in 2020 we made some hard, but deliberate choices to end our investment in some areas in order to support growth for the future in others. The redirection and investments we made in 2020 will continue to provide the guidance and emphasis for Mozilla’s work going into 2021. The results of our efforts this year were threefold:
1. A renewed focus on expanding the impact of our core Firefox browser.
With more people tethered to the internet as a lifeline this unique year has shown that web browsers and the infrastructure that support them are more important than ever. It’s vital that a trusted and independent organization like Mozilla is able to continue its focus on creating a reliable and privacy-respecting browser like Firefox that empowers people to access the internet securely. To that end in 2020 Mozilla continued to lead in the adoption of web standards and protocols that enhance internet security with the expansion of our trusted resolver program to include Comcast in the rollout of DNS over HTTPS in Firefox for users in the United States. As the last independent browser, we continued our long-standing push for diversity in how the web is expressed with the launch of a new Firefox Android browser powered by our Gecko engine.
2. Optimizing Mozilla for new product development and expanded investment in existing products beyond Firefox.
With more people around the world working and learning from home than ever before, people were in search of new ways to bring the online security solutions long associated with the workplace to their private networks. In 2020 we launched a paid VPN service to meet this need. Our mixed reality exploration, Hubs, became a testing ground for people looking for alternatives to Zoom and other video conferencing platforms for online collaboration in lieu of face-to-face meetings. This year Hubs was used by a diverse array of individuals and organizations trying to capture the 3-D quality of previously in-person only experiences from Halloween gatherings to album launch parties to board meetings and museum tours. We also made significant advances with Pocket — creating new functional capabilities for sharing content, and growing Pocket’s user base and publishing partnerships to access more of the rich and worthwhile content available online. With its people-powered approach to content curation, through Pocket, Mozilla made headway this year in our continued exploration of ways to help people discover worthwhile, relevant content in a more ethical and privacy-respecting manner. In doing so we also sought to protect people from the misinformation and data collection that are intertwined with the algorithms that recommend content on social networks.
3. Engaging with people outside of Mozilla.
New products have power to change internet experiences. Is there a hunger among entrepreneurs, technologists, designers, activists, dreamers to build products intentionally aimed at something different than today’s internet? In 2020 we launched a pilot initiative called Mozilla Builders to explore this topic. The signal from this pilot is positive and encouraging. The experiment drew 1,500 participants. Mozilla provided mentorship and financial support. The result is over one hundred projects that are now underway at varying stages of development from early exploration to initial start-up.
Our purpose, power and impact as an organization are enhanced because of Mozilla’s unique mix of operating in the marketplace by offering consumer products and services while also driving internet policy, and advocating for tech ecosystem change. As Mozilla Foundation Executive Director Mark Surman makes clear in greater detail in 2020 we worked on all these fronts. We engaged our peers in the tech sector and regulators in the European Union, United Kingdom, the United States, Kenya, Australia and India in key discussions about internet policy that will shape online life for decades to come,and we deepened our commitments to racial justice through our products and operations.
We do not have all the answers for improving the internet, or for competing with the tech giants as we do so. Mozilla takes on these challenges because they are important, not because they are easy. We have made progress this year, and I’m very proud we’ve managed to do so in the middle of such a challenging year. There is far more work to be done. Mozilla’s product development work must go faster. Mozilla’s connections to the nascent community of builders who want to create new products for a better internet must expand. Mozilla’s connection to consumers, citizens and activists who live online must deepen dramatically. The pervasiveness of the internet in 2020 has shown how important it is to improve internet life. It’s shown that Mozilla can bring a laser focus to products. It’s shown the possibility of a rich and varied community of people building a better internet.
This year’s State of Mozilla outlines how we’ve fought on behalf of people and the web, while making the smart and sometimes hard choices needed to ensure we can also build for whatever online life will hold tomorrow. It’s clear that now more than ever Mozilla’s independent voice is needed.