Mozilla is a rare organization. We’re activists for a better internet, one where individuals and societies benefit more from the effects of technology, and where competition brings consumers choices beyond a small handful of integrated technology giants.
We’re activists who champion change by building alternatives. We build products and compete in the consumer marketplace. We combine this with advocacy, policy, and philanthropic programs connecting to others to create change. This combination is rare.
Mozilla should be bigger, better, and more effective in this work. I love Mozilla, but more importantly, there aren’t many organizations like Mozilla that combine a true public benefit core with a technology powerhouse and compete in the market.
In Mozilla's first era, we did this as an open-source project, with very little focus on running a business. This reflected the early days of “the web.” There was even some question as to whether Mozilla should have business arrangements with the search providers, or eschew business and simply leave all the value to the search companies. We chose the former, which has allowed us to support employees and maintain a world-class technology organization. There weren’t any models for this, so we created our own.
Today the idealism of the early days is tempered with experience, and with the reality that vast amounts of money and power are generated through internet technology and accrue primarily to a handful of companies. Our early models did not prevent that.
Business and commerce are powerful tools. The part of Mozilla organized as Mozilla Corporation is explicitly formed to make use of the power of business, on behalf of our public benefit core. Mozilla Corporation (or “MoCo” as we call it) is expressly organized to use the power of commerce and run a business on behalf of the Mozilla mission. Because Mozilla Corporation runs a “trade or business” people sometimes think that it is a “for-profit company.” That’s not how we run MoCo. MoCo is a tax-paying organization that runs a business to bring the power of the marketplace to our mission. The business is a tool for the mission, it is not an end in itself.
Today we have a strong focus on running a business well, and on running our business as a tool for public benefit. We want the power of the market, the power of consumers choosing our product, and the power of providing value and generating revenue to support our mission. Internet business needs models that aren’t creepy. Internet business needs different models, even if they aren’t as insanely profitable for the companies building them.
To do this, Mozilla Corporation should grow into a multi-product organization with different business models. When Mozilla started, the browser impacted all aspects of internet life and allowed Mozilla to have an impact and drive change across most internet-based activities. Today the browser remains powerful but is not a universal tool. So Mozilla Corporation needs to expand to multiple products, allowing for multiple options for customer audiences and business models.
Today we’re experienced in representing consumer interests in the browser world. Going forward it’s time to build this knowledge with other products and additional business models. It’s time to bring our public benefit-driven mindset to products rich with machine learning and the power of new technologies. It’s clear society is interested in seeing alternatives. Consumers are expressing this desire and we see governments engaging more in both understanding and regulating internet-based experiences. From our vantage point in the industry, we see that many technologists, entrepreneurs, and founders want to build differently.
We’ve been remaking MoCo to take on these challenges. We’ve built a new team. We have been identifying the things from our heritage that hold us back these days, identifying the key value at the center of this heritage, and developing ways to bring the DNA of Mozilla forward in a modernized and revitalized form. We’re looking to join with allies who see the value and want to do the work of creating new models, and of building a business in service of our public benefit mission.
As before, there’s no clear model for doing this. It’s exciting. It’s important — internet life should be better and Mozilla is a powerful tool for achieving that.