Mozilla is changing
Mozilla is changing, as everybody has noticed. It's not change for the sake of change, but the whole environment is changing. Here are a list of things that have changed over the past few years, from the top of my head, in no particular order:
- Competition in the browser space is now really strong, with 3 browsers with more than 20% market share.
- Microsoft releases a browser every year now (sounds crazy when you think about it!). Every version is getting better at supporting Web standards (Yay!)
- Google marketing budgets for Chrome are much larger than Mozilla's annual revenue.
- Open Web technologies are moving forward faster than ever, under the "HTML5" name (which includes all the related technologies, from the DOM to the numerous new APIs and CSS evolutions).
- Mobile is everywhere. It's actually the new frontier. This year, the PC market will be smaller than mobile (in terms of units sold).
- Tablets are taking off as a market.
- In the mobile space, not all platforms enable the user to choose what Web browser to use. This trend may also be coming to the PC world with Chrome OS, which only runs Chrome.
- The notion of App Stores has been widely accepted by the public. The upcoming version of OS X, Lion, will be sold via the Mac App Store, without physical media.
- The general public is now becoming aware of online privacy issues, but it's still something that needs to be addressed.
- "Cloud Computing" is so common that it's now a household word.
- Social Networks are so important now that many pundits say that Google may fail for not being social enough (then Google Plus changed it all).
- Hardware is changing too. Not just the form factor (from PC to tablets and smartphones), but the processors themselves, with ARM becoming a very strong contender and multiple cores becoming the norm.
I'm sure I'm forgetting many things when describing the changes happening around Mozilla (please leave a comment below if you think I forgot something significant). Anyway, we're far from the days when IE had a monopoly, while the Web technologies where stagnating, everybody on the Web was developing for IE6 and the PC was the center of the IT world.
The good news is that we've started changing already in a significant way, for example with the Rapid Release Process. The not-so-good news is that change is uncomfortable, for two reasons:
- it takes some time to get adjusted to the new situation, for some people more than others.
- we're going to make mistakes along the way (I know for a fact we've made a couple already).
We're going to fix these mistakes as much as we can, just like we're going to get used to do things in a different way. We'll have hard decisions to make. We'll have to revisit some of these decisions if they're really bad. It's not going to be all easy and fun, but the history of Mozilla has not been a walk in the park either.
So change is taking place because it has to: in such a changing environment, we need to demonstrate leadership, take initiatives, or we'll become obsolete.
Although there are things that will not change. At least two things come to my mind:
- Why we pursue the Mozilla mission as described in the The Mozilla Manifesto.
- How we do it: within a community, in an Open way, around Open standards, using Open source and Free software.
Some details on the how part will change, or have already changed. The Rapid Release Process comes to mind, but while it's a significant change, it does not touch our principles. It certainly impacts our community, both for Add-ons developers and Enterprise users, and we're working on addressing these issues. As Mozilla evolves, we'll keep on making mistakes, because we're going to places we've never been before. It's OK: we need to learn how to take risks, make mistakes and learn from them. We also need to learn to over-communicate, as communication becomes even more important as we change. It's already happening in the add-ons world and we've just announced the Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group.
So change is happening because it has to and it's uncomfortable for many of us. Maybe too uncomfortable for a few of us. We'll see a handful of people leaving the Mozilla project. It has happened before, and it was unpleasant. I just don't think we should stop evolving because we're scared that people may leave.
Now as long as the course of the project is in line with our goals and values - like it is right now - you can expect me to be here, committed and working hard. I'm sure I can count on you for this too.
 Remember when all Netscape employees were let go in July 2003? Remember when Mozilla had decided to bet everything on Firefox and Thunderbird instead of the Mozilla Suite? I was there and I do remember, and I have no regrets. I do have scars from back then, though.
 the Mozilla project as a whole including paid staff, volunteers of all kinds, partners, add-on developers and the numerous enthusiasts around the world.
 as opposed to principles.