The word Mozilla has meant many different things over the years (the linked Wikipedia article lists 10 uses). Although several of the historical meanings (such as Mozilla referring to an application) are no longer in use, it can still get confusing if people are using the term in different ways.
Today when people talk about Mozilla, they are usually talking about either an organization (the Mozilla Foundation and/or the Mozilla Corporation), a technology (the Mozilla code) or a community (the global group of people that work on the software hosted at mozilla.org and the extensions, applications and other projects related to that code).
To give some examples for how Mozilla can be used in different ways, take a look at the following applications:
- Firefox is a Mozilla community project that is supported by the Mozilla organization and uses Mozilla technology
- Bugzilla is a Mozilla community project that is supported by the Mozilla organization and doesn’t use Mozilla technology
- Open Komodo is a Mozilla community project that is not supported by the Mozilla organization and does use Mozilla technology
- XUL Dark Matter are applications that aren’t Mozilla community projects and are not supported by the Mozilla organization but they do use Mozilla technology
These distinctions matter because we need to know what we’re talking about if we want to tell other people about what Mozilla is and why it is important. Do we want to have the word Mozilla mean all three of these things? Would it be worthwhile instead to use different words for the organization, the technology and the community?
For example, the recently announced Powered by Mozilla logo is talking about Mozilla as a technology, so this would include both Firefox and Open Komodo. But Open Komodo isn’t part of what has traditionally been known as the Mozilla applications (Firefox, Thunderbird, SeaMonkey, Camino, and Sunbird) that are supported by the Mozilla organization.
This has come up for me while working on the http://www.mozilla.org site. On the recently updated Projects page the distinction between Mozilla as an organization and Mozilla as a technology was handled by creating two sections for applications (Mozilla Applications and Mozilla-Based Applications). It seems to me that these names are somewhat ambiguous and we could find something that is more clear but I’m not sure what that would be.
This is also an issue that will need to be dealt with when we update the content in the About section of the site. If the About page should provide an answer to the question of ‘What Is Mozilla?’ we’ll get a very different result if we decide that Mozilla is just one thing or if it is several things with different meanings. My opinion is that the answer to this question is that Mozilla is a community, a technology and an organization, but I was interested to hear what other people thought.