I just finished my first year as an employee of the Mozilla Foundation and since last summer I’ve been working on a number of different projects focused on our donations program and our outreach efforts. Several of my current projects will be wrapping up soon, so I’ve been thinking about what I’d like to work on next and have also been thinking about what else the Foundation could be doing. It looks like other people are thinking about the same thing too.
As Mitchell mentions, the Mozilla Foundation needs to devote its activities to promoting choice and innovation on the Internet. The Mozilla Corporation and Mozilla Messaging subsidiaries of the Foundation have a good handle on the promoting choice part, so this frees up the Foundation itself to promote innovation (Firefox and Thunderbird are certainly creating innovations in the browser and email space, but the opportunity for the Foundation is to look beyond those products).
Any effort to promote innovation should look at working with people inside of the Mozilla community as well as engaging with people who are currently outside of the community. Before expanding the scope of the Foundation’s programs, it is crucial to make sure that the Mozilla community remains a vibrant place for innovation. After all, Firefox was able to thrive because there was space in the early years of the Mozilla project for people to experiment with alternatives to the original browser suite. The Mozilla Foundation is already doing some things to support the community as a whole, so it should be relatively easy to scale these activities up as needed.
What should the Foundation do to promote innovation outside of the Mozilla community though? I agree with Mark Surman that helping people make the shift from being consumers to being contributors is the step that needs to happen to make more innovation possible. Although engaging with people outside of the community in this way may sound like something new, this activity very much fits in with the culture developed by the community over the last decade. Remember that the Mozilla community exists because people convinced a for-profit company to give away the source of their flagship product. This was a big deal that brought a whole new group of people into the open source community as partners in innovation.
In this current discussion I think we’re just figuring out who else to invite in as partners next. Governments, universities, developing countries, members of open movements in other fields, a mass movement of millions…?