The Truth about Mozilla

An analysis of the Baker-Lilly CEO switch

Posted in Mozilla by The Lizard on February 18, 2008

And so, the great Mitchell Baker fell.

Before we delve deep into the hidden meaning in the announcement of Ms Baker’s fall, the Lizard would like to note that at Mozilla’s weekly meeting on the day of the announcement, both the old, tired CEO and the new, asinine CEO apologized profusely to Corporation employees for informing them of this news on such a short schedule (for most, quite literally four hours prior to the late afternoon announcement). Mere hours earlier, a meeting had taken place with John Markoff of the NYTimes to prepare the press for this announcement. The biggest reason for the shorter-than-usual announcement period as well as the preemptive spin strike? This blog.

Ms Baker as well as Mr Lilly were concerned that the Lizard would discover this news and report it before they had applied appropriate spin to it. They are 100% right. Had the Lizard not been drinking Mai Tais with a beach full of gorgeous girls and studly men, this blog would’ve been the first to report. However, Ms Baker, Mr Lilly: rest assured, not a soul on this earth believed the CEO was doing anything; everyone expected a change.

Let’s analyze Ms Baker’s post together to get a better grasp of this “change.”

2007 has been another year of extremely high growth for Mozilla and thus for the Mozilla Corporation. The number of Firefox users has grown to approximately 125 million. Mozilla’s mindshare in the industry continues to grow. We’ve launched both a number of significant new initiatives: a mobile effort, an innovation focus in Mozilla Labs, an integrated, ambitious support effort ( and a range of new outreach and evangelism programs. We’ve launched a serious effort in China and are vigorously supporting the new mail related Mozilla organization. We continue to build and ship great software, as the recent Firefox 3 betas demonstrate. Our contributors are increasing around the globe. Employees are increasing around the globe. We’re doing this in a Mozilla way, with a tiny number of employees for the work, distributed authority and tens of thousands of people contributing to create a more open and participatory Internet.

Translation: I’m an idiot. 2007 was fucking amazing because of the work I did. See all these great things I did as CEO? I deserve a break. But even as fucking amazing as I am, I’m completely unable pay attention to what has happened at my company.

The mobile effort we launched? Totally fucked up. (Editor’s note: with apologies to Doug Turner and Minimo contributors; the post on this is still forthcoming.)

Our “innovation focus in Mozilla Labs?” Stealing employees and killing a company is not how you innovate. (By the way, TechCrunch, Andrew Wilson is the one who will not be joining Mozilla. And no, it wasn’t his choice.)

The Tenser-led “” Whoops. Did I say .org? I meant .com. Mozilla Corp doesn’t fucking care about anything remotely related to “.org.” Why should they? I certainly don’t; only gets me down.

And the rest of that bullshit is just that, bullshit. Now, where was I?

Our accomplishments are remarkable; the opportunity in front of us is enormous. To meet this opportunity we need to execute really, really well. And we need to make the best use of our resources, most notably people.

Translation: I don’t really do shit. My best use of time has always been sitting in meetings scratching my ass, mumbling to myself, and rocking back and forth while others do the real work.

Today both John Lilly and I are spending a lot of time in classic “CEO” activities– organizational structure, employee well-being, budget and resource allocation, representing Mozilla products (especially Firefox) in discussions with other industry executives and the press, monitoring the progress of our product efforts, and overall execution of MoCo (our shorhand for the Mozilla Corporation). In addition to this work, I spend another chunk of time on overall organizational issues, in particular the relationship of the Mozilla Corporation to other Mozilla entities– The Mozilla Foundation, Mozilla Europe, “MailCo”, and the Mozilla community. I’m starting to spend time thinking about Firefox as a springboard in the Internet industry for bringing participation to areas not directly touched through using a browser– for data, for understanding what’s actually happening with the Internet. I spend time on Mozilla Foundation activities and project wide policies, including recruiting an Executive Director and filling in somewhat until we find someone. Each of these areas needs more time than it gets, and each will need even more time in the future.

Translation: A) I’m completely unable to write grammatically correct sentences or spell simple words. If Firefox had a spell-checker, this wouldn’t be a problem. Someone please help me upgrade from Firefox 1.0.8? How do I use this computer?

B) That list of CEO activities? I haven’t done a single one of them for two years. When my ass was getting sore from doing nothing, I gave myself a raise and padded my seat with $100 bills.

C) All those easy-earned $100 bills that I wipe my ass with are really for “Mozilla Foundation activities and project wide policies.” You’ve seen the great work I’ve done, haven’t you? Declaring the entire year a party for Mozilla was the first step in my new role. This very important measure will… Party! Party, party!

Um, where was I? Oh, yes.

So I’ve asked myself repeatedly: what is the best use of my talents? Not the use that is known, or that fits a standard model or is most glamourous. Those are all fine criteria, but not for Mozilla and not for me. More recently I started framing the question a little more precisely, asking myself: what am I doing that someone else could do as least as well? Are there unmet aspects of the opportunity in front of us that I could do a particularly good job of moving forward if I focused more on them?

Translation: After reading insight from the Lizard, I realized getting called out publicly sucks more than Paris Hilton on a first date. The real question I had was “How the fuck can I offload more work to someone else?” Guess what? I found the answer! But first, let me bore you…

I have some unique attributes within the Mozilla world. I’ve had a leadership role since the early days and along with Brendan Eich I’ve been involved in– and often instrumental in– almost every major strategic and organizational decision following the launch of Mozilla. My focus ranges across the Mozilla world, and no one title captures the scope of what I think about and where I try to lead. I have a vision of the Internet and online life and a positive user experience– and of Mozilla’s role in creating these– that is far broader than browsers, email clients and even technology in general. Mozilla has shaped me during this first decade of my involvement; constantly astounding me with the ingenuity, commitment and excellence of our contributors. And I’ve undoubtedly had a hand in shaping Mozilla.

Translation: Blah, blah, blah. I’m awesome. Yadda, yadda, yadda. I’m amazing. Etc., etc., etc. Everything I do is fucking incredible.

Framed like this, a couple of things jumped out at me. One, I want Mozilla’s influence on the industry to go beyond the bits we ship as software. More particularly, I want to use the impact Firefox gives us in the market to get openness, collaboration and user control embedded in other products, services and aspects of online life. I’ve listed a few examples of what I mean below. You’ll see they are not yet precise and detailed. That’s why I want to dive into them– I can sense the enormity of the opportunity and a general sense of how to approach it, but I don’t have detailed project plans, and I’m not aware of anyone else who does. Some examples are:

Translation: Even though the company which I ran for years is completely incapable of focusing its efforts on two products at once (Editor’s note: another Thunderbird post forthcoming), I‘m going to branch out and find new things to distract our focus and become more failed efforts blotting Mozilla’s history. By providing you with the following five utterly general and unspecific ideas that no one could possibly accomplish due to the lack of focus and thought… Look over there! Quick, look! You’re going to miss it! Huge elephant! lolz.

  • Making the standards process more effective.
  • Encouraging more hybrid organizations like the Mozilla Corporation– organizations which serve the public benefit but support themselves through revenue rather than fund-raising.
  • Making “security” understandable enough that people can help protect themselves.
  • Providing individuals with the means to control their data and the content they create.
  • Making the public benefit, distributed and collaborative nature of Mozilla and Firefox more generally understood.

Translation: The elephant is back! Keep looking the wrong way while I wipe my ass with these $100 bills.

The second thing that jumped out at me is that John Lilly is the right person to guide the product and organizational maturity of MoCo. John has been doing more and more of this since he took on the COO role in August of 2006. John understands Mozilla, is astonishingly good at operations and has an innate facility for our products and technologies and the directions in which they should develop. John has been instrumental in developing an organizational structure for MoCo that is both embedded in Mozilla and open-source DNA and which can function at the extremely high degree of effectiveness that our setting requires.

Translation: I’m lazy. John’s lazy too. Appearances would have you believe otherwise, but don’t be fooled. We would never, ever fill my oh-so-special CEO position with someone competent and capable. We would, however, fill it with another minority like John. That just looks damn good.

Once I allowed myself to think about this I realized that John will be a better CEO for the MoCo going forward than I would be. I’m sure that I was the right person for this role during the first years of MoCo; I’m equally sure that John is the best person for this role in the future.

Translation: I’m done pretending publicly. It’s John’s turn to deal with the shit that is the Mozilla community.

As a result I’ve asked John to take on the role of CEO of the Mozilla Corporation, and John has agreed. In reality John and I have been unconsciously moving towards this change for some time, as John has been providing more and more organizational leadership. It is very Mozilla-like to acknowledge the scope of someone’s role after he or she has been doing it for a while, and this is a good part of what is happening here. I expect this transition to continue to be very smooth.

Translation: John’s the Chief now. He’s earned it. Just as Mozilla always promotes openness and transparency, I’ve been very careful to give community members and employees the chance to weigh in on this change and give their opinion on if this is the right decision. Oh wait, did I just write more bullshit in the translation? How the fuck did that happen?

I will remain an active and integral part of MoCo. I’ve been involved in shipping Mozilla products since the dawn of time, and have no intention of distancing myself from our products or MoCo. I’ll remain both as the Chairman of the Board and as an employee. My focus will shift towards the kinds of activities described above, but I’ll remain deeply engaged in MoCo activities. I don’t currently plan to create a new title. I have plenty of Mozilla titles already: Chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, Chairman of the Mozilla Corporation, Chief Lizard Wrangler of the project. More importantly, I hope to provide leadership in new initiatives because they are worthwhile, separate from any particular title. We will probably create an Office of the Chairman with a small set of people to work on these initiatives. I intend to remain deeply involved with MoCo precisely because I remain focused on our products and what we can accomplish within the industry.

Translation: I will continue to do what I’ve been doing: Nothing.

There will be some differences with this change of roles. Most notably:

  • John’s role in products and organization will become more visible to the world as he becomes more of a public voice for MoCo activities.
  • Today– in theory at least– John provides advice to me for a range of decisions for which I am responsible. In the future I’ll provide input to John and he’ll be responsible for making MoCo an effective organization. I expect to provide advice on a subset of topics and thus reduce the duplication of work. On the other hand, I also expect to be quite vocal on the topics I care about most. John and I agree on most things these days, but that doesn’t stop me from being vocal 🙂

Translation: Neither of us know how to listen to others. Don’t fucking expect improvements.

I’m thrilled with this development, both with John’s new role and with mine. If you’ve got thoughts on the kinds of projects I want to set in motion, I’m eager to hear them. And don’t be surprised if you see the Mozilla Corporation doing more faster– that’s a part of the goal. We’re all committed to doing things in a Mozilla style and you should expect to see that continue to shine through all that we do, whether it’s shipping product or developing a new initiative.

Translation: My door’s always open because I’m never doing anything else.

It’s important to reiterate how fast this announcement hit the bulk of Mozilla. Both the community and the employees at the Corporation (with some exceptions) experienced a quicker-than-normal announcement cycle. Corporation employees are traditionally given days to ask questions and generate feedback about upcoming public announcements.

Our new overlord will tell you this news had to be held back from the majority of Mozilla because the story needed his and Baker’s spin. He won’t even deny it. When a company now needs to put proper spin on a news story, there’s a serious problem. When it’s clear your public statements need to be controlled perfectly, supported by an army of employees, your company condition moves from “serious” to “critical.” It’s in this light that Mozilla must be viewed going forward.

Analyzing Mozilla’s 2006 Financials

Posted in Mozilla by The Lizard on December 22, 2007

(After returning from vacation, the Lizard realized a few posts were left un-published. Here’s the first.)

The Lizard is in appreciation mode today thanks to Mitchell Baker, who finally released the Mozilla Foundation’s financials for 2006. While I’m sure the timing was purely coincidental (mere hours after my most recent post which briefly requested them), seeing these numbers helped grow an ounce of trust in the Foundation and Mozilla as a whole.

Before we, together, delve into the questions that these newly published documents raise, it’s important to point out the parts where your faithful Lizard was right on.

First, Ms Baker indeed made well over $500,000 in 2006; a total of $567,262 in compensation was paid to Ms Baker. I, for one, do not consider a 2005 salary increase an overstatement. I consider it a salary increase. Who the fuck decided it was an “overstatement” of what Ms Baker made? Seriously folks, what in God Almighty’s name would make anyone call that an overstatement? Likewise, that must have been a pretty fucking huge bonus. Taking out $100,000, she still made over $400,000 in 2006. Is this what Mozilla wastes its money on?

Despite the above, I want to note that the intention of the previous post was not to lay blame or anger on Ms Baker, but to simply outline that she truly, really, honestly has incredible power in the Mozilla world, gets paid well for holding that power, and doesn’t (visibly) do shit to deserve it. The same could be true of anyone else at the helm, but someone else isn’t at the helm. She is.

(Another executive, Brendan Eich, leads the technical side, albeit not without conflict; leadership always has conflict. He also gets paid handsomely for it: some $404,634. Mr Eich, however, is constantly visible. In the fight for ECMAScript 4 [JavaScript 2], in arguments over technical issues regarding Mozilla 2, in general guidance on how to plow forward with Mozilla technology, Mr Eich is everywhere. I can’t say the same for Ms Baker. Is it truly greed that motivates? The Lizard will be damned to know. What exists are only facts, and the assumptions generated belong only to this blog.)

Secondly, the Lizard slightly underestimated Mozilla’s yearly total revenue at $60,000,000. The correct amount, for 2006, was $66,840,850.

And on we go to the questions that have now arisen.

One of the major questions that must be asked is: How much is Mozilla paying in taxes due to the Corporation being a taxable entity? PDF page 6 of the financial statement seems to indicate that $26,777,000 was paid for income taxes. Wouldn’t that money be better off doing the work of the open source world than in the hands of Uncle Sam? The Lizard really dislikes government institutions. The Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit. Aren’t there ways around this tax payment? Hasn’t Mozilla ever heard of creative financing? Jiminy Crickets! That’s a lot of wasted money.

A second major question that arises is surrounding the new-to-my-readers-but-not-to-me knowledge that Mozilla’s contract with Google ends in November of 2008 (see PDF page 13 of the financial statement). More importantly, 85% of Mozilla’s revenue comes from that contract. Eighty. Five. Percent. One more time for kicks: Eighty. Five. Percent. If things go sour with Google, Mozilla’s fucked. But of course, young grasshopper, Mozilla will say there are others who will come knocking on the door, such as Yahoo!, Windows Live (née MSN), and Ask. Will Mozilla abandon their principles to make a buck, or will they enter the search engine market themselves? If the reason Mozilla switched from Yahoo! in Asian countries was solely for a better experience for users of Firefox, how could Mozilla use anything other than Google?

Another question appeared out of form 990. While the Lizard is a character of many traits, none of them approach non-profit tax law. Before explaining this all, I’d like to give special thanks to a non-profit accountant who answered my question about PDF page 15 line 26f which states that Mozilla received 33.4513% public support. Perplexed as to why this number mattered, the Lizard got the following. Quoting:

“Non-profts which qualify for 501(c)(3) status fall under two categories: public charity and private foundation. The Mozilla Foundation is a public charity. To maintain their public charity status, they must maintain income of at least 33% from the public (averaged over a five year period). If they don’t, they become a private foundation which has more restrictions on money management. ‘Public’ in the context above refers to individual and corporate donations not investment income. Those donations can’t come from only a few individuals, however, without moving toward private foundation status.”

In case that wasn’t clear enough to some of you morons, Mozilla needs people to give money to it or it loses it’s “public charity” status. The law says so. Let’s analyze that a bit more. Mozilla’s revenue mostly consists of revenue from their Google, nay, search bar. Since that infamous deal was made, what fools would possibly decide to give Mozilla more money? Don’t they get enough as it is? Internally, Mozilla must be working on a way to generate more donations from individual users. If they aren’t, they need to get into gear. Losing their public charity status is the first step down a rocky slope to losing non-profit status.

Finally, the Lizard appreciated that Ms Baker’s aforementioned “overstated” salary received a special note in the FAQ. Word on the street suggests that note is solely due to this blog. Sources can be wrong, but the rumour mill has consistently pointed out that this blog is read internally by many at Mozilla, including Ms Baker herself.

To you all the Lizard writes: You’re not scared yet, are you? You’re all too ignorant and arrogant to be scared. You’re just offended that anyone could disagree with the carefully crafted messages that the public normally gets. You’re all hard at work looking for the leak, pointing fingers all around but not able to make sense of any of it. You won’t find a leak. You won’t find anything like that. Looking will only waste your time and further delay your precious Firefox 3. Good luck getting to 30%!

Financials be Damned

Posted in Mozilla by The Lizard on October 22, 2007

Remember when I first posted about Mitchell Baker’s desire to become the richest person in open source history? Of course not, that’s this post; until now I’ve only pointed out the places where Mitchell’s greed has clawed its way through Thunderbird to the surface.

The Lizard received feedback that posting about the greediness of Mitchell Baker isn’t particularly nice. To be sure, I fully understood what I was saying, and those of you who find my words offensive should stop reading this blog. Those statements were made intentionally to raise the profile of a few truths that are kept fairly quiet in the Mozilla community.

Mitchell Baker is the chairperson of the board of directors for the Mozilla Foundation. She’s also the chairperson of the board of directors for the Mozilla Corporation. She’s also the CEO of the Mozilla Corporation. See where I’m going with this? No? You’re a moron. You also failed U.S. history, apparently. You’re looking at Mozilla’s own version of an interlocking directorate, a form of corporate control commonly associated with the robber barons of the Gilded Age, particularly as they sought to get around the restrictions of early anti-trust legislation. Mitchell is, hands down, the most powerful person within Mozilla. Just as with the robber barons, disagree with her and you’re fucked. More importantly for the premise of this post, for each of those positions, she undoubtedly gets paid.

Let’s look closer. In 2005, Mitchell received compensation totaling $115,660 for sitting on the board of the Foundation and leading it (see PDF page 7). But 2005 was the year the Corporation split off from the Foundation. As a result, Mitchell made an additional $181,042 for being the head of that organization (see PDF page 27). Finally, Mitchell received $50,659 from the Foundation for providing back-office support (see PDF page 36). That means, if the Lizard can do math, Mitchell received a total of $347,361 in compensation for the year of 2005. Of course, that amount includes benefit contributions and is not entirely cash in her pocket.

It is now October 20, 2007, the 293rd day of 2007. The financials for 2006 have yet to be published. Of course, financials for 2005 were posted on January 2nd of this year, so we all might be waiting another 74 days to see what the Foundation doled out in 2006. Would anyone be surprised if Mitchell was making closer to $500,000 this year (2007). Five hundred thousand dollars. For $500,000 you can buy 500,000 cheeseburgers from McDonalds, 500,000 blank DVDs, or 1 Mitchell Baker.

The “market” has dictated that Mitchell is worth $500,000 a year. Since the Mozilla Foundation is accountable to the world at large (the Lizard ❤ non-profits) and I am a member of this world, I want to know what she does for that money. I’ve seen occasional appearances at events and posts to newsgroups and to her blog that outline new policies, but do we really think that’s worth $500,000 a year? Who sets that price? The board of directors, of course.

Now do you see where I’m going? The board of directors for the Mozilla Corporation (maybe Foundation) decide the salary of the CEO of the Corporation. The chairperson of that board is the CEO who’s getting paid.

The Mozilla Corporation generates $5 million a month. That’s $60 million a year. Half a million dollars go to Mitchell. It’s about goddamn time we find out what that money is getting us.

(Aside: The Lizard would be most thankful to anyone who provides the Foundation’s financials for 2006. Is there really any reason financials need to take 293 days? Maybe it’s time to read some non-profit law.)

Picking Apart Mitchell Baker’s Thunderbird Post (Part 2)

Posted in Mozilla by The Lizard on October 16, 2007

And we continue with Part 2/2 of our “translating the Mitchell spin” articles in parallel with Mitchell’s blog.

As I noted in my last post, in late 2006 we started thinking very hard about creating a new organizational home for Thunderbird. A number of us came to the conclusion this was the best plan, including the Foundation Board and the key Thunderbird developers.

Translation: In case you missed the bullshit from earlier, I concluded by saying it was time to get rid of that shit that is Thunderbird. Even they wanted a way out!

In early to mid 2007 the Foundation board designated two members (in addition to the work I was doing) to meet with the key Thunderbird developers to work on developing a plan together. In a series of meetings it was determined that a new Thunderbird organization would need an organizational leader — the developers couldn’t both develop and lead an organization. And as I have mentioned, there was a very strong interest in seeing Thunderbird vision expand and that clearly required additional people. A set of questions were raised but few answers were developed.

Translation: Just in case things went sour, I appointed two more Foundation board members to help take the fall. Remember? I can do that. I’m in charge of those bitches. It would have been impossible for me to find someone who cared about Thunderbird and had any leadership talent. People of that caliber don’t just appear. That special person would also need to be willing to expand the Thunderbird vision in the way that’s right: my way.

These meetings were not public for a couple of reasons. There are some key personal and personnel issues. I wanted to make sure that everyone already involved had a good opportunity to express their thoughts quietly, in a safe setting first. Second, we didn’t yet know what we were likely to do. I didn’t want people to worry we were adrift. I know people worried about this when we did start the public discussion. So either I was wrong to not start the public discussion much earlier, OR I was right to do a lot of ground work first and have an outline of how we would proceed before opening the discussion. Or I was *both* right and wrong, and there is no perfect solution.

Translation: Either I was wrong or right or both, but it’s perfectly obvious to me and you, dear reader, that I was right just as I always am.

We then spent some time thinking about who might be a good organizational leader for Thunderbird. The Thunderbird developers and I also spent time trying to think through how to create a new organization. By June or so it was clear that it was time to begin a public discussion about our goals for Thunderbird and desire to create a new home for it. I started working on this. Around the same time the Thunderbird developers came up with the suggestion that they create an independent company and we move Thunderbird development to it. The company would be interested in promoting the Mozilla mission, but would be outside of the Mozilla umbrella of organizations; a private company owned and run by the developers. We spent some time thinking through the pros and cons of this possibility, how the developers and a new company like this would interact with the source code and with the Thunderbird product. This became the third option included in my post opening the Thunderbird discussion. This option had the advantage of exciting the developers.

Translation: I was ready to get rid of Thunderbird, but gosh darnit there were two people that seemed to want it: Scott MacGregor and David Bienvenu. Fuck if I know why, but I was more than glad to add this option as it was the best to get rid of Thunderbird. Make no doubt, this wasn’t a simple option, but it was and is the best.

When we considered the idea of Thunderbird moving to a private independent company, a number of significant disadvantages emerged. First, this would mean that Mozilla as an organization was leaving the mail/ communications space and hoping that space would be filled by another organization. We weren’t ready to do that. Second, it felt like this would be moving Thunderbird to a more private space. We’re eager to see Thunderbird become an even more public project, with more contributors with greater authority. This concern is not remotely a reflection on the motivations of Scott and David. They have been devoted Mozilla participants for many years. This is a *structural* concern. It reflects the desire that Thunderbird — the product as well as the code — remain dedicated to the public benefit through the Foundation.

Translation: When I blogged about those radical three options, people complained that I didn’t care about Thunderbird. To save face, I told the world that my intention, all along, was that being under the Foundation was the best bet. I didn’t mean it, but hell if I could figure another way out. Those excuses in that paragraph above? Bullshit. Both could be worked around. Utter bullshit. But it sounds damn good, doesn’t it?

As is the Mozilla way, the public discussion of Thunderbird allowed us to move forward. Through this process we realized that David Ascher, long a part of the Mozilla project, was an excellent candidate for a Thunderbird / mail organization. I talk to David periodically about many Mozilla topics, and I think perhaps I realized he might be interested in leading the new organization even before he did 🙂 After this, the first step was to have David come to Mountain View (he lives in Vancouver) and meet the Thunderbird developers, followed by a bunch of other folks. I became convinced that David could lead the organization, and had the personality and technical chops to work with the Thunderbird developers. In particular to navigate between their phenomenal commitment to continuing to serve existing Thunderbird users and the Foundation’s goal of broadening the product vision.

Translation: I’ve always said, The best way to discuss something is in blog comments. See above where I said how impossible it would be to find a leader who cared about Thunderbird? ‘Nuff said.

I outlined my view of the future to David and Scott, the Thunderbird developers — David Ascher joins Mozilla to lead the new organizaton [sic], David Bienvenu and Scott McGregor [sic] join the new organization, they continue to work on Thunderbird as they have been and participate in the efforts to broaden Thunderbird. David and Scott reiterated their interest in forming a private company but agreed that David seemed a good person to run an organization and a reasonable person to work with. We (meaning the Thunderbird developers and I) then spent time talking through how this arrangement could work.

Translation: My way or the highway.

These discusions [sic] involve nitty-gritty details like the status of the build system, ensuring that different versions of a product based on the Thunderbird code could be built. They also involve discussions of how modules owners like Scott and David would work within the new structure. Module ownership isn’t related to employment, it’s related to activity and the ability to lead and draw others to one’s work. So we expect the current developers to remain module owners for as long as they are active, interested, and leading a healthy community. We expect someone from Mozilla (eventually at MailCo) to make the final decision about when that code is ready to have the official Thunderbird name and be released as a product. There’s nothing new in this, but it’s always good to reiterate a shared understanding in a time of change.

Translation: Please visit our module owner page and go through the list of modules we care about (ones which affect Firefox and Thunderbird). If you look closely, 33 of the 44 modules the Mozilla Corporation cares about are led by Mozilla employees, including, for the moment, Scott and David. How long do you think they’ll last outside of Mozilla?

In September I announced Mozilla’s plans for a new Thunderbird / mail organization. David Ascher is already at work getting to know the community, find out who is interested and able to help, and working through the details of setting up an effective organization. Scott and David are working on their plans as well. One of the fundamental aspects of Mozilla is that participation is not dependent on employment. Mozilla has phenomenal contributors who have never been employed to work on Mozilla. We have people who change jobs and remain equally involved with Mozilla. We have people who change jobs and later change their involvement with Mozilla, based on their preferences and their ability to lead others. Both Scott and David have stated their plans to continue their involvement with Thunderbird. It’s an unusual setting, and extremely powerful.

Translation: If you’ll recall, I said in my previous post that the Thunderbird community was virtually non-existent. Turns out, a few minutes later I decided that there’s enough for us to get to know!

Translation 2: Bye bye Scott and David. We didn’t want you anyway.

In the coming months a large set of Mozilla folks with be working on getting the new Thunderbird / mail organization organized and running, as well as serving Thunderbird users. We are also very eager to see Thunderbird become a broader product vision and to see a community with greater distributed authority. More people with the expertise and ability to authority to work deeply in the code will lead to a better product faster, and will spur the development of new experiments to improve mail. If you are driven to see Internet communications improve and can assist, please get in touch with David.

Translation: All along I’ve been saying Thunderbird and mail are dead. I think it’s time for me to save some face and say the opposite. If you’d like to become part of the bullshit that I’ve created, contact David Ascher. He’s busy sorting out all my shit.

Picking Apart Mitchell Baker’s Thunderbird Post (Part 1)

Posted in Mozilla by The Lizard on October 9, 2007

Mitchell Baker’s latest two posts about Mozilla are extremely interesting. It’s time to cut out all the spin and translate them into something my mom can understand.

Thunderbird Process of Change Part 1

Translation: I’m covering my ass here so incredibly much, the bullshit doesn’t fit in one post.

In the coming months there will be a lot of discussion about how mail and Thunderbird will evolve. There will also be more detailed discussions about the new organizational home as we move from plans to concreteness. This seems a good time to describe how we got to where we are today.

Translation: Whoops! Forgot that everything doesn’t happen behind closed doors. I suppose there are others who care about Mozilla. I’m the one in charge though, so everyone else gets to know when I feel like telling them.

Thunderbird has been a part of the Mozilla Foundation since the Foundation was created in 2003. Initially the developers did all the work, including build, release and QA. After a while I arranged for the organization to provide the full range of resources to Thunderbird as well, meaning build, release, QA and marketing. We did not make separate groups to support Thunderbird (other than the actual application developers, where we had one Firefox developer and two Thunderbird developers).

Translation: See, we’ve always cared about Thunderbird. What? You don’t believe me? I supported them from the very beginning, God dammit! Oh wait, you know about the vendors who paid us to work on Thunderbird? Shit. I guess that might a good reason why there were two Thunderbird developers. Fuck.

That setting remained unchanged but started to grow uncomfortable as the web started exploding in 2005 and 2006. Not only did Firefox marketshare and mindshare explode, but the web (and the browser) as a delivery platform for new applications also came of age. Firefox was at the center of a new wave of activity and a giant ecosystem. Through this Mozilla acquired a stronger voice for openness, innovation and participation on the web.

Translation: Remember the Mozilla Suite? Shit, I sure loved that thing. But since it took me over a year to see the value of Firefox, I’ll be damned if anyone says that anything else is more or equally important. We gave Thunderbird a chance. Look at all the marketing and PR we put behind it! Thunderbird just isn’t as cool as Firefox. Sorry.

Thunderbird remained an important product with a significant and dedicated userbase. But Thunderbird diverged from our browser based efforts in a number of ways. One is the scope and vision of the product. Thunderbird is an email client. IT [sic] has some RSS and newsgroup capability, but it is primarily an email client. Increasingly other forms of web communications are developing. And Thunderbird the email client is not the complete answer to email needs. A complete solution might have other functionality (for example, calendar is a highly desired feature). A complete solution might include some server aspects, it might include a strategy for webmail, etc.

Translation: All these years I’ve said one thing: The only way Thunderbird can be viable is with calendar integration. If you can’t see how true that is, get some damn glasses! You see, I knew what Thunderbird should be all along. I told Scott and David what to do. Sucks for them for not caring. My way or the highway, bitch.

Second, email is a decreasing percentage of Internet communications. It’s still critically important to those of us who live in it of course. But even those who live in email often also use instant messaging, SMS, and other new ways of staying updated. Thunderbird is an excellent basis for thinking about these topics and improving Internet and web-based communications as a whole. But this wasn’t happening. And third, we weren’t seeing Thunderbird develop the kind of community or influence in the industry that Firefox has.

Translation: I axed the Mozilla Suite because email and HTML editors are dead. In 2005, when I found a way to make an assload of money by creating the Mozilla Corporation, I included Thunderbird. Contradictory? No way! Thunderbird was making money back then; money that looked good in my hands.

Don’t you read the Internet? Email is on its way out. SMS and IM is in! If the Thunderbird developers would integrate IM and SMS, I would love them so damn much.

Last but not least, Thunderbird would need a community. Haven’t you seen the stats? Community developers only contribute over 50% of patches that go into Thunderbird. That’s way less than the ~35% that community developers contribute to Firefox. Did I tell you I have a masters degree in mathematics?

Two things became clear. We had the team for developing a stand-alone desktop email application. But we didn’t have the complete set of people to address both that and the larger issues. Without some new impetus, Thunderbird would continue in a status quo pattern. The second thing that became clear was that we weren’t likely to build a mail / communications team we need inside the Mozilla Corporation.

Translation: Isn’t it incredibly clear by now that no one was thinking about the children? What about the damn children?? I mean future. Same difference. Of course, it is absolutely impossible for a team to be built inside the company we created to build teams. Never mind the loud noise we’re making as we create a specific mobile team, partnering with ARM and others.

If you need more reason, God knows that Thunderbird won’t generate near the amount of money that Firefox does. The Mozilla Corporation is making me filthy rich. It was time to cut out some slack and make more money.

Why not? Sometimes diversification can be a good strategy. Some companies do quite well with wildly different product lines, different operating groups responsible for them, all connected in one organization. But doing this well requires a certain type of management, and that is not the type we have at Mozilla. If an organization has different product lines and different development organizations, there must be a set of people in the organization who are thinking about all of them. At a minimum, that set includes whoever is making (or in our case guiding) strategy decisions, whoever is making decisions about how much money to spend where, whoever makes decisions about hiring and job responsibilities.

Translation: It was incredibly hard for me to write this paragraph in a way that proves that it was impossible for me to bring David Ascher into the Mozilla Corporation, but I quite certainly pulled it off. Creating a second company allows us to waste more of the Foundation’s money. They’re not using it anyway. And when I sit on the board of this new MailCo, I can get a cut of that money. Go me!

We could have a layer of decision-making that balances these two. But that involves more management, both in people and in process. Mozilla is about empowering as many people as possible to do, to make decisions and take action. We have managers and management in the Mozilla Foundation and Corporation, but generally we have as little as possible to get the job done.

Translation: Every month we work hard to grow our management staff. Hell, we’re working hard to create a full, honest-to-God HR department. See how devoted we are to keeping management small? And the managers we do hire are top shelf. (Editor’s note: More about that in a later post.)

So in late 2006 we started thinking very hard about creating a new organizational home for Thunderbird. A number of us came to the conclusion this was the best plan, including the Foundation Board and the key Thunderbird developers.

Translation: I finally decided, let’s get rid of this bullshit product however we can. We have to make it look good though, so we’ll bring in the Thunderbird developers and ignore everything they say.

In my next post I’ll describe how we went from this realization to our current plan.

Translation: Not enough bullshit for you? Just wait for my next post!