David Baron's Weblog

Ten years of the Mozilla Foundation

Wednesday, 2013-07-15, 13:53 -0700

Ten years ago today, the Mozilla foundation was incorporated. This was a major step forward for the Mozilla project; for the project's first five years or so, it lived within Netscape / AOL / AOL Time Warner. Those first five years were also pretty closely aligned with when I was in college, so although I was quite closely involved with the Mozilla project by the end of that period, I wasn't in the best of positions to observe and understand what was going on.

The Mozilla Foundation gave us an entity with a clear set of goals that fit the values of the Mozilla community. That's far from saying that everyone had the same values, and there's certainly been debate about what Mozilla stands for. But having an organization whose goal is to promote openness and innovation on the Web has given us the chance to move the Web forward and to work on behalf of users in a way that we couldn't before.

Ten years ago today was also the day that AOL laid off or transferred what was left of the team that it paid to work on Mozilla software. It was widely known at least a day or two in advance that the layoffs were coming. The night before the layoffs (a Monday night), I remember working late at the office. I'm not sure what I was working on, but I remember Brendan sending some documents by fax (faxes were ancient even then), I think because they were needed as part of setting up the foundation.

The Mozilla Foundation was set up with substantial support from AOL. I was part of a transition team of employees who were laid off effective the end of September, so that we could spend that two and a half months getting Mozilla running independently and moving the existing hardware we depended on. AOL also provided two million US dollars as initial funding for the foundation.

Setting up a small company was certainly an adventure. I remember some trips with chofmann to look at office space. (If you thought our original office was horrible, you should have seen the other places we looked at!) I remember helping myk and chofmann move machines into our colo space and into our new office. By the fall, we were settled into the new office, Ben was working through the feature list for Firefox 1.0, and Mozilla was operating in its new home.

A small company and the much larger Mozilla community were able to do big things. A little over a year later, we shipped Firefox 1.0, which showed that the browser wasn't dead, and the Web could continue to grow.