Who We Are

Two weeks ago, I posted about Who We Are and How We Should Be. I wrote:

But before we figure out how to be, we need to figure out who we are. What is the mission around which we are uniting? What’s included, and what’s excluded? Does Mozilla have a strict or expansive interpretation of the Mozilla Manifesto?

Here is my answer.

I think Mozilla needs to have a strict/close/tight/limited (whichever word you prefer) interpretation of the Mozilla Manifesto. To quote that document: we need to focus on “the health of the Internet”. We need to work on “making the Internet experience better”. We need to make sure “the Internet … continue[s] to benefit the public good”. As well as the 10 principles, the Manifesto also has a Mozilla Foundation Pledge:

The Mozilla Foundation pledges to support the Mozilla Manifesto in its activities. Specifically, we will:

  • build and enable open-source technologies and communities that support the Manifesto’s principles;
  • build and deliver great consumer products that support the Manifesto’s principles;
  • use the Mozilla assets (intellectual property such as copyrights and trademarks, infrastructure, funds, and reputation) to keep the Internet an open platform;
  • promote models for creating economic value for the public benefit; and
  • promote the Mozilla Manifesto principles in public discourse and within the Internet industry.

Some Foundation activities—currently the creation, delivery and promotion of consumer products—are conducted primarily through the Mozilla Foundation’s wholly owned subsidiary, the Mozilla Corporation.

I think that’s an awesome summary of what we should be doing, and I think we should view activities outside that scope with healthy suspicion.

It seems to me that this logical fallacy is common:

  1. Mozilla supports awesome things X and Y.
  2. I, and many Mozillians, also support awesome thing Z, and we use the same type of language to talk about X, Y and Z.
  3. Therefore, Mozilla does/should support awesome thing Z.

It can also appear as:

  1. Mozilla is an activist organization.
  2. I am an activist, and I’m in Mozilla.
  3. Mozilla does/should support me in all my activism.

Given the diversity of Mozillians, these cannot be good logic if applied equally and fairly. Mozilla would end up supporting many mutually-contradictory positions.

Some people believe so strongly in their non-open-web cause that they want to use the power of Mozilla to attain victory in that other cause. I can see the temptation – Mozilla is a powerful weapon. But doing that damages Mozilla – both by blurring our focus and message, and by distancing and discouraging Mozillians and potential Mozillians who take a different view. Those who care about Mozilla’s cause and about other causes deeply may find it hard to resist advocating that we give in to the temptation, but I assert that we as an organization should actively avoid promoting, or letting anyone use the Mozilla name to promote, non-open-web causes, because it will be at the expense of Mozilla’s inclusiveness and focus.

We are Mozillians. We need to agree on the Mozilla Manifesto, and agree to disagree on everything else.

3 thoughts on “Who We Are

  1. This is a nice summary, which should have been enforced a few months ago already. Unfortunately it wasn’t and some people took the opportunity to hijack Mozilla’s mission with their own opinion…

  2. I assert that we as an organization should actively avoid promoting, or letting anyone use the Mozilla name to promote, non-open-web causes, because it will be at the expense of Mozilla’s inclusiveness and focus.

    I couldn’t agree more.

  3. I would agree. There are many causes which Mozilla *could* help promote – but worthy as they might be, they’re not the causes which Mozilla was created to champion. Focus is important – both to spend scarce resources appropriately, but also to avoid splitting the community over issues like the one we’ve just been through.

    As an example unrelated to Mozilla, I was walking down the street yesterday, and passed a small group in the street protesting the testing of drugs on animals. Fair enough – but in addition to that protest, they had a few signs promoting drug law reform, and one protesting fascist government oppression. And so by including these irrelevant elements, they drove away people who might have been sympathetic to the core message over animal testing. Stay on message, and you’ll achieve more than if you try to fight a dozen battles at once.