Rebel Alliance Ideas

Chris Beard has been encouraging us to think like the rebels; what can we do that other people won’t do? How can we make an impact?

Here are some of my thoughts:

  • The internet, in global average, is getting less reliable, slower and more laggy. Finish Janus and persuade our mobile partners to deploy it and default to it. Your Firefox OS phone now accesses the net faster than an Android phone.
  • Make Firefox OS connect by default to openwireless.org access points, and encourage Firefox OS users to run them. There’s a virtuous circle here. More net in more places; a global movement of being generous with net access.
  • Finish Daala faster, by finding people other than the core team to do everything except design the codec and write the algorithms (e.g., testing, speed optimizations, fuzzing, writing Windows Media plugins). We need to get the word out that this project is critical.
  • Show the core free software community, who have great influence over tech choices and who should be our natural allies, that we care about them. Be the first organization ever to make a free-from-bottom-to-top mobile phone (running Firefox OS) and give some help to the Replicant team to port to it as well, just to prove we mean it and it’s real.
  • Make it possible to search for specifically open source software in the Marketplace, and show we believe it “promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource” by promoting apps which are open source.
  • Ship Collusion (which has been in the works for years), even if there’s not a perfect mapping between what it shows you and what’s actually bad. Make sites feel they have to justify all their 3rd party links.

What are your ideas?

Licensing Policy Change: Tests are Now Public Domain

I’ve updated the Mozilla Foundation License Policy to state that:

PD Test Code is Test Code which is Mozilla Code, which does not carry an explicit license header, and which was either committed to the Mozilla repository on or after 10th September 2014, or was committed before that date but all contributors up to that date were Mozilla employees, contractors or interns. PD Test Code is made available under the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication. Test Code which has not been demonstrated to be PD Test Code should be considered to be under the MPL 2.

So in other words, new tests are now CC0 (public domain) by default, and some or many old tests can be relicensed as well. (We don’t intend to do explicit relicensing of them ourselves, but people have the ability to do so in their copies if they do the necessary research.) This should help us share our tests with external standards bodies.

This was bug 788511.

Survey on FLOSS Contribution Policies

In the “dull but important” category: my friend Allison Randal is doing a survey on people’s attitudes to contribution policies (committer’s agreements, copyright assignment, DCO etc.) in free/libre/open source software projects. I’m rather interested in what she comes up with. So if you have a few minutes (it should take less than 5 – I just did it) to fill in her survey about what you think about such things, she and I would be most grateful:

http://survey.lohutok.net is the link. You want the “FLOSS Developer Contribution Policy Survey” – I’ve done the other one on Mozilla’s behalf.

Incidentally, this survey is notable as I believe it’s the first online multiple-choice survey I’ve ever taken where I didn’t think “my answer doesn’t fit into your narrow categories” about at least one of the questions. So it’s definitely well-designed.

Accessing Vidyo Meetings Using Free Software: Help Needed

For a long time now, Mozilla has been a heavy user of the Vidyo video-conferencing system. Like Skype, it’s a “pretty much just works” solution where, sadly, the free software and open standards solutions don’t yet cut it in terms of usability. We hope WebRTC might change this. Anyway, in the mean time, we use it, which means that Mozilla staff have had to use a proprietary client, and those without a Vidyo login of their own have had to use a Flash applet. Ick. (I use a dedicated Android tablet for Vidyo, so I don’t have to install either.)

However, this sad situation may now have changed. In this bug, it seems that SIP and H.263/H.264 gateways have been enabled on our Vidyo setup, which should enable people to call in using standards-compliant free software clients. However, I can’t get video to work properly, using Linphone. Is there anyone out there in the Mozilla world who can read the bug and figure out how to do it?

Spending Our Money Twice

Mozilla Corporation is considering moving its email and calendaring infrastructure from an in-house solution to an outsourced one, seemingly primarily for cost but also for other reasons such as some long-standing bugs and issues. The in-house solution is corporate-backed open source, the outsourced solution under consideration is closed source. (The identities of the two vendors concerned are well-known, but are not relevant to appreciate the point I am about to make.) MoCo IT estimates the outsourced solution as one third of the price of doing it in-house, for equivalent capabilities and reliability.

I was pondering this, and the concept of value for money. Clearly, it makes sense that we avoid spending multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars that we don’t need to. That prospect makes the switch very attractive. Money we don’t spend on this can be used to further our mission. However, we also need to consider how the money we do spend on this furthers our mission.

Here’s what I mean: I understand that we don’t want to self-host. IT has enough to do. I also understand that it may be that no-one is offering to host an open source solution that meets our feature requirements. And the “Mozilla using proprietary software or web services” ship hasn’t just sailed, it’s made it to New York and is half way back and holding an evening cocktail party on the poop deck. However, when we do buy in proprietary software or services, I assert we should nevertheless aim to give our business to companies which are otherwise aligned with our values. That means whole-hearted support for open protocols and data formats, and for the open web. For example, it would be odd to be buying in services from a company who had refused to, or dragged their feet about, making their web sites work on Firefox for Android or Firefox OS.

If we deploy our money in this way, then we get to “spend it twice” – it gets us the service we are paying for, and it supports companies who will spend it again to bring about (part of) the vision of the world we want to see. So I think that a values alignment between our vendors and us (even if their product is not open source) is something we should consider strongly when outsourcing any service. It may give us better value for money even if it’s a little more expensive.

Success Is Not Inevitable

Last week, the Policy, Legal and Business Development teams had a 2-day get-together, and one thing I came to understand much more clearly is something I think that many Mozillians need to take to heart: success is not inevitable.

For the first few years of Mozilla’s life, we didn’t have much success. Then, a combination of good code, good grassroots marketing, sleeping or absent competitors and favourable market conditions saw Firefox take off and reach a desktop market share north of 25%. That was five years ago, and we’ve been trying to hold on to it since. We haven’t entirely succeeded, but it might be easy to imagine that Firefox on the desktop will be around and relevant forever.

But working really hard, and knowing that what you are doing is the right thing for the world, are not enough by themselves to guarantee that you succeed. There’s no law of the universe which says that Google have to keep giving us a search deal on better (or even the same) terms, particularly if our market share falls. That may happen, or it may not. And there’s no law which says that Firefox OS has to be a success. If what we build isn’t the right thing, carriers will stop stocking and promoting Firefox OS phones, and the world will be left with a choice of Apple, Google or Microsoft.

Mozilla’s way of working has always been to get market share by making great products, and use that to make our voice heard. We aren’t an advocacy-only organization.

Back when we did Firefox, our future, and our ability to get that market share, was in our own hands. If we wrote great software, users could download and install it themselves, and that was it. No-one was stopping consumers from installing any software they wanted. No-one was stopping OEMs from shipping copies of Firefox with their machines. We didn’t have to worry about proprietary hardware. There were no web features which couldn’t be implemented in open source code.

In the new world, our future and our ability to gain market share are not entirely in our own hands. We need partnerships to reach consumers. Business partnerships involve giving someone something they want in return for something you want, and they mean that usually you don’t get everything you want, but have to compromise. The need to partner and the need to compromise are relatively new and difficult things for Mozilla. Such agreements often come with obligations – which, in its most general form, is the loss of the ability to choose exactly what we are going to do because we are constrained by our promises. As an organization, particularly as an engineering organization, we don’t like that.

But operators are only going to carry and promote Firefox OS phones if they think it’s in their best interests to do so. And consumers are only going to buy them if they think they are better for what they want to do than the alternatives. “Why this rather than Android?” is a question to which we need a good answer.

If we want Firefox OS to be a success, we need partners, and we need to provide what those partners want, while holding on to our principles. What they want may well not be “software for us”, or even “software for people we know”. And that means we need to listen to the people within Mozilla who talk to them and report back to us. That’s the Business Development team – who currently have a pretty low community profile. Perhaps that needs to change.

Success is not inevitable – but it is still possible, if we carry on producing software that succeeds in the market. But how we find out what that means has changed, and we as Mozilla need to make sure we adapt to that, and listen in the right places.

To Serve Users

My honourable friend Bradley Kuhn thinks Mozilla should serve its users by refusing to give them what they want.

[Clarificatory update: I wrote this post before I'd seen the official FSF position; the below was a musing on the actions of the area of our community to which Bradley ideologically belongs, not an attempt to imply he speaks for the FSF or wrote their opinion. Apologies if that was not clear. And I'm a big fan of (and member of) the FSF; the below criticisms were voiced by private mail at the time.]

One weakness I have seen in the FSF, in things like the PlayOgg and PDFReaders campaigns, is that they think that lecturing someone about what they should want rather than (or before) giving them what they do want is a winning strategy. Both of the websites for those campaigns started with large blocks of text so that the user couldn’t possibly avoid finding out exactly what the FSF position was in detail before actually getting their PDF reader or playback software. (Notably missing from the campaigns, incidentally, were any sense that the usability of the recommended software was at all a relevant factor.)

Bradley’s suggestion is that, instead of letting users watch the movies they want to watch, we should lecture them about how they shouldn’t want it – or should refuse to watch them until Hollywood changes its tune on DRM. I think this would have about as much success as PlayOgg and PDFReaders (link:pdfreaders.org: 821 results).

It’s certainly true that Mozilla has a different stance here. We have influence because we have market share, and so preserving and increasing that market share is an important goal – and one that’s difficult to attain. And we think our stance has worked rather well; over the years, the Mozilla project has been a force for good on the web that other organizations, for whatever reason, have not managed to be. But we aren’t invincible – we don’t win every time. We didn’t win on H.264, although the deal with Cisco to drive the cost of support to $0 everywhere at least allowed us to live to fight another day. And we haven’t, yet, managed to find a way to win on DRM. The question is: is software DRM on the desktop the issue we should die on a hill over? We don’t think so.

Bradley accuses us of selling out on our principles regarding preserving the open web. But making a DRM-free web is not within our power at the moment. Our choice is not between “DRM on the web” and “no DRM on the web”, it’s between “allow users to watch DRMed videos” and “prevent users from watching DRMed videos”. And we think the latter is a long-term losing strategy, not just for the fight on DRM (if Firefox didn’t exist, would our chances of a DRM-free web be greater?), but for all the other things Mozilla is working for. (BTW, Mitchell’s post does not call open source “merely an approach”, it calls it “Mozilla’s fundamental approach”. That’s a pretty big misrepresentation.)

Accusing someone of having no principles because they don’t always get their way when competing in markets where they are massively outweighed is unfair. Bradley would have us slide into irrelevance rather than allow users to continue to watch DRMed movies in Firefox. He’s welcome to recommend that course of action, but we aren’t going to take it.

How We Should Be

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

As I see it, the principle behind the [Community Participation Guidelines] was, in regard to non-mission things: leave it outside. We agreed to agree on the mission, and agreed to disagree on everything else. And, the hope was, that created a safe space for everyone to collaborate on what we agreed on, and put our combined efforts into keeping the Internet open and free.

Is that CPG principle still the right one? Are the CPGs the best expression of it?

Following on from Who We Are, here is my answer to How We Should Be.

I think the principle is still the right one, but the CPGs could express it better.

The CPGs have many good things about them, and I think that they did a good job of defusing the difficulties in our community at the time they were written in 2012. But they still very much bear the marks of the worldview of the person who wrote them. (This is not surprising or in itself worthy of criticism; it’s very difficult to write in a way which does not show one’s own worldview.)

The world the CPGs conjure up is one where there are two groups of people. There are those who are wholeheartedly for “inclusion and diversity” in every way – let’s call them group A. And those who “identify with activities or organizations that do not support the same inclusion and diversity standards as Mozilla” – let’s call them group B.

The CPGs seem to have the following assumptions:

  1. Attacks on Mozilla’s inclusivity and diversity will only come from group B;
  2. Anyone who supports exclusionary practices in some other sphere (i.e. those in group B) is likely to want to see them in Mozilla;
  3. The key thing is to keep support for exclusion out of “Mozilla spaces”, so they remain safe for people who would otherwise feel or be excluded.

Therefore people in group B need constraining, such that “support for exclusionary practices in non-Mozilla activities [is] not … expressed in Mozilla spaces”. And so that is what the CPGs say.

However, in the recent series of unfortunate events, the attacks on Mozilla’s inclusivity and diversity came from people who would self-identify with group A (not matching assumption 1) and were directed at someone who, by long example, clearly did not match assumption 2. Support for exclusion (or, at least, for restriction) was expressed by some Mozillians in a very public way, but it was not in a specifically Mozilla space – yet it clearly resulted in exclusion, and in damage to the project and its mission. So assumption 3 didn’t really hold either.

It is true that the CPGs also restrict people in group A, in that they are conditionally asked to “treat [support for exclusionary practices outside Mozilla] as a private matter, not a Mozilla issue”, and that was not done in this case. That is a matter of deep regret. But I don’t think the consequential and conditional statement here gives full and clear force to the strong need for both sides to understand that disagreements of this kind within Mozilla are deeply damaging to our unity and capability as a project.

So, I think we would do well to redefine our alliance as a community. This would involve rewriting the CPGs in a way which expresses the principle of “agree to disagree on non-mission things” more evenhandedly and broadly, and making it clear that it applies to everyone, in all the Mozilla-related communications they make, wherever they are made. I think we must abandon the distinction between Mozilla and non-Mozilla spaces. It clearly wasn’t useful in staving off the damage in this case, and as a definition it always had boundary problems anyway. On today’s internet, it doesn’t matter where you express something – it can be around the world in an instant. And if we move to that model, in order to avoid unfairly restricting people’s speech wherever they may be talking, we would also need to change our attitude to the content of what people say. Instead of “don’t talk about that here”, we should instead affirm the principle of “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”.

That is not to argue for carte blanche for people to fill up Mozilla communications channels with political advocacy of one sort or another. Most of our channels have a concept of “off-topic”, and that would not change. But only a project dominated by a small group of people from a single consistent political ideology could ever hope to have and maintain a policy of “do not ever even expose me to ideas with which I disagree”. And, as an international project with big growth ambitions, Mozilla is and should not be such.

Respectfully expressing opinions – in any space – should be fine; calling for exclusion from or demotion in Mozilla due to those opinions – in any space – should not be.

Bugzilla 1,000,000 Bug Sweepstake Results

Milestone bugzilla.mozilla.org bug 1,000,000 was filed on 2014-04-23 at 01:10 ZST by Archaeopteryx (although rumour has it he used a script, as he also filed the 12 previous bugs in quick succession). The title of the bug was initially “Long word suggestions can move/shift keyboard partially off screen so it overflows” (a Firefox OS Gaia::Keyboard bug, now bug 1000025), but has since been changed to “Celebrate 1000000 bugs, bring your own drinks.”

The winner of the sweepstake to guess the date and time is Gijs Kruitbosch, who guessed 2014-04-25 05:43:21 – which is 2 days, 4 hours, 33 minutes and 5 seconds out. This is a rather wider error, measured in seconds, than the previous sweepstake, but this one had a much longer time horizon – it was instituted 9 months ago. So that’s an error of about 0.95%. The 800,000 bug winner had an error of about 1.55% using the same calculation, so in those terms Gijs’ effort is actually better.

Gijs writes:

I’m Dutch, recently moved to Britain, and I’ll be celebrating my 10th “mozversary” sometime later this year (for those who are counting, bugs had 6 digits and started with “2” when I got going). Back in 2004, I got started by working on ChatZilla, later the Venkman JS debugger and a bit of Firefox, and last year I started working on Firefox as my day job. Outside of Mozilla, I play the piano every now and then, and try to adjust to living in a nation that puts phone booths in its cycle paths.

The two runners-up are Håvard Mork (2d 14h 50m 52s out) and Mark Banner (8d 8h 24m 36s out). Håvard writes:

My name is Håvard Mork. I’m a Java software developer, working with Firefox and web localization to Norwegian. I’ve been involved with localization since 2003. I think localization is rewarding, because it is a process of understanding the mindset of the users, and their perception of IT.

I’m surprised that my estimate came that close. I spent almost an hour trying to figure out how much bug numbers grow, and estimate the exponential components. Unfortunately I lost the equation, so need to start over for the 2,000,000 sweepstakes…

Mark writes:

I’m Mark Banner, also known as Standard8 on irc, I work from home in the UK. I came to Mozilla through volunteering on Thunderbird, and then working at Mozilla Messaging. I still manage Thunderbird releases. Alongside those, I am working on the Loop project (formally Talkilla), which is aiming to provide a real time communications service for Mozilla products, built on top of WebRTC.

Gijs will get a Most Splendid Package, and also a knitted thing from Sheeri as a special bonus prize! The other winners will receive something a little less splendid, but I’m sure it’ll be worth having nevertheless.

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.

bugzilla.mozilla.org Stats At 1,000,000

Thanks to glob, we’ve got some interesting stats from BMO as it crosses the 1M bug mark.

Statuses

UNCONFIRMED   23745
NEW          103655
ASSIGNED       8826
REOPENED       3598
RESOLVED     640326
VERIFIED     220235
CLOSED         1628

Resolutions

RESOLVED

DUPLICATE    119242
EXPIRED       10677
FIXED        303099
INCOMPLETE    30569
INVALID       58096
MOVED            27
WONTFIX       36179
WORKSFORME    82437

VERIFIED

DUPLICATE     64702
EXPIRED          27
FIXED        108935
INCOMPLETE     1746
INVALID       17099
MOVED           150
WONTFIX        6105
WORKSFORME    21471
  • Total bugs fixed (RESOLVED/FIXED + VERFIED/FIXED): 412034
  • Total duplicates: 183944

Bugs Filed Per Day (April)

2014-04-01    519
2014-04-02    531
2014-04-03    620
2014-04-04    373
2014-04-05    133
2014-04-06    132
2014-04-07    544
2014-04-08    622
2014-04-09    597
2014-04-10    571
2014-04-11    467
2014-04-12    156
2014-04-13    170
2014-04-14    573
2014-04-15    580
2014-04-16    574
2014-04-17    619
2014-04-18    356
2014-04-19    168
2014-04-20    118
2014-04-21    445
2014-04-22    635
2014-04-23    787
2014-04-24    562
2014-04-25    498
2014-04-26    173

Busiest Days Ever

2013-12-30    1360 (bulk import from another tracker)
2013-12-29    1081 (bulk import from another tracker)
2008-07-22    1037 (automated security scanner filing bugs)
2012-10-01    1013 (Gaia bugs import)
2014-02-11    805
2014-04-23    787
2014-02-04    678
2013-01-09    675
2013-11-19    647
2014-04-22    635

User Activity

  • We think the earliest bug filed by someone who is still involved with Mozilla is bug 283, which was filed by Wan-Teh Chang on 1998-04-29.
  • 2263 people who logged into Bugzilla at some point in April (i.e. are active users) have filed more than 10 bugs.
  • The most active user by far is bz:
    Bugs filed           4351
    Comments made      148493
    Assigned to          4029
    Commented on        56138
    QA-Contact              8
    Patches submitted    8080
    Patches reviewed    14872
    Bugs poked          66215
    

(You can find these stats about yourself by going to your own user profile. If you are logged in, you can search for other users and see their stats.)

Top 10: Assignees

nobody@mozilla.org         349671
mscott@mozilla.org          16385
bugzilla@blakeross.com      15056
asa@mozilla.org             13350
sspitzer@mozilla.org        11974
bugs@bengoodger.com         10995
justdave@mozilla.com         4768
sean@mozilla.com             4697
oremj@mozilla.com            4672
mozilla@davidbienvenu.org    4273

Top 10: Reporters

jruderman@gmail.com          8037
timeless@bemail.org          6129
krupa.mozbugs@gmail.com      5032
pascalc@gmail.com            4789
bzbarsky@mit.edu             4351
philringnalda@gmail.com      4348
stephen.donner@gmail.com     4038
dbaron@dbaron.org            3680
cbook@mozilla.com            3651
bhearsum@mozilla.com         3528

Top 10: Commenters

tbplbot@gmail.com          347695
bzbarsky@mit.edu           148481
philringnalda@gmail.com     65552
dbaron@dbaron.org           58588
ryanvm@gmail.com            50560
bugzilla@mversen.de         48840
gerv@mozilla.org            48704
roc@ocallahan.org           47453
hskupin@gmail.com           43596
timeless@bemail.org         42885

Top 11: Patches Attached

bzbarsky@mit.edu             8080
dbaron@dbaron.org            4879
ehsan@mozilla.com            4502
roc@ocallahan.org            4397
masayuki@d-toybox.com        4079
neil@httl.net                3930
mozilla@davidbienvenu.org    3890
timeless@bemail.org          3739
brendan@mozilla.org          3659
bugs@pettay.fi               3530
wtc@google.com               3411

Top 11: Reviews

roc@ocallahan.org           15581
bzbarsky@mit.edu            14869
neil@httl.net                9424
jst@mozilla.org              8352
dbaron@dbaron.org            8103
benjamin@smedbergs.us        7272
mozilla@davidbienvenu.org    6198
dveditz@mozilla.com          5983
asa@mozilla.org              5499
mark.finkle@gmail.com        5346
gavin.sharp@gmail.com        5126

Who We Are And How We Should Be

“Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.” — Jesus

It has been said that “Mozilla has a long history of gathering people with a wide diversity of political, social, and religious beliefs to work with Mozilla.” This is very true (although perhaps not all beliefs are represented in the proportions they are in the wider world). And so, like any collection of people who agree on some things and disagree on others, we have historically needed to figure out how that works in practice, and how we can avoid being a “kingdom divided”.

Our most recent attempt to write this down was the Community Participation Guidelines. As I see it, the principle behind the CPGs was, in regard to non-mission things: leave it outside. We agreed to agree on the mission, and agreed to disagree on everything else. And, the hope was, that created a safe space for everyone to collaborate on what we agreed on, and put our combined efforts into keeping the Internet open and free.

That principle has taken a few knocks recently, and from more than one direction.

I suggest that, to move forward, we need to again figure out, as Debbie Cohen describes it, “how we are going to be, together”. In TRIBE terms, we need a Designed Alliance. And we need to understand its consequences, commit to it as a united community, and back it up forcefully when challenged. Is that CPG principle still the right one? Are the CPGs the best expression of it?

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? I have read many articles over the past few weeks which simply assume the answer to this question – and go on to draw quite far-reaching conclusions. But the assumptions made in various quarters have been significantly different, and therefore so have the conclusions.

Now everyone has had a chance to take a breath after recent events, and with an interim MoCo CEO in place and Mozilla moving forward, I think it’s time to start this conversation. I hope to post more over the next few days about who I think we are and how I think we should be, and I encourage others to do the same.

Copyright and Software

As part of our discussions on responding to the EU Copyright Consultation, Benjamin Smedberg made an interesting proposal about how copyright should apply to software. With Chris Riley’s help, I expanded that proposal into the text below. Mozilla’s final submission, after review by various parties, argued for a reduced term of copyright for software of 5-10 years, but did not include this full proposal. So I publish it here for comment.

I think the innovation, which came from Benjamin, is the idea that the spirit of copyright law means that proprietary software should not be eligible for copyright protections unless the source code is made freely available to the public by the time the copyright term expires.

We believe copyright terms should be much shorter for software, and that there should be a public benefit tradeoff for receiving legal protection, comparable to other areas of IP.

We start with the premise that the purpose of copyright is to promote new creation by giving to their authors an exclusive right, but that this right is necessary time-limited because the public as a whole benefits from the public domain and the free sharing and reproduction of works. Given this premise, copyright policy has failed in the domain of software. All software has a much, much shorter life than the standard copyright term; by the end of the period, there is no longer any public benefit to be gained from the software entering the public domain, unlike virtually all other categories of copyrighted works. There is already more obsolete software out there than anyone can enumerate, and software as a concept is barely even 50 years old, so none is in the public domain. Any which did fall into the public domain after 50 or 70 years would be useful to no-one, as it would have been written for systems long obsolete.

We suggest two ideas to help the spirit of copyright be more effectively realized in the software domain.

Proprietary software (that is, software for which the source code is not immediately available for reuse anyway) should not be eligible for copyright protections unless the source code is made freely available to the public by the time the copyright term expires. Unlike a book, which can be read and copied by anyone at any stage before or after its copyright expires, software is often distributed as binary code which is intelligible to computers but very hard for humans to understand. Therefore, in order for software to properly fall into the public domain at the end of the copyright term, the source code (the human-readable form) needs to be made available at that time – otherwise, the spirit of copyright law is not achieved, because the public cannot truly benefit from the copyrighted material. An escrow system would be ideal to implement this.

This is also similar to the tradeoff between patent law and trade secret protection; you receive a legal protection for your activity in exchange for making it available to be used effectively by the broader public at the end of that period. Failing to take that tradeoff risks the possibility that someone will reverse engineer your methods, at which point they are unprotected.

Separately, the term of software copyright protection should be made much shorter (through international processes as relevant), and fixed for software products. We suggest that 14 years is the most appropriate length. This would mean that, for example, Windows XP would enter the public domain in August 2015, which is a year after Microsoft ceases to support it (and so presumably no longer considers it commercially viable). Members of the public who wish to continue to run Windows XP therefore have an interest in the source code being available so technically-capable companies can support them.

Mozilla Voices

I invited people to email me; here’s what they have been saying.

I fear that Mozilla showed a weakness, when we replied to that initial complaint. We showed people we care about what they had to say about Brendan, and about politics. I think we shouldn’t. …

Although technically we are still good, I fear that our community is strained right now. We need to forget all politics, and focus on the mission. Only the mission. We shouldn’t care about other things. Hopefully we will pull through…


Recent events have made me very angry, and the more I think about it, the angrier I get. …

Brendan understood that for Mozilla to be successful in its mission, participants needed to check their prejudices at the door and work together to build this great thing. And he himself compartmentalized his prejudices away from his work life.

He awarded others this tolerance, but in the end was not awarded it himself by others.


While I am myself a strong supporter of equal marriage rights, I am shocked by what was done to Brendan. It was truly vindictive and intolerant, completely unbecoming of a movement that claims to fight for tolerance.


I am not sure what you will do with the feedback you get, but if you can, in the middle of the rest, express that there exists a point of view that the leadership does not listen well enough and needs to open up lines of communication to the leadership from employees, the community and even non-community users, that idea would be worth communicating.


I feel that Brendan was unfairly persecuted for expressing his views even though it seems evident he never allowed any personal views to affect his ability to function.

People have been justifying bashing his position on the basis that equality is normally and editorially required for any position of power. Unfortunately these people are either bordering on misinformed or purely idiotic.


I am surprised at how mean people can be toward Brendan. It is a big loss for Mozilla.

I have been using Firefox since it was called Phoenix. I have installed it on many PCs. I learned Javascript on Firefox. I was loyal to Firefox during the difficult years when it had memory and speed issues. I was generally impressed with Mozilla’s stance on the Open Web. Now, I am not so impressed with Mozilla.


Somebody has been forced to resign from Mozilla because of his beliefs/ideas/opinions. That is exactly the opposite of what Mozilla states to be its “mission” …


I find it horrific that this backlash is a repeat of what you experienced two years ago. And it’s deeply affected me in my impression of how welcomed Christians are at Mozilla.


If you want your voice heard, or just want to talk in confidence (say if so), please email me.