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millennium | The Autonomous Future?
A Weblog by Ben Goodger

April 16, 2007

One of the great things about open development discussion is that you can usually expect some crank to come along weeks after a heated debate and throw gas on the fire.

Tonight I am that crank. In the thread “Mozilla 2 repository migration dirlist” in the mozilla.dev.platform group there is a lot of discussion about the allocation of resources to various projects within Mozilla by the Mozilla Corporation. This brings to a head an issue that I’ve seen growing for the past couple of years since the Mozilla Corporation was formed.

Cutting through a lot of discussion, in one post Brendan Eich writes:

“Management 101: an organization does at most one thing well. The Mozilla community does many things well, some better than others. And some things, say Firefox, are inherently stronger products than others. All of this says any Thunderbird subsidy (”up-front investment”) will be separate from MoCo, and as a MF board member I will insist on this.”

Well this makes it clear exactly how much non-Firefox projects should expectto get from the Mozilla Corporation.

To me, these seem like the logical follow-on steps to take to make sure expectations are clearly set and met by all concerned:

  • The Mozilla Corporation should rename itself the “Firefox Corporation”, since that is clearly what it is for.
  • “Second Tier” projects should organize themselves and take on the task of providing as much infrastructure and development support as they believe they need, independently of the Firefox Corporation.
  • The Mozilla Foundation and the Firefox Corporation grant such projects as much autonomy as those projects desire.

I don’t expect this to be an easy path for the communities that choose to take it: some of the resources that the Mozilla Corporation presently provides are neither cheap nor intellectually interesting to work on. In the long term though I firmly believe the satisfaction of being in control of one’s own destiny outweighs the benefits of staying at the table, when it’s clear that the most you’re going to get there are Firefox’s scraps.

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