Mozilla Foundation, the open source non-profit in charge of Firefox, stirred a lot of controversy Wednesday when they announced that they would be forming a new for-profit company. What is the Mozilla Corporation for, and does this compromise any of Mozillaís principles? Our favorite flaming bird isn't "selling out," is it?
Can Firefox and Thunderbird fall prey to this peril of restructuring? Hardly. As mentioned earlier, the change is basically superficial as far as development is concerned. Mozilla announced that the open source development and bug reporting systems will all work as they previously did. The employees of Mozilla Foundation that worked on Firefox are now the development staff of Mozilla Corporation, and a browser developer by any other name would smell asÖ well, whatever good browsers smells like.
The reorganization of upper management might be a little new, but itís nowhere near as drastic as the Netscape case. Introducing AOL management into Netscape was far-reaching and, according to many on the net at the time, spelled doom from the beginning. As for Mozilla, Mitchell Baker is going to serve in the foundation and also as president of the corporation; that sort of coordination and linkage is always good to see. Another executive that is moving to the corporation is Chris Blizzard, also an employee of the open source Red Hat Corporation. Other corporation heads will be appointed by and answer to the foundation.
Another thing that will prevent Mozilla from falling to Netscapeís fate is that the corporation will not have an IPO (Initial Public Offering). Netscape was a company that was traded in stocks before their demise. They had investors and were easily bought by a larger corporation. This isnít the case with Mozilla. There will be no Mozilla stocks or investors, though people can still donate as always.
Mozilla Corporation will not even own the software they develop; if another company tried to buy the corporation it would accomplish nothing. The foundation retains the rights and will continue to direct the ongoing Mozilla project. The goals of the company and the foundation are for all purposes the same: those of the Mozilla project.
Having a Red Hat employee on board really helps point at the direction for this project. Red Hat found that the way to reach a wider audience was not by working as an NPO. Corporations have a much easier time dealing with other corporations. Red Hat is more commercial than Mozilla will be, since it is traded publicly. While Red Hatís flagship OS is no longer freely available, their Fedora project is regarded by many as one of the top Linux distributions. It has remained free, open, and powerful. Open source going corporate is not bad news for anyone; if anything, it helps to propagate the software.