Mozilla's dev team shares Firefox secrets

For continued success and attracting the best contributors, Mozilla will have to stay not-for-profit.

If you're thinking about open sourcing a project in the near future, Mozilla Corp. might be the perfect blueprint to follow.

At last week's Mesh 2008 conference in Toronto, several key figures behind the success of Mozilla's Firefox Web browser listed inclusively and transparency as two of the top cornerstones of any community-built project. Mike Shaver, chief technology evangelist and founding member at Mozilla, said that because the Web is intended for everybody, the level same openness should be shared with Firefox's open source contributors.

"How do you have control when you don't have authority, and cohesion when you don't have the paychecks?" Shaver asked. "It's starts with having visibility throughout the breadth of your organization."

And that visibility, he said, should extend to the open source contributors. According to Shaver, the ability for users to see bug comments, the history of the code and the rationale behind the decisions that were made is a huge part of the process. Having this transparency not only helps new employees and contributors stay up to speed, but it also helps foster pride among the community.

"Having a blame log -- and I say that in a positive way -- where you can see who added a particular line of code is important," John Resig, a JavaScript evangelist at Mozilla, said. "It's not a financial thing for most users; it's purely an emotional thing. Giving them the tools to create interesting and innovative technology allows them to see things that the browser vendors may not have been able to think about."

Mozilla's ability to instill pride in its community of developers is also evident in the hundreds of localized and translated versions it releases throughout the world. Michal Berman, who's responsible for localization of over 44 foreign language versions of Firefox, said that each of its global volunteer developers and translators help determine how updates are driven, launched and released for the browser. The result, she said, makes for a more tightly knit global community.

"They feel a tremendous sense of pride because they are bringing the Web to their home countries, localized to them and with search engines relevant to their markets" Berman said.

Despite all this collaboration though, the best open source projects, according to Resig, are run by benevolent dictators that are able to determine the overall direction of the project.

"Somebody still needs to be there to say, 'yes, we're going in this direction,'" he said.

But project leaders need to be wary that this control doesn't extend itself to the open source licence. Particularly for a project still in its infancy, Shaver advised developers to implement the most liberal open source licence possible.

"You need to maintain the center of the project by doing the right thing rather than strict licence terms," he said. "Liberal licences with not many restrictions work best. And if a project is in its very early stages and largely incomplete, you need to make sure people know about it going in." Resig agreed, saying that being as highly collaborative with your contributors as you can, will ultimately lead to the best results.

"The concept of sharing has to be baked into the licence," he said. "You have to attract people to your community and work hard at it. If you're lazy and don't care what goes into the code, you're going to attract those type of people."

At the centre of Mozilla's is its desire to remain a nonprofit organization. And Shaver said that in order for the project to continue having success and attracting the best contributors, the project will have to stay not-for-profit.

"People need to be confident in what we're doing at the project," he said. "That's why there's nobody at Mozilla whose job is to ensure we make enough money."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Rafael Ruffolo

ComputerWorld Canada
Show Comments

Cool Tech

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?