March 22, 2006 1:54 PM PST

Mozilla plans to fund developer community

The Mozilla Foundation is planning to use some of its millions of dollars in revenues to fund active members of its developer community, the organization said Tuesday.

The foundation made $5.8 million in 2004 and is thought to have made tens of millions of dollars last year, predominantly from partnerships with search companies, such as Google and Yahoo. Though much of its money has gone toward increasing its head count, some has been used to bulk up its reserve fund.

Mitchell Baker, the chief executive of the Mozilla Corporation, the commercial subsidiary of the Mozilla Foundation, said Mozilla plans to put some of its excess revenues back into the community.

"The Mozilla Group--the foundation and the corporation--has a set of employees that provide a critical mass where things can happen, but it is only a piece of the project. There are vast numbers of things that happen outside our employee base," she said. "We have a commitment that while we have funds beyond our operating levels, some of it should to go to community members. We want to do that in a way that promotes the community."

Baker said she doesn't yet have a date for when this will happen but is currently working on a model for how the funds will be distributed and hopes Mozilla will be able to start pouring money into the community "soon." The Mozilla community will also be given a chance to comment on the model, according to Baker.

"There's not a model in the open-source community that we can point to and copy," she said. "We have contributors spread around the world doing a range of different things and we need to work out what would make sense for them. We don't want to set up a model, have a big PR event about it, disperse the money and then find out it has no effect or gets to the wrong people."

Though a number of open-source projects, such as JBoss and MySQL, have used their revenues to hire contributors, it is relatively unusual that money is put straight back into the community, according to Rishab Ghosh, the program leader of an EU-funded open-source research project at Dutch research institute MERIT.

"Mozilla is somewhat unusual among open-source projects because it has a product with a very high end-user visibility, and the foundation earns revenues that are substantial. In most other open-source projects, it is individual contributors (including companies) who earn revenues, and developers earn money through consultancy or employment. So it's great that the Mozilla Foundation is considering funding particular individuals," said Ghosh in an e-mail.

Though Baker said she had been warned that distributing funds could "distort" its volunteer community, Ghosh claimed this risk could be mitigated by distributing funds according to measurable criteria.

"Such funding can be tricky unless it is based on objective criteria--luckily there are several metrics that are easily and publicly available, such as the number of lines of code contributed by a given person," he said.

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3 comments

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Start with US$200K...
You can start by giving back the remaining US$200,000 which was "left over" from the NYT Mozilla Ad Donations.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://rob-davis.ytmnd.com/" target="_newWindow">http://rob-davis.ytmnd.com/</a>

Also, does the "foundations'" desire to give back to the developers mean that more Mozilla bugs can be "justifiably" closed as WONTFIX (or WORKSFORME) -- or will it mean just the opposite?

I'm just curious, as thousands of years have shown us that money is quite an efficient incentive to actually *do work*. Since the "foundation" has had excess funds for quite some time (years upon years), and there are many Mozilla-related bugs which are being ignored, I would've thought that money could have gone to making sure those bugs got addressed + fixed.

Now, by giving money back to the authors (of patches and internal CVS commits), I'm wondering if that will give THEM incentive to go through the gigantic list of existing bugs and actually _solve them_, rather than ignoring them or closing them with WONTFIX or WORKSFORME.
Posted by katamari (310 comments )
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Leftover funds.
In my opinion it would be kind of nifty if he used the money to start a farm somewhere.
A Mozilla farm.
I'm quite sure it'd enlarge the company image as so.
Then if there's still some money left, he could hire professionals to redo the logo to a more "compact" one with less colors, for shorter loading times.

But otherwise I kinda agree with you, JC.
Posted by DerekBronson (1 comment )
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Support investment is a good idea
Making better standards within the company like making sure ITIL standards are set on Service Desk or maybe just hiring people is a good start. And I don't think that tickets should be closed by the team that's treating the call, maybe after a week without response by the user yes. But other than that I think that the ticket should be left open until the user says so.
Posted by ramonck (9 comments )
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