my new job at mozilla

Sometimes in life, you find an opportunity to make a difference in something you care about, and it feels like, even though you didn’t know it at the time, that the last few years have really just been practice, giving you the background, skills and ability to really help. And in a very few circumstances — once or twice in a lifetime if you’re lucky — the opportunity you get to make a difference is one that has a very large, even global impact. My new role as CEO of Mozilla Corporation feels like one of those times. [Here's Mitchell's announcement.]

For me, joining Mozilla in 2005 was one of those special opportunities. I’d been working on my own startup, Reactivity, for the previous 7 years, learning how to build and operate an entrepreneurial venture that was focused on creativity and innovation. I was thinking about what I wanted to do next. I had gotten interested in the dynamics of open source projects through knowing Mitch Kapor (previously an investor in Reactivity) and Mitchell Baker, and the incredible, shocking, amazing story of Firefox during the previous year just blew me away. So I wondered out loud to Mitchell whether or not I could help, and whether Mozilla needed any help.

At which point she laughed of course, because after this small group of open source, non-corporate, non-profiteers had officially launched Firefox 1.0 a few months earlier, they found themselves in a situation where they had gone from a few hundred thousand users to over 10 million. They were going through a period of intense growth and pressure, not to mention increasing expectations from the whole world. Expectations that they’d continue to improve Firefox and Thunderbird, that they’d foster an increasingly robust community of contributors, and that they’d continue to look out for the health of the Web.

So I joined up, started to help. While I care a lot about products and user experiences (and that’s where my academic and early career background is), that stuff was in excellent condition because of the amazing team of contributors and developers and designers and testers — so I focused on a couple of bits that needed more help: (1) helping other organizations understand and work better with Mozilla, and (2) getting the Mozilla organization itself to be ready to meet increased expectations from the world, which would demand people growth. Since that summer, we’ve grown a lot. We released Firefox 1.5 and 2, as well as Thunderbird 2, grew the number of community extensions to more than 4,000, increased our employee base to something close to 150 worldwide (including beefing up our teams in Japan and Europe, and starting one in China), and we’ve got more than 125 million users around the world now.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about Mozilla, open source, and the Web itself. I believe that the Web is the single most important innovation of our lifetimes, for reasons both mundane and profound. It affects everything. Today’s Web is healthy due to the efforts of millions of people, for sure — people and companies and governments, volunteers and employees and contributors — and every time I interact with people in the Mozilla community, I’m blown away by the level of dedication to keeping the Web healthy, and, just as important, participatory, for as many people around the globe as possible.

It goes without saying that I’m excited by the challenge of my new job. I’ve thought an awful lot about the role of MoCo (our shorthand for the Corporation) in supporting the Mozilla mission and manifesto, as the coordination point for our work on the platform and on Firefox. We’ve got a lot to do in the coming years, starting with getting Firefox 3 out the door, and then swiftly followed up by our work in mobile and services. Mozilla2 will be a major step forward on the platform after that, not to mention our new experiments in Labs and the work that we’re doing to move the whole Web forward with Javascript 2, HTML 5 and other standards work.

Even so, I’ve come to the conclusion that the most successful case for MoCo will be when the corporation itself is sort of invisible. That is, when MoCo can support Mozilla’s mission, providing economic sustainability, project coordination, and a connection to real users around the world, while getting out of the way of what our community all around the world is doing. Understand that I’m not saying that Mozilla should be invisible — to the contrary, a strong, vibrant and visible Mozilla is having a major positive impact on the evolution of the Web today, and should continue to. What I’m saying is that in a success case, the mechanics of the Corporation — some of the specifics about the way we organize to get things done — will not be as apparent (or as in the way as they can sometimes be) as the project.

That’s a deceptively simple goal, certainly. With thousands of contributors, more than 125 million users, and countless organizations that depend on the extended community and our technology, we’re in uncharted territory. There aren’t any good models for what we’re doing right now, for hybrid organizations who’re using market-based economics to drive mission-oriented goals, or for open source projects that so many end users depend on. So just like experiments in the code or the user interface, we’ll be doing more experiments in how the MoCo organization can best use our products and our people to support the mission. Experiments like Mozilla China, where we’ve quadrupled our user base this year, and like Mozilla Labs, where we’re trying to create a new form of laboratory in which we’ve never even met most of the experimenters.

A number of these experiments and initiatives Mitchell’s already involved in, and there are a number of new initiatives that she can start now. Mitchell has made enormous contributions so far — from the original Mozilla Public License to being at the helm through the years at AOL, to starting the Foundation, and lately to charting new territory and scale with end-user open source software. Lately she’s been thinking more about core issues of participation and openness for end users, how to make hybrid organizations work, and how to unstick the often frustrating standards process. I expect her to pull Mozilla into new areas and to continue to be the chief advocate for the participatory Web. From a very personal standpoint, I’ve learned an awful lot from Mitchell over the past couple of years, and am looking forward to being challenged by and working with her more going forward.

There’s a lot to do, by a lot of people. For myself, I’ve got a few major priorities for the coming months:

1. Do whatever I can to help get Firefox 3 out the door — beta 2 just released, and folks who have used it feel like it’s an exceptionally good product that an awful lot of people will like (and do already).

2. Help David Ascher get the new Mozilla mail company off the ground, and get Thunderbird on a safe footing for the future.

3. Improve Mozilla’s understandability and knowability across the board. While we’ve grown over the past couple of years, it’s been hard to make sure that we’re always communicating as well as we’re able to, and as well as our community and users need us to. We try hard on this, and we’re improving, but we can and will do more.

4. Increase our communications about how we’re thinking about economic sustainability — we’ve got some things figured out and some we haven’t — but I’d like us to start talking more in public about how the future looks for Mozilla, and I’d especially like to share our thinking with, and benefit from others’ thinking on how to make hybrid organizations work. (Organizations that come to mind include the Participatory Culture Foundation and kiva.org.)

5. Support Mitchell’s new projects to broaden Mozilla’s impact — she’s been thinking about a number of new initiatives over the past few months that could have a great effect on the world.

That’s a start, anyway. As is the norm for Mozilla, the number and variety of projects that we can be involved in and make a difference for is astounding — and I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to continue to improve the participatory Web in 2008 and beyond.

I feel both very excited and very fortunate to find myself in this spot, and am looking forward to doing what I can to help Mozilla continue to make the Web a better place.

110 comments

  1. Congrats and have fun. It’s Mozilla after all.

  2. Congrats John! An exciting time for MoCo and you personally. Best of luck.

  3. Congratulations John!
    I am sure you will be a great CEO.

  4. congrats, john. you’re the right person for the job. keep up the sharp focus.

  5. Congratulations, John!

  6. Congrats and have fun. It’s Mozilla after all.

  7. Congrats John! An exciting time for MoCo and you personally. Best of luck.

  8. Congratulations on the smooth upgrade! Between you and Ascher, I’m quite impressed by your vision (as blogged, at any rate) for heading up the nuts and bolts of things, and I have pretty good hopes for Fx & Tb in the future. :D [Needless to say, you've got a great crew as well, but as far as tech. leaders go, I've been /very/ impressed by the tech. knowledge the two of you have about the products you're leading. This should not go without saying, as it appears to be conspicuously absent in many other companies.]

    And of course, Mitchell shall oversee the giant picture, and has some great opportunities ahead of her, and she deserves this greatly.

  9. Congratulations John!
    I am sure you will be a great CEO.

  10. congrats, john. you’re the right person for the job. keep up the sharp focus.

  11. Congratulations, John!

  12. Way to go John, what a great start of a new exiting year! Congratulations and see you soon

  13. Congratulations on the smooth upgrade! Between you and Ascher, I’m quite impressed by your vision (as blogged, at any rate) for heading up the nuts and bolts of things, and I have pretty good hopes for Fx & Tb in the future. :D [Needless to say, you've got a great crew as well, but as far as tech. leaders go, I've been /very/ impressed by the tech. knowledge the two of you have about the products you're leading. This should not go without saying, as it appears to be conspicuously absent in many other companies.]

    And of course, Mitchell shall oversee the giant picture, and has some great opportunities ahead of her, and she deserves this greatly.

  14. John – amazing news! We’re all proud to see you take this role! Congratulations, and look forward to have you in Europe soon!

  15. Congrats John on the move.

  16. John – What a great start for 2008. Congratulations!

  17. Way to go John, what a great start of a new exiting year! Congratulations and see you soon

  18. John – amazing news! We’re all proud to see you take this role! Congratulations, and look forward to have you in Europe soon!

  19. Huge congrats John ! Was great meeting at our round table in Dalian at the WEF Asia this year !
    - Rodrigo

  20. Congrats John on the move.

  21. John – What a great start for 2008. Congratulations!

  22. Mozilla promeut John Lilly comme PDG…

    Lundi il y a eu du changement à la tête de Mozilla. John Lilly accède à la fonction de PDG de la Mozilla Foundation, à la suite de Mitchell Baker. L’annonce en a été faite par l’intermédiaire du blog de Mitchell Baker.
    ……

  23. +1.

    BTW, lookit – you totally made the Canadian news and stuff, eh?

  24. Yay, congratulations John! What a great thing for Mozilla and for you.

  25. Huge congrats John ! Was great meeting at our round table in Dalian at the WEF Asia this year !
    - Rodrigo

  26. +1.

    BTW, lookit – you totally made the Canadian news and stuff, eh?

  27. Yay, congratulations John! What a great thing for Mozilla and for you.

  28. HUGE congrats, John! This is a great day for the web at large!

  29. Well, I understand now why you were late to last night’s Sunnyvale Board of Library Trustees meeting…

  30. HUGE congrats, John! This is a great day for the web at large!

  31. Well, I understand now why you were late to last night’s Sunnyvale Board of Library Trustees meeting…

  32. congrats John! great new year for both you and Mozilla.

  33. Congratulations Mr. Lilly!
    We’re all behind you.

  34. congrats John! great new year for both you and Mozilla.

  35. Congratulations Mr. Lilly!
    We’re all behind you.

  36. congratulations! good luck in your new role!

  37. congratulations! good luck in your new role!

  38. Congratulations John! Looking forward to more great things from Mozilla. I love Firefox 3.

  39. Congratulations John! Looking forward to more great things from Mozilla. I love Firefox 3.

  40. Congrats John.

    Would love to say I uncovered the news while browsing on my own here in Zambia, but guess I have to credit the proud in-laws for sharing the news. I can’t figure out why you didn’t add a trip to Africa as one of your upcoming priorities…

  41. Congrats John.

    Would love to say I uncovered the news while browsing on my own here in Zambia, but guess I have to credit the proud in-laws for sharing the news. I can’t figure out why you didn’t add a trip to Africa as one of your upcoming priorities…

  42. John,

    We read about your promotion in the newspaper last night. Congratulations on your promotion!!

    Wishing you and Mozilla much success and all the best in your new endeavors!!

    Warm regards,

    Jennifer Wong, CPA and John Muranishi, CPA
    Odenberg, Ullakkko, Muranishi & Co. LLP
    (former CPAs for the Reactivity entities)

  43. John,

    We read about your promotion in the newspaper last night. Congratulations on your promotion!!

    Wishing you and Mozilla much success and all the best in your new endeavors!!

    Warm regards,

    Jennifer Wong, CPA and John Muranishi, CPA
    Odenberg, Ullakko, Muranishi & Co. LLP
    (former CPAs for the Reactivity entities)

  44. John,

    We read about your promotion in the newspaper last night. Congratulations on your promotion!!

    Wishing you and Mozilla much success and all the best in your new endeavors!!

    Warm regards,

    Jennifer Wong, CPA and John Muranishi, CPA
    Odenberg, Ullakkko, Muranishi & Co. LLP
    (former CPAs for the Reactivity entities)

  45. John,

    We read about your promotion in the newspaper last night. Congratulations on your promotion!!

    Wishing you and Mozilla much success and all the best in your new endeavors!!

    Warm regards,

    Jennifer Wong, CPA and John Muranishi, CPA
    Odenberg, Ullakko, Muranishi & Co. LLP
    (former CPAs for the Reactivity entities)

  46. Congrats John!! 2008 starts with this great news for the Internet community.

    BTW I still think Mozilla could be named something like “Red Panda” in China :-P

  47. Congrats John!! 2008 starts with this great news for the Internet community.

    BTW I still think Mozilla could be named something like “Red Panda” in China :-P

  48. Wallace E. Davenport

    When will the help for Eudora users be ready? It was promised to us by Qualcomm when they pulled the plug.
    Thanks,
    Wallace E. Davenport
    Houston, Texas

  49. Wallace E. Davenport

    When will the help for Eudora users be ready? It was promised to us by Qualcomm when they pulled the plug.
    Thanks,
    Wallace E. Davenport
    Houston, Texas

  50. Alan & Chandler

    congrats!
    we love mozilla.
    keep up the good work cuz!
    love and miss you!

  51. Alan & Chandler

    congrats!
    we love mozilla.
    keep up the good work cuz!
    love and miss you!

  52. Having downloaded “Thunderbird” for the second time have found it so frustrating that I have gone back to “Outlook” and I haven’t been able to find anyone to complain to.
    Coming across the name “Lilly” I thought it opertune to mention my moan to another of the great family Lillie, note the posh Scottish spelling.
    Thunderbird does not let me access incoming mail! all I get is a dialogue box stating that the folder is being processed, and processed and processed, what gives with this “wonderful” alternative to Outlook.
    C.D.Lillie. Black Isle, Scotland.

  53. Having downloaded “Thunderbird” for the second time have found it so frustrating that I have gone back to “Outlook” and I haven’t been able to find anyone to complain to.
    Coming across the name “Lilly” I thought it opertune to mention my moan to another of the great family Lillie, note the posh Scottish spelling.
    Thunderbird does not let me access incoming mail! all I get is a dialogue box stating that the folder is being processed, and processed and processed, what gives with this “wonderful” alternative to Outlook.
    C.D.Lillie. Black Isle, Scotland.

  54. Just stumbled across your face as I was looking at something else on Yahoo! Finance and then discovered that you’ve been appointed CEO.

    Good things happen to good people. Congratulations! and…keep in touch.

  55. Just stumbled across your face as I was looking at something else on Yahoo! Finance and then discovered that you’ve been appointed CEO.

    Good things happen to good people. Congratulations! and…keep in touch.

  56. I have been very happy with MF for the past 18 months. Three weeks ago, my MF unexpectedly disappeared as my active browser and I have been unable to restore it ever sice. 20 attempted downloads of the latest version and it still won’t open, run or be utilizied in anyway. IE suddenly appeared as my browser, something I loath and wish not to use. How can I replace IE with my old MF and get back to work?

  57. I have been very happy with MF for the past 18 months. Three weeks ago, my MF unexpectedly disappeared as my active browser and I have been unable to restore it ever sice. 20 attempted downloads of the latest version and it still won’t open, run or be utilizied in anyway. IE suddenly appeared as my browser, something I loath and wish not to use. How can I replace IE with my old MF and get back to work?

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  60. I’m a web application developer and I love FF.
    I just checked the statistics, there are still above 52% users still using IE.

    I’d like to contribute a little idea to mozilla. It may increase mozilla market share and save a lot of developers’ efforts.

    I just wonder, instead of expecting those 52% users initiatively to download and install mozilla,
    how about convince them to download and install a IE plugin from mozilla?

    Imaging, just like Flash Player can embedded into browser and handle certain type of content,
    a small but rock solid plugin from mozilla is designed to embedded into IE and capable to handle most of tasks that a browser normally will do to HTML page.

    Then, encourage the developer community to invoke this plugin at their pages, when IE is detected, as they embed Flash Player. I believe that community is easy to convince, as we do our work with FF on daily basis.

    Beside, who can resisted if their standard complaint products are workable even within IE environment. Not mention there are a lot of technologies that may help on developing large and complex web apps.

    Form those 52% users’ view, they are continue use IE and they just download and install the plugin as the web content requested. Nothing is special compare to Flash Player!

    The outcomes are quite clear, now!

    IE will be chased out of market if MS failed to response on those demands that web apps created.

    Long live, FF!

  61. I’m a web application developer and I love FF.
    I just checked the statistics, there are still above 52% users still using IE.

    I’d like to contribute a little idea to mozilla. It may increase mozilla market share and save a lot of developers’ efforts.

    I just wonder, instead of expecting those 52% users initiatively to download and install mozilla,
    how about convince them to download and install a IE plugin from mozilla?

    Imaging, just like Flash Player can embedded into browser and handle certain type of content,
    a small but rock solid plugin from mozilla is designed to embedded into IE and capable to handle most of tasks that a browser normally will do to HTML page.

    Then, encourage the developer community to invoke this plugin at their pages, when IE is detected, as they embed Flash Player. I believe that community is easy to convince, as we do our work with FF on daily basis.

    Beside, who can resisted if their standard complaint products are workable even within IE environment. Not mention there are a lot of technologies that may help on developing large and complex web apps.

    Form those 52% users’ view, they are continue use IE and they just download and install the plugin as the web content requested. Nothing is special compare to Flash Player!

    The outcomes are quite clear, now!

    IE will be chased out of market if MS failed to response on those demands that web apps created.

    Long live, FF!

  62. Impossible to find the ‘sent mail’….. there is no longer the possibility to look at the mail that I have sent….there is no longer the section on the side where it was possible to select.
    Looking now to find someone to rid me of thunderbird and put something in that works!
    There are no ‘local folders’ openable from thunderbird.

  63. Impossible to find the ‘sent mail’….. there is no longer the possibility to look at the mail that I have sent….there is no longer the section on the side where it was possible to select.
    Looking now to find someone to rid me of thunderbird and put something in that works!
    There are no ‘local folders’ openable from thunderbird.

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  66. Hi, John,
    Are you the same John Lilly who did research on dolphins a while ago at NIH , and later off the coast of Florida? If so, I know you. My sister-in-law worked with you. She came to live with us for awhile, and you went to California. Of course, maybe you aren't the same one. If you were the same one, you would be retirement age. In any case, congratulations on this career.
    Dorothy D. Miller

  67. Well I hope that one of the first things that John Lilly impliments is a way where users of their products can contact them in the case that their update causes problems with their users computers. I downloaded the upgrade and immediately I had problems as from that moment on my none of my web browsers would access a web page. Google Earth Works, Email works and Yahoo Instant Messenger works. This is how I knew I was connected. Now Firefox does not work, nor does Explorer or Safari all that I have on my PC. So here I am trying to figure out how I am going to contact Mozilla as I am borrowing time from a colleagues computer. Perhaps they will prove to be the credible company we all hope they are and will reach out and help me. Perhaps they will ignore this call for help and leave me to continue to broadcase my story and tribulations. I have tried all that I know and nothing works. Now I can only sit and wait and continue to look for a way to contact Mozilla via some other means.

  68. Oh wow congratulations! fi you want u can enter the free prize draw for a iPod Nano as a reward since its free and everyone can :p hope u take the role well! Free Prize Draw

  69. this haroon shafiq from pakistan.. i am happy to see u working for mozila

    can you share you experience with me..

    i love to hear from u

    haroon.shafiq@gmail.com