January, 2008


3
Jan 08

more on why mozilla will not IPO

Henry Blodget did a followup on his first post just now, with some further thoughts.

There are some details we should clear up in a further post (some of the mechanics are a little mis-stated in Blodget’s postings), but I want to focus on the intent. First, there’s no presumption that for-profit (or, more properly, non-tax-exempt) entities are bad and non-profits are good. As Henry suggests, that’s a ridiculous, naive position to take. I’ve been parts of many for profit companies and think that there are many who do incredibly important things for their shareholders and the world. Absolutely. But the reason that we’re non-tax-exempt in the Mozilla Corporation is so that we can properly pay taxes, not to maximize profits.

My argument (and Mitchell’s) is much simpler and more elemental: we’ve said before many times that Mozilla’s mission — keeping the Internet open and participatory — is the most important thing for us to pursue, full stop. Mitchell’s blogged at length on the Mozilla Manifesto — and that Manifesto is the covenant that the Mozilla project — encompassing the Foundation, the Corporation, and more — has made with the community. Like any organization, we’re imperfect, but in intent and in daily practice, we measure ourselves against the Manifesto, and we believe, for all the reasons that we’ve articulated, pursuit of these goals is best achieved as an independent company, with no shareholders who would conceivably want to focus on short-term (or even long-term) profits instead of the public benefit mission.

In any event, this is an interesting discussion (if unexpected on the third day of the new year) to be having — and I hope that it starts a broader conversation about what ways we can best achieve the goals in the Manifesto.


3
Jan 08

small is the new big

great writeup of one of the many reasons that we’re working hard to stay independent: it’s better for people who use firefox and thunderbird and songbird and miro and on and on…..


3
Jan 08

Firefox/Mozilla is NOT going to IPO — here’s why

There’s been a bit of speculation today about Mozilla on Silicon Alley Insider (and NYT blog), and I’d like to set the record straight.

Irrespective of financials, Blodget is wrong about the desire and intent of Mozilla to do any public offering of stock. Mitchell’s written about this many times at great length: the work we do in the Mozilla project is a public asset (and a followup article, too). It’s the wrong thing to do ethically, but aside from that, selling shares of Mozilla would make it hard (or maybe impossible) to pursue our mission and goals.

We’ve said this before on the record and we’ll reiterate categorically that there’s no intent or desire to do a public offering, no plans to do so, and an overwhelming sentiment here that to do something like this would fundamentally undermine what Mozilla is about.


3
Jan 08

The Black Swan, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This was a very, very interesting book, and I had a lot of conflicting reactions to it. The content is great — and I’ve heard good things about his previous work, Fooled by Randomness. I found his writing style nearly unreadable, not to mention condescending and dismissive of anyone who thinks differently at all — but in spite of the stylistic issues, the content is great. He spends a lot of time talking about how people, by and large, are fooled by their models into thinking they have predictive power in the real world. He says that would be true if we lived in a normal distribution type of world, but for the vast majority of things we care about — like elections, stock market swings, success in almost any field — we live in a decidedly not normally distributed world.

The “black swan” theme — that while most swans in nature are white, sometimes they’re black — is throughout the book, and the main point is this: the relative rarity of black swans means that they’re often surprising to people, and that too many lessons are inferred from their existence, even when they’re not based in any reasonable thought. Google & Facebook are both black swans — highly unlikely strings of events allowed them to become what they are — and most of the “do it this way” lessons that entrepreneurs are trying to infer from their success are simply not applicable. FWIW, it seems to me that Firefox is a black swan as well.

Anyway, in spite of this writing, this is an important book, I think — certainly it is for me.


2
Jan 08

American Creation, by Joseph Ellis

I think this was my favorite non-fiction book of the year. Fantastic, fantastic book, and a great continuation of the themes that Ellis started in Founding Brothers. As usual, Ellis conveys a huge sense of the humanity of our founders, and the real uncertainty of the time. Also as usual, he highlights the landmark differences between the 1776 mood of the Declaration of Independence and the 1787 times of the writing and ratification of the Constitution. What surprised me most (liking it a lot didn’t surprise me at all) was how relevant the discussion is to things I think about today — not just in our government but also related to Mozilla. The ways that the founders engaged in discussions, the new ideas like multi-sovereignty that they pioneered, and the difficulties and opportunities inherent in building a republic at scale — they all spoke to me and had lessons for me in things I work on now.

Loved the book, love the period of history, and loved Ellis’ writing, as usual.