May, 2010

May 10

What’s Next for Me (But Not Yet!)

I just announced internally that after 5 years at Mozilla, and a couple as the CEO, I’ve decided to leave later this year to join Greylock Partners as a venture partner.

I’ll be in my role here at Mozilla until we conclude a successful search for a new CEO, and intend to stay involved and on the Board of Directors.

I’ll have more to say about Mozilla over the next few months as we go through transition — I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done over the last several years, and very optimistic about what the future holds.

And I’ll have  more to say about Greylock as I move into my new role there. Venture investing is what I’ve wanted to do for quite a long time — I’ve been involved in many startups, even building an incubator a decade ago, and have interests that span enterprise, open source, and the broader web, among others. I’m incredibly excited to join an amazing team there — it’s a firm that I’ve noted to be incredibly strongly oriented towards entrepreneurs — it really matches my sensibilities as an operator extremely well.

Will be blogging and tweeting (@johnolilly) as per normal — more soon. Below is the letter I sent to everyone here at Mozilla, who I am deeply indebted to and proud of.


As my five year anniversary at Mozilla approaches, I’ve decided that it’s time for me to move on to my next role sometime later this year. This won’t happen today or tomorrow — I expect to be here and working for several months yet, and I’m planning to stay on the Board of Directors.

This is a tough note for me to write — I feel so incredibly lucky and humbled to have worked on such an amazing project, with such spectacular people, for the last few years.

But I’ve always been a startup guy at heart — Mozilla was originally going to be a quick volunteer effort for me, but quickly turned into a full time job, and at the beginning of 2008 turned into the CEO job that I have now. I’ve really been missing working with startups, and want to learn how to invest in and build great new startups, so am planning to join Greylock Partners as a Venture Partner once we transition here.

I’m in no rush, and the most important thing to me is to build the strongest Mozilla we can, with the best leadership possible. So my plan is to stay through that transition — we’re starting a CEO search now, and plan to do it in as transparent a way as possible — which means I’ll continue in my CEO role as normal for several more months, at least.

I’ll have more to say on the transition as we figure things out more clearly, but for now, business as usual. We’ve got Firefox 4 to ship, and Firefox on multiple mobile platforms. We’ve got our web services like Weave to stand up and make available to millions of users.

For now, though, I really want to communicate a deep gratitude to each of you — over the past few years we’ve done an amazing amount together, and changed the world in so many meaningful ways. 400 million users are directly touched every day by the work we’ve done so far, and many, many more are using better browsers because of our work. There are many more contributions and victories to come.


May 10

Reading Books on iPad and Kindle: A Comparison

I’ve now had my iPad long enough to read a couple of books all the way through and compare to the experience of reading books on my Kindle. I’ve come to the opinion that I think for many (most?) people, the iPad will be the more compelling choice. That includes people who read just a few books each year, as well as students, as texts for school become more interactive and engaging. But for lifelong readers like myself, who read long books frequently, the Kindle is a superior reading experience for a number of reasons.

In other words, they’re different devices, and one is not the superset of the other.

I’ve gone through a few stages in coming to this conclusion — pre-iPad I was convinced the iPad wouldn’t be any good for reading at all. I was wrong. The first few weeks I had my iPad, I didn’t turn on my Kindle a single time. But the last couple of weeks I’ve been balancing out usage, and finding that I’m much happier.

The iPad is, for sure, a better experience for magazines, newspapers, and (obviously) web content. (Not to mention video and interactive stuff, which the current Kindle can’t even attempt.) It’s quite an acceptable reading experience for books, too, especially if you’re reading just a few pages at a time.

But whenever I tried to read for a longer time, I found a few problems. It’s pretty heavy to hold in one hand. The touch UI means the screen is always smudgy and needs attention (that same attention I’m trying to pay to the actual content). It’s not very comfortable to hold laying down in bed. And I found that the backlit screen tended to get me worked up as I was trying to drift off to sleep — sort of defeating the whole purpose.

There’s also an unusual psychological effect that happens. My brain tends to think of my iPad first in terms of communication — checking mail, following Twitter, whatever. And so even when I’m trying to focus on a book, I find myself hopping out of the book for just a few seconds to check up on things. With Kindle, my brain seems to understand that I’m in long-form-reading mode, and stays more still.

As I’ve read full books on both devices over the past few weeks, what I’ve found empirically is that I can read faster, and for longer, and with better understanding and recall when I’m using my Kindle than when I’m reading on my iPad. I can’t prove that to you for a certainty, but it’s very obvious in my recent reading — there’s just no comparison. So for me, the iPad can’t supersede the Kindle. They’re different devices for different purposes.

When I use the iPad, in a lot of ways, I feel like I’m living in the future. It’s an amazing device — beautiful, fun to throw data around, etc. And ultimately is an incredibly interesting split between form and function. (The form has essentially nothing that indicates what the function is — it’s perfectly plastic.)

And looking at the Kindle, it feels a lot like I’m looking at the past. It’s kind of a homely looking device. Has too many buttons in weird shapes. It’s black and white. Strange to say that about an invention that didn’t even really exist 3 years ago.

But I think it’s that in-the-past-ness of the Kindle that’s also its great strength. I find my mind more still, more focused. I find myself able to pay utmost attention to the content, and to really live in the words and ideas. In an age where I’m super-twitchy to read my tweets and mails all the time, the focusing effects of Kindle vs iPad feels like a real throwback win.

It’s pretty clear to me at this point that we’ve moving into a world where we’ll all have multiple screens around us — things we used to call “televisions,” or “phones,” or “eBooks,” or “computers.” And some of those screens will be have their own light and computing power like iPad; others will have reflective displays and mostly show content that comes from the cloud, like Kindle. I think as consumers, we’ll increasingly want all our content on whatever screen happens to fit our current circumstance. What’s around, what’s easy to hold, maybe what’s easy to share with others. It’s very clear that we’ll have screens everywhere, and content connected to all of them.

Anyway, like I said at the top: I think that for most folks who only read a little bit, the value proposition of the iPad and everything it can do will be superior.

But for a guy who for his whole life has never gone anywhere without a book in his hand, the iPad just doesn’t serve me as well as the Kindle for reading books right now. That might change; I might adjust. We’ll see. But for now, for me, my Kindle is the place for books.

May 10

The Imperfectionists, by Tom Rachman

This is a very unusual novel — I picked it up because of an incredibly glowing review in The New York Times, even though the subject matter didn’t seem that interesting to me.

It’s the story of a small international paper that’s based in Rome. Each chapter follows a different person who’s involved in the paper somehow, and there are interstitials that tell the story of the paper through the decades.

Doesn’t sound like much, does it?

And yet it was a very enjoyable read to me — the characters were all interesting and varied; the paper was weird and undistinguished enough to make you wonder at motivations of everyone; and the prose and dialog was really tight and thoughtful.

Definitely recommended, even if it’s a bit outside of your normal read.

May 10

Drive, by Daniel H. Pink

I really liked the main topic of this book: motivation. In particular, Pink looked at why people do the work they do, what helps them to achieve. Firefox & Mozilla was a primary example, which was gratifying.

I didn’t find the book quite as deep or useful as I was hoping, though — ultimately was pretty short and a bit of a disappointment to me.

May 10

Sandman Slim, by Richard Kadrey

This is another quick read that I picked up at Al Billings’ suggestion while I was home sick last week. Another story about a guy who interacts with Hell and then runs around doing zany stuff on earth. Very hard edged, very violent. Pretty good mythology, lots of action.

I liked it; will read more by Kadrey in the future. But combined with Johannes Cabal, I think I’ve had my fill of deal-with-the-devil books for a few months.