photo credit: Channy Yun

Gen’s already picked this up on his blog, but it’s worth writing about again — the Mozilla community in Korea had a dinner together — 50 people who care about Mozilla and Firefox and open source got together to break bread and talk. One of the fun exercises they did was to have these signs that say “For me, Firefox is <blank>” — then everyone filled in the blanks. The answers are amazing, of course — they include things like “vision” and “oxygen” and “freedom,” and even “means of livelihood.”

I had a really good time looking at the pictures that Channy posted — such a great glimpse into their community. He’s been tireless in promoting Mozilla and open source in Korea — a tough environment for these things. That this community exists at all in Korea is amazing.

And it’s helped me to articulate some of the things that I’ve been thinking about lately with respect to Mozilla around the world. Over the past couple of years I’ve spent a good bit of time working with Takita-san, Kaori and Gen (and many others) on Mozilla Japan, with Tristan and Peter and Pascal and Anne-Julie and Axel (and many others) on Mozilla Europe, and (lately), with Li and the Mozilla Online team on our efforts in China. Every single time I interact with any of these folks that I’ve mentioned (and many more who I haven’t, including contributors in places like Brazil, Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand and Poland), I learn new things. I learn about new perspectives, about cultural and geographical and political influences on thinking, and more about the way the world works. It’s one of my very favorite things about working at Mozilla.

Lately I’ve noticed a problem with some of the language that I use — when we talk about Mozilla Japan, or Mozilla Europe, or Mozilla China, I think that there’s a tendency to think of these groups as similar, or at least to emphasize the sameness across each.

Not only is that a completely misleading view, it can cause serious errors in thought about how we do work with each other. Because here’s the key: while they share a similarity of name (Mozilla X), in almost all other respects, they’re wholly unique.

I’ve come to think of each of these organizations as essentially unique, authentic manifestations of Mozilla that are grounded both in the culture of Mozilla and the culture of the geographies that they’ve developed in.

Mozilla Japan spends a lot of time focusing on institutions — government, enterprises, device manufacturers, etc — because so much of the work around the Internet, and especially the PC-based Internet (as opposed to mobile) is centered around these institutions.

Mozilla China (known as Mozilla Online) is a little more commercial and consumer-oriented than Mozilla Japan — at present, they’re working on figuring out how the browser situation in China looks, and how to help more folks learn about Firefox. (To date, there’s less clear demand in China for a rich e-mail client like Thunderbird.)

Mozilla Europe is something different yet again — it has so many characteristics of a people’s movement — an uprising against the old order. In Europe, more than maybe anywhere else in the world, the Mozilla values seem to be as important or more important than the qualities of the actual Firefox and Thunderbird products. More than anywhere else in the world, when I talk with Europeans, they use Firefox because it’s the right thing to do, not just because they like how it works (although they also like how it works). Europe is more than a single place, of course — our communities in France and Germany and Poland are incredibly strong, each for their own idiosyncratic reasons.

And so I’ve been trying hard to break my mental model that previously had these three entities as similar, and have been thinking more and more about them as unique expressions. That means it’s more complicated to operate, to budget, to plan, and to coordinate, but it better reflects the way things are.

One other similarity bears emphasizing: these organizations each exist because of amazing, unbelievable efforts of amazing, unbelievable people who I admire quite a lot. I feel lucky to work with Tristan and Peter who willed Mozilla Europe into being, with Takita-san who’s made Mozilla Japan possible, and lately with Li, who first helped us establish the Mozilla Foundation in China  two years ago and is building something new there now.

7 Replies to ““Firefox is …””

  1. I’ve noticed this as well. Through my limited exposure to people in other countries (mostly through IRC), I’m continually surprised not at the fact that there are differences, but at the specific differences that exist. Cultural differences seem far more interesting (and on a completely different level) than I would have ever assumed.

  2. I’ve noticed this as well. Through my limited exposure to people in other countries (mostly through IRC), I’m continually surprised not at the fact that there are differences, but at the specific differences that exist. Cultural differences seem far more interesting (and on a completely different level) than I would have ever assumed.

  3. John, why isn’t there any Mozilla India? I’m dying for Mozilla India to start. I can assure you that although not many people use Firefox or Thunderbird here, it will pick up very very soon. Its a prospective market here you know.

  4. John, why isn’t there any Mozilla India? I’m dying for Mozilla India to start. I can assure you that although not many people use Firefox or Thunderbird here, it will pick up very very soon. Its a prospective market here you know.

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