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.

16 Replies to “more on why mozilla will not IPO”

  1. Blodget now clamoring for Mozilla to go public…As if the C|Net reverse acquimerger posts were not goading us enough, how we have posts arguing in favor of a Mozilla-Firefox IPO on Silicon Alley Insider. Forgetting the valuation question (because an ethical/moral argument should trump a financial on…

  2. So essentially the debate goes like this:Venture Dudes: Google is some sugar daddy. Mozilla’s got a sweet deal. Would make a great investment.Mozilla: We’re not out to make money. Just better the internet. The money made helps us achieve that goal by hiring developers and funding projects.Venture Dudes: No, it’s a corporation, they make money.Mozilla: Don’t care about money Venture Dudes. The corporation was setup as a legal maneuver to help fund our mission.Venture Dudes: It’s software, WTF is with the “greater good” stuff?Mozilla: We have a manifesto. It’s all outlined in there. You didn’t even bother reading the manifesto did you?Venture Dudes: We prefer intuition rather than reading. We could all be rich if you would shut up about the “mission” and “manifesto”. Venture Dudes: Not fair, I want a piece of the pie.Mozilla: No IPO for you. Venture Dudes: So when is the IPO?Mozilla: No IPO!Venture Dudes: What a waste.Mozilla: Enjoy the internet.Venture Dudes: Bastards.[momentary pause]Venture Dudes: Apache has what percentage of the http server marketshare? What’s their stock price? [pause] No IPO either? **** Me. [passes out].

  3. John Lily: More on why Mozilla will not IPO…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-…

  4. It makes me very happy to see that Mozilla is so passionate to stand behind its’ convictions and for what it believes.I have long believed that Mozilla in itself is a bit recursive. By that, I mean that Mozilla is a member of it’s own community. As long as this remains true, I will be a Mozilla user and contributor.

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  6. So essentially the debate goes like this:

    Venture Dudes: Google is some sugar daddy. Mozilla’s got a sweet deal. Would make a great investment.

    Mozilla: We’re not out to make money. Just better the internet. The money made helps us achieve that goal by hiring developers and funding projects.

    Venture Dudes: No, it’s a corporation, they make money.

    Mozilla: Don’t care about money Venture Dudes. The corporation was setup as a legal maneuver to help fund our mission.

    Venture Dudes: It’s software, WTF is with the “greater good” stuff?

    Mozilla: We have a manifesto. It’s all outlined in there. You didn’t even bother reading the manifesto did you?

    Venture Dudes: We prefer intuition rather than reading. We could all be rich if you would shut up about the “mission” and “manifesto”.

    Venture Dudes: Not fair, I want a piece of the pie.

    Mozilla: No IPO for you.

    Venture Dudes: So when is the IPO?

    Mozilla: No IPO!

    Venture Dudes: What a waste.

    Mozilla: Enjoy the internet.

    Venture Dudes: Bastards.

    [momentary pause]

    Venture Dudes: Apache has what percentage of the http server marketshare? What’s their stock price? [pause] No IPO either? **** Me. [passes out].

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  8. It makes me very happy to see that Mozilla is so passionate to stand behind its’ convictions and for what it believes.

    I have long believed that Mozilla in itself is a bit recursive. By that, I mean that Mozilla is a member of it’s own community. As long as this remains true, I will be a Mozilla user and contributor.

  9. I read the articles at Silicon Valley Insider. I also read your responses John. Until now I’ve given no thought to the profit/business aspect of Mozilla and Firefox. I guess I’d always just assumed (and trusted?) they were open publicially orientated projects. I read in your words John that this is in fact the case.I’ll share here what I had to say on the SVI blog as greatly support the stance you are taking.—-I find your article interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I feel, however, that you’re attitude is rather typically capitalistic and potentially small minded. In an age where Corporations for the most part–and ever increasingly so–rule/dominate the world, and where there are so many cases of businesses with ethically minded approaches to business being completely undermined and thwarted in that regard due to “going public” and the fact that public corporations have a legal obligation to put profits above all else… well, need I say more.I honour and commend John Lilly and Co. for the stance they are taking and I wish them all the support they require to stick with it.As the commented above me said, this is an issue of “public trust”. Quite literally the “public” has entrusted their time and energy into a project that had certain very clear motives and ethical drivers behind it. Therefore the result (a browser called Firefox) is a product of “public trust”. Sure profits are being made. I have no idea where those profits are being directed, and the idealist in me would hope they are being put to good use for the public in some way. Of course Mozilla is under no obligation to do that, and I am happy to simply know there is a great free publicly driven browser on hand.Regards,Jonathan—————-I wish you all the best.Jonathan

  10. I read the articles at Silicon Valley Insider. I also read your responses John. Until now I’ve given no thought to the profit/business aspect of Mozilla and Firefox. I guess I’d always just assumed (and trusted?) they were open publicially orientated projects. I read in your words John that this is in fact the case.
    I’ll share here what I had to say on the SVI blog as greatly support the stance you are taking.

    —-
    I find your article interesting. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I feel, however, that you’re attitude is rather typically capitalistic and potentially small minded. In an age where Corporations for the most part–and ever increasingly so–rule/dominate the world, and where there are so many cases of businesses with ethically minded approaches to business being completely undermined and thwarted in that regard due to “going public” and the fact that public corporations have a legal obligation to put profits above all else… well, need I say more.

    I honour and commend John Lilly and Co. for the stance they are taking and I wish them all the support they require to stick with it.

    As the commented above me said, this is an issue of “public trust”. Quite literally the “public” has entrusted their time and energy into a project that had certain very clear motives and ethical drivers behind it. Therefore the result (a browser called Firefox) is a product of “public trust”. Sure profits are being made. I have no idea where those profits are being directed, and the idealist in me would hope they are being put to good use for the public in some way. Of course Mozilla is under no obligation to do that, and I am happy to simply know there is a great free publicly driven browser on hand.

    Regards,
    Jonathan
    —————-
    I wish you all the best.

    Jonathan

  11. Congratulations, John on your new role at Mozilla. According to the press reports, you are tasked with improving the market share of the Thunderbird mail client. There are three things I think are missing from Thunderbird which will be a barrier to adoption.1) Lack of support for MS Exchange. I see that Evolution is using OWA as a bridge for this support. Perhaps, a similar approach can be used in Thunderbird.2) Lack of support for importing Outlook PST data files. Most of my clients are amenable to changing mail clients, but they want to move old mail to the new client. Right now, it is just too hard to migrate data from Outlook to Thunderbird.3) Lack of calendaring functions. Users want to manage calendars and share them like they do in Outlook. I don’t see Thunderbird getting user to move from Outlook if this is not available.There are other general usability issues I could point out. For example, using the Junk Mail filters is a bit tedious. However, the three items above are in my view the biggest barriers I have faced.Thanks.

  12. Congratulations, John on your new role at Mozilla.

    According to the press reports, you are tasked with improving the market share of the Thunderbird mail client. There are three things I think are missing from Thunderbird which will be a barrier to adoption.

    1) Lack of support for MS Exchange. I see that Evolution is using OWA as a bridge for this support. Perhaps, a similar approach can be used in Thunderbird.

    2) Lack of support for importing Outlook PST data files. Most of my clients are amenable to changing mail clients, but they want to move old mail to the new client. Right now, it is just too hard to migrate data from Outlook to Thunderbird.

    3) Lack of calendaring functions. Users want to manage calendars and share them like they do in Outlook. I don’t see Thunderbird getting user to move from Outlook if this is not available.

    There are other general usability issues I could point out. For example, using the Junk Mail filters is a bit tedious. However, the three items above are in my view the biggest barriers I have faced.

    Thanks.

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