Happy birthday, Mozilla

I’m a little late with this one, but on March 31st, Mozilla turned 15 years old.

Looking back, Mozilla’s plan was as radical as the Web itself: use open source and community to simultaneously create great software and build openness into the key technologies of the Internet itself. This was something commercial vendors weren’t doing and could not do. A non-profit, community-driven organization like Mozilla was needed to step up to the challenge.

When Netscape Navigator came along, it was a piece of software that you were expected to pay for. Microsoft, sensing an opportunity, not only released Internet Explorer but also bundled it – gratis – with Windows. This, in a single step, flattened Netscape’s business and left the way open for Microsoft to start stuffing proprietary technologies into their internet offerings.

If Firefox hadn’t come along when it did, and with the commitment to openness that Mozilla has maintained, we would all now be using Microsoft Internet Explorer to visit sites authored with Microsoft FrontPage and hosted on servers running Microsoft IIS. If that had happened, the web today would be a very different place in which the cost of building a web presence would be a serious barrier to the sorts of innovation we have become used to over the past 15 years.

We all owe Mozilla a debt of gratitude and the future is bright. Firefox 20 is out now and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing what Firefox OS does to the mobile market.