Hundreds of programmers volunteer as part of the process, while thousands of people help to test the softwareThings couldn't go much better for Mozilla at the moment, In less than two months the web's best browser, Firefox, has been downloaded more than seven million times, while email client Thunderbird is seriously threatening the monopolistic position of Outlook Express. How can an open source project become that successful, and how do you co-ordinate work between contributors that are spread around the globe?
It all started off as mozilla.org, a loose and informal group of hackers, established and mainly funded by Netscape in 1998, when the source code for Netscape Communicator was released as open source. Mozilla.org continued the development and management of the browser until July 15, 2003, when AOL, owner of Netscape and therefore also of Mozilla, announced it was closing down its browser division, On the same day, the Mozilla Foundation was launched, a not-for-profit corporation based in Mountain View, California, and intended to support and provide leadership for the Mozilla project.
The group is made up of 12 former Netscape and Mozilla employees, who help to coordinate and delegate the team's administration and many operations, The committee that runs the Mozilla Foundation is known as mozilla.org staff and is composed of employees and volunteers (see http://www.mozilla.org/about/stafflist.html), many of them veterans with many years of experience in the Mozilla project, About 40 engineers are employed by companies like IBM, Sun Microsystems and Red Hat to work for Mozilla. The mozilla.org staff generally don't see themselves as the primary coders but as integrators, Unlike most software vendors Mozilla offers a participatory environment, where anyone can involved, so most of the code written by people out there or net, Hundreds of programmers volunteer as part of the open source process, while thousands of people help to test the software or volunteer in other ways, There's also a European division of Mozilla (http://www.mozilla-europe.org) to promote Mozilla products throughout the continent. A hundred people work for this department alone. Because the project is so big, most communication happens over the net, in newsgroups

ROLE: Member of the Mozilla Europe Board of Directors, super-review module owner of the XSLT module and co-owner of the DOM modules
"I got into Mozilla because I needed functionality that wasn't available in Internet Explorer for MacOS so downloading Internet Explorer wouldn't have helped. Mozilla has given me the opportunity of contribute to a large scale software project and learn a lot. Since I've never had a formal education in programming, I've always felt like programming would be a simple hobby for me. Mozilla has changed that, because of its open-source nature I could just jump in and learn how a large scale software project evolves how it's built.... It landed me a job with Netscape and made me realise that I loved programming to the point that I didn't mind doing it full time. And it's a fun project because it's used be so many users."

ROLE: Mozilla.org staff member, responsible for the relicensing project and trademarks
"I originally got involved with the Mozilla project because I wanted to get involved with a free software group, and I felt that access to the web should not be controlled by a single company. The developing world, for example has the right to web access without paying an unbearable software tax. As a Christian with a deep concern for the poor and an ability to write code, this is one way I can make this happen."
and mailing lists, the bug systems or Mozilla's IRC channels. Funding comes from corporations (AOL has promised $2 million over two years), individuals (almost 4000 people donate around £5,500 per month ; 12,000 people have donated more than £160,000 to date) and through professional services for enterprise customers (e.g. custom development and technical support) and merchandising, The amount of community support Firefox, Mozilla's most prominent product, enjoys is simply amazing, The Spread Firefox campaign (http://www.spreadfirefox.com) is extremely successful and comes up with ever-new means to promote the browser's release, Recently, over 10,000 people have donated money to the organisation's bid to buy a full-page ad in the New York Times, celebrating the launch of Firefox a unique move you're unlikely to see in response to a new IE release. Wherever Mozilla's contributors are and whatever they do, they all share a unique enthusiasm for their project. Most of them don't get paid at all but they still dedicate a huge amount of time to the project. Brian Ryner, a key Firefox contributor, explains: "We have a diverse community, and everyone's motivation is different, so It's hard to generalize, I think the reason we have so many volunteers, though, is that people feel involved. If they find a problem, they can help fix it, and get the immediate benefit of not having to deal with it any more.
Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe, agrees: "Some people enjoy working on a product used by millions of people, some others do it for the pleasure of working on a huge project, or just for the pleasure of developing and hang out with brilliant people and learn  from them," Personally, Tristan got involved because he wasn't happy with Microsoft's development: "If we look at Redmond's [Microsoft] products, we can see that since IE 5.5 (back in 1999), not much progress has been done, IE 6.0 was released in 2001 with mostly cosmetic features, and recently pop-up blocking, but limited to Windows XP users, Let's face it: Microsoft abandoned the web five years ago, So I wondered what could I do to change this? What can I do to get a faster, better, more secure browser? This is how I decided to contribute to the Mozilla project,"

The Benevolent Dictator

Mozilla operates as a meritocracy, this means the more code you contribute, the more you'll be allowed to contribute, Each module in Mozilla has an owner, generally somebody who knows the code well, is involved in developing it and who can decide what should go into the module and what not (for a list of module owners see http://www.mozilla.org/owners.html)
It can be difficult to make decision in such a huge, open source team that's so spread apart but Mozilla uses a self-regulating system, called a benevolent dictator. If a module owner doesn't do a very good job and somebody on the net comes up with something better, both programmers can work out their differences. If this doesn't work out, the mozilla,org staff can make a final decision. Usually people tend to co­operate, however. Ben Goodger, lead engineer for Firefox, says: "As project leader, I guess the buck stops with me, but the engineers working on this software are all pretty savvy and own their components pretty well. If there's a disagreement between two people and I don't see the obvious solution, I take a variety of opinions from a number of people,"
The same is true for every part of Mozilla, For example, much of the branding and artwork for Firefox has been done by people in the UK, the US and Canada. Steven Garrity is the lead of the Mozilla Visual Identity Team, "After assembling a team of designers to help work on the logos, two co-workers and I set about coming up with the basic concept," he remembers, "After lots of deliberation, we concluded that there weren't many good visual elements that represent a web browser. The globe was the best element we could find to represent the browser. If I remember correctly, the idea to have the fox with a flaming tail wrapped around the globe was a collective conclusion between the three of us," The concept then got the okay from some of the key Firefox developers, and the Mozilla Foundation approved the final logo (check out http://www.tinyurl.com/6ylwm and http://www.tinyurl.com/5bsoe for a more detailed explanation of the process),


ROLE: Lead engineer for Firefox and member of the Mozilla Foundation
"Firefox was built as an offshoot of the Mozilla project - starting with the code that made up the Mozilla application suite, stripping out the unnecessary items and then rebuilding it with new ones with an emphasis on simplicity, elegance and function. A large number of people contribute to the development of Firefox wither directly by helping to improve the browser or indirectly through their work on the Gecko rendering technology which is shared by other Mozilla software. The Mozilla foundation has a paid staff, of which some work on various pieces of Firefox, the build and release automation that allows us to ship software to the people and maintains the various tools that we use to get our jobs done. Other companies such as IBM also employ people who work on various aspects of Mozilla software.

Bug bounty

One of the most crucial aspects of Mozilla's success is security. To make sure that bugs are found and fixed as fast as possible, the project has come up with the Mozilla Quality Assurance (QA), a network of countless volunteers from the internet community and several mozilla,org employees (http://www.mozilla.org/quality), Bugs are usually reported through bug report database Bugzilla (bugzilla.mozilla.org) and then looked at by QA volunteers, Mozilla receives about 75 to 100 bugs and enhancement requests a day, Tristan Nitot explains the system: "When code is checked in, the product is available for testing for some time (this is what we call nightly builds), and people on the internet can look at it and make sure it's safe, With our new Bug Bounty program, we encourage people to look for security holes and report them to us, For every security bug found, the person who discovered it is given $500 (around £277), Then it's up to us to quickly ship a new release or a patch for the product." The Mozilla team also makes sure that no feature will be included in the software if there's a security risk in its concept, Finally, there's a double review process to ensure that only high quality code is added to Mozilla, The code to be checked-in is reviewed twice, once by a peer and once by a peer ­recognised super-reviewer, who's responsible for the overall code quality and checks that Mozilla coding style and practices are respected,
The Mozilla team has demonstrated that a huge open source project with many dedicated contributors can be extremely successful indeed, In fact, the more contributors it gets, the better it becomes. And it's so much more satisfying than just being an anonymous consumer, You're part of a community. Mozilla has changed the way people use the internet forever. Once you've used Firefox, you'll never go back.

ROLE: Leading Firefox developer
"It's important to remember that the Mozilla project has been around since 1998, and Firefox is a relatively recent project. So we had a great foundation of code from the Mozilla Suite to use for building Firefox. Our goal was to slim down the browser to make it more usable, make it look better visually, and add some innovative features along the way. There are only about 4 or 5 people in the core Firefox team. In general,  companies are interested in seeing Mozilla succeed and commit people and financial resources towards it. In addition to the core developers, we have hundreds of people who help by finding and fixing bugs. These people often volunteer in their own time."