O'Reilly Network on the Netscape-Mozilla Relationship
Wednesday September 4th, 2002
Last week, the O'Reilly Network published a weblog entry-cum-article about Mozilla from software professional Kevin Bedell. Superficially, the piece may appear to be just another Netscape 7.0 review but it also examines the organization of the Mozilla Project. Describing Mozilla as "a case-book example of outstanding open source management", the article discusses who benefits the most from the cooperation between Netscape and the open source community.
#1 Er, they didn't work without pay
Thursday September 5th, 2002 4:47 AM
The writer seems to have missed the point that a large proportion of the serious development work on Mozilla was done by paid Netscape/AOL employees.
Other portions of work were also contributed by paid employees of other firms (IBM, Sun, etc.) which is an interesting factor.
Most of the 'free' work that went into Mozilla, for which AOL genuinely didn't have to foot the bill, was unpaid testing (regular users filing bug reports), which is valuable and is probably why it's so solid, but isn't development.
Really that's the basic answer to the question he poses: how can such a huge project be so successful using open source development? The answer: money, in terms of paid development time using the resources of an existing, 'normal' software corporation.
Because of this misunderstanding, he's asking the wrong question. The interesting factor here is not that AOL got Netscape for free; they didn't. The interesting factor is that they got a *better* product, through the contributions of many additional unpaid people (testing, bug reports, suggestions and opinions, small bugfixes, sometimes larger niche features) for roughly the same investment.
#4 Re: Er, they didn't work without pay
Thursday September 5th, 2002 9:22 PM
"Most of the 'free' work that went into Mozilla, for which AOL genuinely didn't have to foot the bill, was unpaid testing (regular users filing bug reports), which is valuable and is probably why it's so solid, but isn't development."
Actually, there are about 50 people checking into CVS a month that are not AOL employees. There are about 100 people, last time I checked, checking in each month that are AOL employees. That's a non-trivial number in my book. It's also worth noting that (again, last time I checked) about 30% of the AOL employees checking in were once volunteer contributors. It's a pretty large savings when you don't have to spend months training your new hires.
#2 netscape & profit??
Thursday September 5th, 2002 5:57 AM
I love Mozilla and use it on a daily basis but I was wondering what kind of revenue streams are actually paying for it. Most Mozilla developers are on Netscape's payrole. Netscape creates a free mozilla based browser that most knowledgeable users prefer not to use.
Netscape apparently is paying the bills but where does the money come from? They have some revenue from ads from their once very popular portal (not very much I suspect), some license fees from their slowly dying server products and anything AOL choses to throw at them. Netscape 7.0 is a free product so it can't be generating much revenue. Yet AOL keeps paying the bills at Mozilla.org. Why do they do this and how long will they continue to do this?
#3 Re: netscape & profit??
Thursday September 5th, 2002 12:03 PM
That depends really. As long as AOL (and other companies like Apple) see mozilla as a way to keep microsoft at bay, money will continue to flow. Its not so much a money maker itself, as its a defensive weapon. And it makes for great PR (how many serious computer professionals have changed their position about AOL as a company from pre-mozilla days. I know I have, after gecko becomes part of the windows base installation of AOL. I'll probably even start recommending it. EKK wouldn't have even thought I'd ever be saying that 4 years ago.