It’s been just over a year since I started working full-time for the Mozilla Foundation, and about a year and a half since the Foundation spun off the Mozilla Corporation as a wholly-owned subsidiary. Since that time we’ve engaged in a number of useful amount of activities at the Foundation; however I think it’s fair to say that the Foundation has barely scratched the surface of what it can do.

The Mozilla project started with a concrete task (develop an open source alternative to the dominant web browser, using Netscape’s code as the base) and eventually evolved a mission statement (“promote choice and innovation on the Internet”) that put that task in a larger context. (Mitchell Baker has described the history behind that mission statement.) Since the vast majority of its tasks (including development and distribution of Firefox and Thunderbird) were taken over by the Mozilla Corporation, the “new” Mozilla Foundation has faced the opposite problem: How to move from a very general mission statement to a specific set of tasks implied by that mission. Just as it took the Mozilla project a while to generate a mission statement from its tasks, so it has taken the “new” Mozilla Foundation some time to do the reverse.

That process is now picking up speed. One part of that is updating the “choice and innovation” mission for today’s world of Web 2.0, blogs and other user-created content, mashups, and so on; see Mitchell’s blog post on choice, innovation, and participation for some thoughts on this. Another part is defining a set of principles that illuminate what the Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla project in general stand for; the Mozilla Manifesto is intended to address this need. The final part is taking the mission and principles, along with an understanding of the traditional strengths of the Mozilla Foundation, the Mozilla Corporation, and the Mozilla project generally, and deciding upon a strategy and and a set of tactics; for more on this see the current take on a statement of direction for the Foundation.

However there are still many unanswered questions that need to be discussed and decided. For example: To what extent, and for what, should the Mozilla Foundation engage in advocacy on behalf of users of Firefox and other Mozilla products? To what extent should the Foundation support free and open source software projects other than Mozilla and, if so, which ones should be the highest priorities? Should the Foundation support projects that are not directly related to software at all? The bottom line is that a lot needs to be done in order for the Mozilla Foundation to move forward and become the sort of organization it can be and (in my opinion) should be.

That in turn leads to my own place in all of this. I’ve been involved in Mozilla-related matters for almost ten years now, and for almost all of that time chose to do so as a independent volunteer. When I finally became a Foundation employee and then later accepted the position of executive director, it was not because my life’s ambition was to head the Mozilla Foundation; rather it was because I felt a abiding loyalty to the Mozilla project, I believed the Foundation could use my help during a time of transition after the establishment of the Mozilla Corporation, and I thought I could use a break from my career as a sales engineer and explore another field of work.

As we continue to define the role of the Mozilla Foundation, map out a expanded set of activities for it, and being carrying out those activities, we need to expand the organizational capacity of the Foundation. In particular we need someone who has solid management experience and a track record of growing organizations; I think we also need someone who (unlike myself) is located in California, local to (most) of the Mozilla Foundation board and a critical mass of core Mozilla contributors.

With that in mind, I recently notified the Mozilla Foundation board of my desire to step down as executive director of the Foundation, and recommended that they initiate a search for someone to replace me in that position. I would then transition to some other role with the Foundation and the Mozilla project, remaining active in those areas where I could most make a difference. In the meantime I’ll continue to take care of Mozilla Foundation business, working in concert with the board, and will assist the board in its search for a new executive director. In a future blog post Mitchell will talk more about that search, what sort of person the board will be looking for, and how members of the Mozilla community can get involved.