five by five, in the pipe

A little more than eighteen-hundred days ago, I and many others held our breath as the much-anticipated Firefox 1.0 was released to the world. A million downloads in the first week pushed our server infrastructure to the brink, and left me reeling: we had come so far from the days of Netscape 6 and the drive to Mozilla 1.0. Our message of a better browser experience, exemplified by the security and performance and personalization and open source and standards-friendliness of Firefox, had found a welcoming audience.

We faced, then, a daunting series of challenges: shifting focus to our most promising product (Firefox) while maintaining the energy and contribution of the Mozilla community; making the project sustainable over the long term, within the inviolable parameters of our mission; navigating new waters of commercial-non-profit-hybrid-community-mainstream-competitive software. We’ve had success at all of those so far, by my lights, though surely not without our bumps and scrapes.

The world is very different today than it was when Firefox was born. Microsoft has rebuilt its browser team, and released two major updates to its browser — at the time, I counted IE7 as one of Mozilla’s greatest achievements. Two other software Goliaths, Apple and Google, have joined the browser fray with gusto. Where once only Opera dared to tread, the browsing experience is now seen as a defining characteristic of a mobile phone, and we are ourselves getting ready to rock it.

Even in this savagely competitive environment, Firefox and Mozilla continue to thrive. Of our 330 million users world-wide, more than 100M of them are in the last year, and 30M in the last two months alone. We’ve continued to grow incredibly even since the latest competitor entered the scene, because we’ve continued to relentlessly improve Firefox and the web in ways that matter to people around the world. Every day we, along with our incredible and essential mirror partners, ship almost twice as many Firefox downloads as we did in that incredible release explosion from five years ago.

In January, I’ll have been involved in Mozilla for a dozen years. It has been a lot of work and a lot of fun, a professional and personal opportunity that I think makes me one of the luckiest software professionals ever to whine about their debugger. Thank you to everyone who has helped make Firefox what it is today, and what it will be tomorrow. There’s lots more to do, but please take at least a few minutes today to sit back and relish the impact you’ve had on the web, and on the people who use it.