Recently, we’ve seen a fair bit of energy around the idea of mozpad, a group of “platform consumers” who are rallying together to advocate and work for the future of different aspects of the Mozilla application platform. I’ll admit that my first reaction to this was a sort of mildly wounded skepticism; I’m the guy responsible for how we support developers, and it’s easy to take it a bit personally when someone throws up a flag for supporting developers and people flock to it — over there. That’s the great, if occasionally uncomfortable, thing about Mozilla, though: discomfort on my part can’t and doesn’t keep people from helping to determine their own technological destiny in the project, and as with other such projects, the mozpad members are able to choose how to engage their own projects with the rest of the Mozilla community and contribute to our shared technological resources. As I came to realize after the second or third time that Matthew Gertner told me, mozpad is a great opportunity for people building applications on the XUL/Gecko/Mozilla platform to organize loosely around their own concerns, and share resources to improve things that are asymmetrically important to their collection of apps vs. Firefox or the web platform. At the end of the day, as before and always, individuals and organizations will contribute to the project in ways that best suit their own missions, whether that’s furthering the principles of the Manifesto or building a business or changing how people communicate or something else.
It’s easy to get caught in tricks of language or simplifications that make it sound as though a group like mozpad is something different from Mozilla, or has to interact with other parts of Mozilla in certain ways. mozpad is inevitably and inherently a part of the Mozilla project, as many of the people who have self-identified with their work have been in their own right before. If having their own web site and explicit group identity will help them organize and focus better on how to solve the problems they face in their use of the Mozilla platform, that’s a fine path to take, and all the world will benefit from it. The Mozilla community is riddled with nested communities of varying structures and sizes, organized around languages, applications, technical problems, services, platforms and shoe sizes. Some of them persist for years, while others disperse after a few days. That mix of structured protection of shared resources and free-wheeling project agility to solve problems is really quite powerful, and well worth the occasional bumping of heads when people’s expectations don’t quite line up at first.
For my part, I’m committed to helping mozpad achieve their goals of improving life for application and extension developers, because, really, that’s always what I’ve been about anyway. I was mozpad before it was cool! Yeah, that’s it!