Categories: About Mozilla

Wearing more (Mozilla) hats

Mark Surman

For many years now — and well before I sought out the job I have today — I thought: the world needs more organizations like Mozilla. Given the state of the internet, it needs them now. And, it will likely need them for a very long time to come.

Why? In part because the internet was founded with public benefit in mind. And, as the Mozilla Manifesto declared back in 2007, “… (m)agnifying the public benefit aspects of the internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.”

Today, this sort of ‘time and attention’ is more important — and urgent — than ever. We live in an era where the biggest companies in the world are internet companies. Much of what they have created is good, even delightful. Yet, as the last few years have shown, leaving things to commercial actors alone can leave the internet — and society — in a bit of a mess. We need organizations like Mozilla — and many more like it — if we are to find our way out of this mess. And we need these organizations to think big!

It’s for this reason that I’m excited to add another ‘hat’ to my work: I am joining the Mozilla Foundation board today. This is something I will take on in addition to my role as executive director.

Why am I assuming this additional role? I believe Mozilla can play a bigger role in the world than it does today. And, I also believe we can inspire and support the growth of more organizations that share Mozilla’s commitment to the public benefit side of the internet. Wearing a board member hat — and working with other Foundation and Corporation board members — I will be in a better position to turn more of my attention to Mozilla’s long term impact and sustainability.

What does this mean in practice? It means spending some of my time on big picture ‘Pan Mozilla’ questions. How can Mozilla connect to more startups, developers, designers and activists who are trying to build a better, more humane internet? What might Mozilla develop or do to support these people? How can we work with policy makers who are trying to write regulations to ensure the internet benefits the public interest? And, how do we shift our attention and resources outside of the US and Europe, where we have traditionally focused? While I don’t have answers to all these questions, I do know we urgently need to ask them — and that we need to do so in an expansive way that goes beyond the current scope of our operating organizations. That’s something I’ll be well positioned to do wearing my new board member hat.

Of course, I still have much to do wearing my executive director hat. We set out a few years ago to evolve the Foundation into a ‘movement building arm’ for Mozilla. Concretely, this has meant building up teams with skills in philanthropy and advocacy who can rally more people around the cause of a healthy internet. And, it has meant picking a topic to focus on: trustworthy AI. Our movement building approach — and our trustworthy AI agenda — is getting traction. Yet, there is still a way to go to unlock the kind of sustained action and impact that we want. Leading the day to day side of this work remains my main focus at Mozilla.

As I said at the start of this post: I think the world will need organizations like Mozilla for a long time to come. As all corners of our lives become digital, we will increasingly need to stand firm for public interest principles like keeping the internet open and accessible to all. While we can all do this as individuals, we also need strong, long lasting organizations that can take this stand in many places and over many decades. Whatever hat I’m wearing, I continue to be deeply committed to building Mozilla into a vast, diverse and sustainable institution to do exactly this.