A Browser Built with Love, Sweat & Volunteers

If you’re a fan of Firefox, then you probably didn’t come across our web browser by chance. (And if you’re not a fan yet, let’s get you there.)

Maybe you heard about our beginning as the original open source browser or as the indie spin-off to Netscape back in the late 90s. Or perhaps you’re just not the kind to buy into the mainstream idea that whatever is biggest must be best.

Firefox was built to serve as the original alternative to the status quo, AKA the Big Guys. Through the past two decades, we’ve stood up to corporate interests and even to governments to safeguard the internet as a public resource that should be open and accessible to all. Today, our focus on remaining free and nimble gives us a competitive edge as giants continue to rise around us. Like our Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker once said, “[Google] certainly has resources that dwarf many of ours. Except our community.”

That community makes us who we are. Did you know that Firefox is still built on code contributed by volunteer engineers from all over the world and passionate users who’ve translated the browser into 94 local languages? And unlike most tech organizations of our size and reach, our parent company Mozilla is a nonprofit, so we started indie and stayed that way.

Our folks clearly have a fierceness.

There’s an undercurrent of online-offline synergy, too, where our community spreads the love not just on the web, but in real life. For example, take the infamous Firefox Crop Circle masterminded by two Mozilla video interns back in 2006. Along with our own Asa Dotzler, they recruited an enthusiastic team of twelve made up of Firefox fans from Oregon State University, and together they plotted to stomp down oats—across 220 feet—in an unharvested field to show their allegiance in a huge, can’t-miss-it-if-you-tried, kind of way.

A crop circle depicting the Firefox logo masterminded by Mozilla interns and Oregon State University students near Amity, Oregon (2006) | Photo by Beth Gordon

There have also been other totally word of mouth-driven campaigns, like “Download Day” when Firefox fans set a Guinness World Record for most software downloads in 24 hours. (This was before the time of auto-updates when you had to manually download the latest Firefox.) The result? Over 8 MILLION downloads of Firefox thanks to people who give a damn about the world wide web.

Even our former CEO John Lilly weighed in on the power of Firefox volunteers on the podcast, Masters of Scale:

There’s a guy I remember from Ulaanbaatar, who translated Firefox into Mongolian. He did it because if he hadn’t done it, his parents – who only spoke Mongolian – wouldn’t have been able to understand software to access the internet. These [volunteers] do it as a labor of love. Volunteers, in many ways, are more powerful than professionals because they do it despite all the challenges and all the hard parts.

Time and time again, from massive localization efforts to kind of quirky one-off projects, our community has reminded us that it’s everyday people—not a boardroom full of execs—who the internet was built for.

And, ultimately, the only way to fight for freedom on the web is to stay independent ourselves. We think that the millions of Firefox users and thousands of grassroots volunteers worldwide, who selflessly contribute their time and code, would agree.

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