It’s the morning of March 31, 1998, and the Netscape campus is chock-full of engineers, hours earlier than on a normal day. It’s a Tuesday and it’s known universally in the Netscape browser world as “three thirty-one” and written as 3/31. It’s the day the Mozilla code is open-sourced to the world, and the day the Mozilla Project is formally launched.
Three thirty-one was the result of a massive amount of work in two short months. The intent to make open source the code for “Netscape Navigator” had been announced on January 22. On that date the code was not ready, we didn’t know which free software / open source license we would use, and we didn’t have a structure for running an open source project. That was pure Netscape style.
(For those who came online anytime this century, Netscape Navigator was the product that gave consumers access to the internet for the very first time starting in 1994. Scientists used a command line interface, early adopters used the first browser called Mosaic, and everyone else used Netscape Navigator to access what we called “the World Wide Web.”)
By 3/31 the code had been cleansed of proprietary code owned by others that Netscape couldn’t open source, a new open source license (the Mozilla Public License) had been created and approved by the Open Source Initiative (https://opensource.org/about), and a small band had created “mozilla.org” as the governance body for the new open source project. Here’s the earliest image of the mozilla.org site I can find, from December of 1998:
Mozilla was not originally intended to create consumer products. It was expected to be a technology development organization that would make technology available to Netscape and others who would build consumer products. Over time we found people liked the development version Mozilla was shipping and we began moving towards producing products rather than technology.
We’ve come a long way since then!
In my wildest dreams I could not have imagined how many people would be drawn to the Mozilla mission and would choose to affiliate with Mozilla in some way. This includes employees, volunteer contributors, “friends of Mozilla” and an ever broader range of people who recognize what Mozilla stands for and want more of this in the world. For me, this is the richest legacy. There is plenty to do going forward to build a healthier internet that has better human experiences.
There’s no detailed map — we’ll build that together. We’ll go forwards, sideways, and in circles. It’s an adventure, and probably not for the faint-hearted. But for those who love the adventure, thrive on change, and want to be remembered for building decent values into great products and programs – for us, there’s no better place to be.
– Mitchell Baker