Open source has dramatically reshaped the software development landscape. Yet is it enough to help propel the Web itself forward for the next decade?
That’s what Mozilla believes. After having been synonymous with open source for over a decade, thanks to its efforts behind the popular Firefox Web browser, Mozilla is now creating a new effort to help shaping the Internet’s development using the same sorts of techniques that have made open source a success.
The goal of the new Mozilla Drumbeat effort is to go beyond open source code to encourage and nurture projects that help to expand understanding and participation in the open Web.
While Drumbeat is today only in its early stages of development, Mozilla is budgeting more than $1 million in funding for the effort — a project that it thinks could help to direct the very future of the Internet.
“Mozilla has been successful at shaping where the Internet is going in a positive way and in getting people to participate,” Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, told InternetNews.com.
“At the same time, we feel that if we take a 50- or 100-year view on our mission, which is to guard the open nature of the Internet, it’s not just going to be technologists that participate and it’s not just technology questions that will shape what the Internet is in 10 or 50 or 100 years.”
Surman added that Drumbeat is a response to the broader question of how to encourage participation in the development and future of the Internet.
A key goal is to try to engage everyday Internet users to participate in projects that help shape the understanding and direction of the Web.
Mozilla’s contribution to the effort totals “between a million and a million and half dollars” within the next year, Surman said.
That commitment also includes five staff members, funding for Drumbeat events and for contractors.
Projects Aimed At Shaping The Net’s Future
Mozilla is also earmarking $300,000 of seed money to help develop Drumbeat projects themselves, it said.
At this early stage of Drumbeat development, several projects have already been proposed, among which is the Peer to Peer University (P2PU) Open Web Career Track.
“It’s basically about the idea that we want more people in the world to use open Web technologies to create the Internet,” Surman said. “But how do people get those skills?”
Surman said that today’s professional training today is often oriented toward proprietary technologies.
P2PU, meanwhile, is about teaching open Web development skills, so that people can teach each other.
“We’re not going out and competing with traditional education,” Surman said. “But what we can do is help people self-organize to teach other skills and potentially, over time, help people self-organize to accredit each other.”
Another emerging Drumbeat project is called the Privacy Icon Design Challenge. Surman said that because understanding privacy issues is not an easy task on the modern Internet, the Challenge aims to “essentially create a Creative Commons-like set of logos that explain the main components of privacy policies.
The process of coming up with the privacy icons is being developed with staff at Mozilla Labs as well as Mozilla’s legal department.
Additionally, Mozilla has engaged with the legal community, including Stanford and Harvard University law schools.
“It’s the perfect example of the kind of thing we want Drumbeat to be,” Surman said. “Here is a class of people with lawyers and designers, and [Mozilla is] getting them involved in ways to help them improve people’s experiences with the Internet.”
The current timeline for Drumbeat includes February’s beta launch of its Web site, which will serve as a container for Drumbeat’s associated projects and events, and where the initial projects will come to life.
Additionally, with the site launch, anyone will be able to propose a project for potential Drumbeat inclusion.
“We’ve been successful — as Mozilla, and more importantly, as the open source movement — in getting millions of geeks to say we can shape the future of technology,” Surman said.
“The challenge for Drumbeat is how do you get millions of everyday Internet users to feel that they’ve got the same power?”