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Interview: Firefox 3's interface design guru talks

"We are completely open, right down to how we develop the products. Our security reviews are even done on open conference calls that anyone can dial into.

"One new process for developing Firefox 3 is that any new feature had to go through a security review with our security chief using conference calls. The number was published so that anyone can review them and make sure the feature is secure. All our product planning calls and triage calls have 1-800 numbers that anyone can find on our Wiki.

"In terms of standards, people can seewhat we're doing in our open bug database, can advocate for doing one thing versus another, can tell us why a standard is worth investing in or not. That discussion is really important to us –to make sure we are focusing on the right things and that we're relevant to people. The only thing we are not open about is things where we're restricted by partnerships with other companies, and that's due to restrictions that they have. If you ask [Mozilla] a question, you can find the answer."

What about the source code for Firefox 3? How open are you with it?

"Completely. We have an open CVSrepository, and we are moving to Mercurial and a program called HG. Anyone can download the source code, the licence – the Mozilla Public Licence. The closest equivalent is the Creative Commons share-alike licence, but it's not even fully share-alike. The MPL is a really complex licence that basically says anyone is allowed to take this code and use it in any way they want."

What are some ways you plan to make the commercial side of Mozilla grow and still be open?

"Even between two years ago and now we have grown from about 20 – 40 people to about 150, but the one thing that has not changed is the degree of community participation.

"Back since 2003, about 40 per cent of code changes came from community contributors – and that could be partner companies, volunteers or people in their basements doing it as a weekend hobby. That percentage has not changed and it expresses something that is really important to us, which is leverage. Every employee here is responsible for not only a million users, but also coordinating and leveraging the contributions of the community to make sure everyone is working as efficiently as possible."

Does that feel like a weight on each employee's back – that they are responsible for a million users each?

"It's an awesome responsibility, and it makes sure that we are not just going to go and do things without understanding their effects. It's empowering, and it's a really good way to get people psyched about working here and working on the product. Leveraging the community is something each and every one of my colleagues enjoys. It's really gratifying.

"You can sort of come up with an idea and go watch a movie, then come back and see that people have modified that idea and helped shape it and grow it and made it into a prototype. You find out that people are just as passionate about it as you are.

"Mozilla – like Google – is one of those rare tech companies that seems to actually enjoy the tech – and is passionate about making the web more powerful and useful. The only burning question – as they just hired a new CEO and now have to deal with another browser war with Microsoft – is how the company can make money on a business model that seems to be completely about open standards, free downloads and one small search box for Google.