weblog dedicated to software development, philosophy, and theology

Mike Shaver, Mozilla, Open Source

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Over the last week, Mike Shaver Co-Founder of Mozilla came into class to talk about Mozilla, our student project work here at Seneca and other related open source topics.

First and foremost this was my first attendance of an in-class Mozilla guest speaker session. During DPS909 – Topics in Open Source Development, I was working full-time at RBC GTO for my extended co-op term so therefore I was unable to attend the all star line up. I still find it amazing and a great privilege that Mozilla / Firefox developers and full time workers would come in and interact with students. This is a very encouraging experience and makes me proud of what Seneca and their staff are doing for their computer science program.

During the start of the session, we had a round table discussion where we had an opportunity to introduce ourselves and to talk about our current project. It was very fascinating to actually put the IRC names / projects to the student faces. After the round table discussion we had the opportunity to ask Shaver questions.

The most interesting question was how Mozilla and other open source model their finance. One of their financing opportunities comes from Google, where the a contractual relationship is based on the integrated web search tool (when you press control+k, the cursor will focuses on it). Despite other details mentioned, the striking thing that came out was that the deal was motivated from a growing amount of Firefox users, using Google as their main search engine. I found it very impressive that Mozilla captured business opportunities while trying to keep their services and products community centric.

The community centric theme, later returned from a discussion related to forking. Forking is a term used to describe software that is based on another piece of software – in terms of source code and package but has been modified to be distinct. Examples are Iceweasel and Flock forking Firefox.  During the discussion, David Humphrey shared his open source project experience. Humphrey and Chris Tyler (I believe he is also working on this Project or is at least a major contributor) are attempting to package a Mozilla Development Kit on DVD for future students. This kit comes with everything a student needs to do Mozilla Development. Humphrey informed us about his failed attempts to get help and support from the Visual Studio Team so that their tools could be included into the kit. Essentially, the problem with the Visual Studio Team was over licensing concerns and other related issues.

The point that I got out if it was that with the open source model, the path for innovation is much easier which means the community has the advantage. This reminded me of Bob Young’s discussion over this years FSOSS and how the open source model benefits products and services that reaches out to a large community or that it contains a community centric theme…

So right now I am hoping and praying that the Open Office community becomes bigger and better so that their product line catches up to and increase in quality over MS Office because right now the MS Office market and software is kicking butt!


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