The end of innocence for Mozilla?

Dave Coursey laments the End of Innocence for Mozilla with the founding of a taxable subsidiary.

The danger of the Mozilla Foundation forming a for-profit business, Mozilla Corp., is that the result may be as nasty and political as your average nonprofit and as money-grubbing as your typical software company. Nothing wrong with that, except that it’s a wide departure from the egalitarian notion of “free” software that has carried Mozilla this far. And with that departure, I am feeling a touch of loss.

Richard Stallman, the prophet of free software idealism, says that free software is intended to be “free as in speech, not free as in beer”. Open source software never was intended to be free of commerce. You can make money with open source software. IBM makes oodles of money with Linux and Apache. MySQL makes money with its database. You just can’t sell the source code.
I think Mozilla lost its innocence a long time ago, and in a different way. Much of open source software is by geeks, for geeks. Open source developers have focused on creating tools for developers, and avoided the burden of developing for people who aren’t programmers. An open source developer is “scratching his own itch”, not developing code to please other people.
For whatever reason, Mozilla isn’t like this. Mozilla is designed to be usable and attractive for ordinary people, and extensible for geeks. The Mozilla team designs with empathy for users. They have already lost the innocence of solipsism — they are serving others than themselves.

I can’t help feeling that the foundation is crossing a line from which it can never retreat, taking with it a bit of the romance of software by the people, for the people.

Coursey writes these sentimental lines for a salary earned from a magazine publisher that makes money from advertising.
Mozilla is maintaining its license terms. That means that people will continue to be able to look at the code, modify the code, and fork the project to create their own products, following the terms of the license. That’s the freedom that counts — not freedom from being able to make a living.
Thanks, Joi for some clarification about the business structure.

Peak oil and air flight

Descending to Newark airport a few weeks ago, ribbons of street lights and twinkling cars make a glowing carpet. Is this future nostalgia? In the near future, will we be able to afford highways? Will we be able to afford airplanes?
Since Ezra Klein went on vacation and turned his blog over to Prof Goose of the Oil Drum, I’ve been reading some of the peak oil bloggers, and it seems like there’s something to worry about.
* there is one major variable in the world’s oil equation, the Saudi supply. Information about Saudi capacity is closely held, and the Saudis have every reason to lie.
* new extraction techniques get more oil out of the ground sooner, and the depletion curve is steeper after a field’s production peaks
Worldchanging covers the opportunities for new technology and increased efficiency with some practical optimism. Things might get very different in the non-distant future.
Update: Just read this Washington Post discussion with an analyst who concludes from research that Saudi production has peaked already. Yikes!

Blogher and identity politics

Jay Rosen writes that one of the themes he recognized at the BlogHer conference was fear. Women bloggers were more likely to admit that they felt afraid, about job risk, stalking, and other risks of blogging. When I read through the Blogroll in prep for the show, I noticed people talking about pre-conference jitters. I suspect there are fewer posts admitting to butterflies about, say Always On.
My pre-Blogher jitters were about the potential level of identity politics. I blog about women in technology and business occasionally, but most often about other things — social software, tech policy, books. If there was a conversation about what it’s like to be a woman blogger, I don’t think that I’d get that far.
When you assemble a group focused on “identity x”, there’s the risk of rathole discussions about whether people and things are “x enough”.
Overall, Blogher avoided the perils of identity focus, and got good things done because of the focus:
* Mary Hodder started a speaker list to identify female conference speakers. There is no good excuse for conference program organizers who just can’t think of women panelists.
* Blogs and the mainstream media have even fewer excuses for stupid stories about the scarcity of women bloggers.
* Ideas about alternative blog metrics beyond the mass-market A-list were catalyzed, as a result of conversations among people who care more about their “long tail” subcommunities than overall fame.
* In the panel on investment, audience members asked basic questions (“what is the difference between angel and venture investors”), and got answers that were friendly and informative. The questioners might not have spoken up at the investment panel at a general (mostly male) event.
* Reports say the Mommy blogger panel rocked.
* Interesting insights from the globalization session about the challenges of blogging in multiple languages — what to say to whom, in what tone.