As announced by Mitchell Baker earlier and followed up by Mark Surman, Mark will be coming on board in a month or so as the Executive Director of the Mozilla Foundation. We in the Foundation have all had a chance to speak with Mark in depth both by phone and in person at the summit in Whistler (including during a healthy-snack-fueled Foundation road trip up from Vancouver). I’ll let others add their own take, but I for one am very happy that Mark decided to take this opportunity to join the Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla project.
Beyond his personal qualities, there are at least three things I think Mark will bring to the Foundation that I think will serve it well:
The first is his background in open education and related initiatives. As I wrote earlier, I think education is an area where Mozilla in general (not just the Foundation) could play at least a supporting role, and perhaps in at least one area (developer education) a significant role. If that’s to happen the more Mozilla people with education experience the better.
Second is his experience with initiatives in the developing world, both in his telecentre work and in his work with the Shuttleworth Foundation. Mozilla has made good inroads into the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) and other emerging market nations both in terms of Firefox adoption and in terms of formal organizational outreach. However beyond those countries there are a host of less-developed countries that are not online in a major way today (due to overall poverty, internal or regional conflicts, lack of ICT infrastructure, and other reasons) but which may well become much more integrated into the global economy (and thus the Internet and web) over the next 10-20 years. Such frontier market countries are potentially fruitful ground for adoption of and even innovation in open Internet/web technologies, especially those based on mobile devices, and there too may be potential roles to play for Mozilla in general and the Foundation in particular.
Third and finally is Mark’s experience in philanthropy. Although the Mozilla Foundation is a nonprofit organization and the Mozilla project is operated for the public benefit, it’s fair to say that almost all the people involved in Mozilla are more familiar with the world of software technology and IT than with the world of nonprofits and philanthropic foundations. That’s a good thing in terms of getting new releases of Firefox, Thunderbird, and other products out the door; however the Mozilla Foundation has minimal direct involvement in software development, and much more potential involvement in philanthropic activities. (Though in accordance with the Mozilla DNA I think these activities will be primarily related to open software, open web content, and open technologies in general.) Mark has some interesting ideas on bringing open source ideals and practices into the world of philanthropy, and I think the Mozilla Foundation would make a great testbed for putting those ideas into practice.
So, to conclude, please welcome Mark to the Mozilla project, and introduce yourself to him if you didn’t get the chance to do so at the summit.