Is the Mozilla Foundation a non-evil (or lesser-evil) place to support?
August 14, 2014 10:24 AM   Subscribe

If one is interested in devoting attention, time, and money to a group that supports consumer- and citizen-friendly activities, how does Mozilla stack up these days?

I *use* the web all day, every day. I poke my fingers in developing things on the web as an ancillary function at work and muck around in my off time. I send a check every once in a while. The skeptic in me has to ask: is trust in Mozilla well placed?
posted by GPF to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you ask this in the wake of their biggest public controversies ever. I think it's good that former CEO Eich resigned, but I'd question the board that didn't properly vet him in the first place.

There are other places I'd rather send my money, the EFF, for one. The Tor Project is another. Both do good work to help others online.
posted by inturnaround at 10:39 AM on August 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

Mozilla is getting $300 million per year from Google. They do not need your money. What they spend that all on I can't imagine. Maybe they flush it down the toilet or throw really great parties.

If you care about the Internet you're much better off giving elsewhere, e.g. the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
posted by alms at 10:47 AM on August 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

I agree that Mozilla doesn't need the money. How about the Internet Archive instead? They're working to be a digital library for the world.

I've volunteered there on their scanning projects, and it's a great cause.
posted by vickyverky at 11:07 AM on August 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

How about the Internet Archive instead? They're working to be a digital library for the world.

I work there, as does jscott. They're the real deal and run on a shoestring. They own a credit union and some housing in the Bay Area which they rent to Archive workers at COST so that people don't have to go broke paying rent. They believe in a better world and putting their money where their mouth is. I also support EFF and the Wikimedia Foundation as people who have my trust. That said, I know a number of ethical wonderful people who do worthwhile projects who work for the Mozilla Foundation, so I could see supporting them as a basically okay thing to do.
posted by jessamyn at 11:57 AM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Many Firefox users have become increasingly dissatisfied with the direction firefox has taken (more like chrome and less like firefox). They have reduced the ability to customize the browser and don't seem to care that users are not happy. There is a new browser called pale moon. They started at the "good" firefox and built a more firefox-like browser. I don't know if pale moon needs help, but they might be worth a look.
posted by H21 at 7:19 PM on August 14, 2014

Disclaimer that I'm conflicted all over the place here (regular donor to EFF+FSF+Internet Archive; former employee at Mozilla, Red Hat; current employee at Wikimedia Foundation). With that said:

You've really got two questions here:

1. Is trust in Mozilla well-placed?

2. Is supporting Mozilla (financially or with contributions of your time) a good use of your presumably limited resources?

These are related, but different, questions.

With regards to #1: yes, if what you care about is supporting a standards-based, non-monopolistic software ecosystem, then you can trust Mozilla. They continue to push aggressively for a web that is an even playing field for everyone, and it is deeply baked into the way they see the world, influencing every decision they make in a deep and genuine way.

This is an extremely important battle, but unfortunately, it is also an extremely uphill, battle, so progress is very much of the two steps forward; one-to-three steps back variety - they thought they had big wins in video, for example, a few years ago, but Google sort of charlie-browned them; they're doing the right thing in fighting for an open phone platform (with FirefoxOS), but the platform effects there mean their chances of success are very slim; they're doing the right thing in slimming down and improving the browser, but people will always complain about every sort of change (see previous comment). Regardless of the progress, though, their hearts are very deeply in the right place - they're genuinely fighting all the time for a web that we should all want.

The Eich thing is, I think, a bit of a red-herring: yes, Brendan was a mistake, but when you're asking about trust here I think you're implicitly asking "can I trust Mozilla to defend and extend the open web", not the much broader "can I trust every Mozilla employee on every civil rights issue". In that vein, it may be useful to read Christie Koehler's piece on Brendan as a leader of Mozilla (written before he stepped down).

With regards to #2: Mozilla is one of the very, very few organizations who has any chance in hell of actually fighting back the proprietary platforms (Android/iOS) as the dominant development platforms of the future. So their success is more important than the success of (say) Internet Archive or Wikimedia: Mozilla will help the next IA and Wikimedia exist, but the opposite is not true. So you really, really want them to succeed.

That said, they do have a lot of Google money. If you're thinking about where to give $100, that money makes a lot more difference at IA, WMF, EFF, Tor, or FSF. Where I'd give there depends on your exact ideological inclinations. If you're thinking about where to give $1M... drop me a note :)
posted by louie at 9:28 PM on August 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ahem. Are you among the 3480 MeFites who support MetaFilter? This is a great place for your contributions.
posted by Cranberry at 12:48 AM on August 15, 2014 [3 favorites]

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