Beyond the Browser: Messaging As A Future For Mozilla

by Ostatic Staff - Apr. 13, 2010

In his post "Can Mozilla Be Bigger Than Facebook?" Matt Asay wonders what the company's second act may look like. Most people think of the company as synonymous with its open source browser, Firefox. That's understandable, as Firefox's market share is now well over 30 percent in some parts of the world. But Asay notes that Mozilla can't just tweak Firefox to make it faster and hang its future on the browser; instead, "the real challenge for Mozilla now is finding the next big challenge." Here is why messaging may be a very promising direction for the company to head in, especially given Mozilla's promising Raindrop product.

Mozilla has long been developing its free, open source Thunderbird e-mail platform, which is much improved in its latest version. It isn't a revolutionary game-changer, though, and doesn't have some of the plumbing needed to supplant Microsoft Exchange-centric e-mail deployments in enterprises.

Also on the messaging front, however, Mozilla is plugging away on its Raindrop initiative. Raindrop is a new kind of message manager, capable of sifting and sorting messages in many ways. From its open-source core to the very problem it tries to solve — frustration over email glut — it will be important to many users. Among the many messaging views it sifts, there are unique views for mobile devices.

People have been talking about the universal inbox for years — the single spot where we get all our information intelligently sorted so that we can depend on just one for everything we need. The opposite is what we currently have. We go to countless sources for our messages, ranging from e-mail platforms to social networking applications. As is also true of Google Wave, Raindrop rounds up messages from everything from social networks to RSS feeds in smart ways. Especially as it matures, we could see it become a much better aggregation model for messages than we’ve ever seen before.

Raindrop could become a hit for Mozilla, and screenshots showing its maturing design look interesting. Message glut is a big problem, and one that an invention like Raindrop might solve. Could Mozilla monetize that? There are many mobile apps that have become substantial fee-based hits, and there seems to be no reason why Raindrop can't be an even bigger one. We'll see if it supplies the answer, but Asay seems to have a point that Mozilla can't just be "the open source browser company" forever.