Checking in on Mozilla's Financial Health
The Mozilla Foundation has posted its financial statements and tax info for 2008, and a FAQ on the topic for those of us with short attention spans. While plowing through financial statements may not be the most exciting topic for Free and Open Source advocates, it's worth taking a look at what Mozilla has achieved as an independent project, where it's going, and how other projects might be able to emulate Mozilla's success to fund more and more FOSS development.
The good news is that, as of the end of their 2008 fiscal year, Mozilla is weathering the lousy economy pretty well. According to Mitchell Baker's post, reported revenues were up 5% from 2007, and the bulk of that revenue comes from the Firefox search functionality linking back to Google, Yahoo, Amazon, and eBay. But Moz got dinged by the financial crisis in 2008, losing nearly $8 million of its long-term portfolio.
Of course, the bulk of Mozilla's revenue comes from the relationship with Google, and that agreement carries through 2011. Given Google's aggressive entry into the browser and operating system market, you have to wonder what will happen in 2011 after that relationship comes up for renewal. One hopes Google will continue to work with Mozilla, but it doesn't seem a slam-dunk that Google will continue funding a rival browser. But, with the Chrome OS not due to launch until end of 2010, Google might hedge its bets and keep working with the foundation at least for a few years.
While it's not spelled out how the foundation plans to address this, the FAQ says that it is looking to ways to diversify through "additional revenue partnerships with various potential partners." Mozilla has been very busy this year with Mozilla Labs, Mozilla Messaging's launch in February, and the technologies rolling out of the Labs have been interesting. Weave, Raindrop, expansion into the mobile browser market, Thunderbird 3.0 nearing completion, and (of course) continued improvement and development of Firefox to just point out a few.
The eye-opener for me is that Mozilla funds about 200 people to work on Mozilla full and part-time. That's pretty amazing for a company that's not on a for-profit mission, and one has to wonder how it could be replicated for other projects. Or is this a fluke that couldn't be replicated by another project?
Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News, Linux.com, UnixReview.com, IBM developerWorks, and many others.