connect on your terms

I want to talk about what we, the Identity Team at Mozilla, are working on.

Mozilla makes Firefox, the 2nd most popular browser in the world, and the only major browser built by a non-profit. Mozilla’s mission is to build a better Web that answers to no one but you, the user. It’s hard to overstate how important this is in 2012, when the Web answers less and less to individual users, more and more to powerful data silos whose interests are not always aligned with those of users.

To fulfill the Mozilla mission, the browser remains critical, but is no longer enough. Think of the Web’s hardware and software stack. The browser sits in the middle [1], hardware and operating system below it, cloud services above it. And the browser is getting squeezed: mobile devices, which outnumber desktop computers and are poised to dominate within a couple of years, run operating systems that limit, through technical means or bundling deals, which browser you can use and how you can customize their behavior. Meanwhile, browsers are fast becoming passive funnels of user data into cloud services that offer too little user control and too much lock-in.

Mozilla is moving quickly to address the first issue with Boot2Gecko, a free, open, and Web-based mobile operating system due to launch next year. This is an incredibly important project that aims to establish true user choice in the mobile stack and to power-charge the Open Web by giving HTML5 Apps new capabilities, including camera access, dialing, etc.

The Mozilla Identity Team is working on the top of the stack: we want users to control their transactions, whether using money or data, with cloud services. We want you to connect to the Web on your terms. To do that, we’re building services and corresponding browser features.

We’re starting with Persona, our simple distributed login system, which you can integrate into your web site in a couple of hours — a good bit more easily than our competitors. Persona is unique because it deeply respects users: the only data exchanged is that users wish to provide. For example, when you use Persona to sign into web sites, there is no central authority that learns about all of your activity.

From Persona, we’ll move to services connected to your identity. We’ll help you manage your data, connect the services that matter to you, all under your full control. We want to take user agency, a role typically reserved for the browser sitting on your device, into the cloud. And because we are Mozilla, and all of our code and protocols are open, you know the services will build will always be on your side.

All that said, we know that users pick products based on quality features, not grand visions. Our vision is our compass, but we work on products that fulfill specific user and developer needs today. We will work towards our vision one compelling and pragmatic product at a time.

The lines between client, server, operating system, browser, and apps are blurring. The Web, far more than a set of technologies, is now a rapidly evolving ecosystem of connections between people and services. The Mozilla Identity Team wants to make sure you, the user, are truly in control of your connections. We want to help you connect on your terms. Follow us, join us.


[1] David Ascher spoke about this in his post about the new Mozilla a few months ago.