Mozilla Goes For More Green

The Mozilla Foundation has created a commercial subsidiary in order to generate revenue and increase market share.

The group today announced the launch of Mozilla Corporation.

“The formation of the Mozilla Corporation gives the Mozilla Foundation new capabilities for becoming even more successful in delivering innovative open source end-user products,” Mitchell Baker, president of Mozilla Corporation, wrote in her blog.

Frank Hecker, director of policy for the foundation, said the Mozilla Corporation would not become just another commercial property, but instead would remain in line with the original goal of the Mozilla Project, which is to keep the Internet open and available to everyone.

“With the establishment of the Mozilla Corporation, the Foundation is well-positioned to build on and extend the past successes of the Mozilla Project,” he said.

Created in 2003 with $2 million in seed money from America Online’s Netscape division, the open source Firefox browser has garnered critical acclaim and steadily gained users.

Although Firefox is nowhere near as ubiquitous as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser, some analytics firms have the open source browser hovering around 10 percent of the overall market, close to 80 million users.

The darling of the alternative browser set, Firefox’ steady growth led to the almost inevitable reach for profits that may help advance the foundation’s goals.

Baker, now the president of Mozilla Corporation, said the foundation decided to create a commercial subsidiary because its activities were restricted from being a non-profit entity.

“We’ve done this to respond to the success and growing market share of Mozilla Firefox and the new opportunities this makes possible,” Baker said in his blog.

Other browser makers say the move may level the playing field now that Firefox is operating as a business.

“Frankly, my first thought was that this evens the equation,” Jon von Tetzchner, Opera co-founder and CEO, said. “A lot of people have seen Mozilla as a not-for-profit organization, and they are a for-profit organization, and now its visible to the rest of the world. So I think in a way it just evens up.”

Von Tetzchner also said creating a for-profit subsidiary will not change the way the two organizations perceive each other.

“I haven’t seen them as that, ever, at least for the last couple years,” he said. “In the beginning, I think it was like that, but my impression is that they have been running [Mozilla] as a company for quite some time. I don’t really see much of a change except, of course, that it’s official.”

Mozilla’s move comes just as Microsoft prepares to release a beta version of the Windows Vista operating system. The beta includes a revamped browser, dubbed IE 7, that contains many of the bells and whistles made popular by Firefox.

This subsidiary will help Mozilla compete with IE by allowing it to make deals with PC manufacturers to ship desktops with Firefox, Hecker said.

“I think one overreaching goal of the reorganization is the position of the foundation to create great code and great products,” Hecker said.

Jim Wagner contributed to this report.

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