Is Mozilla Still Needed Nowadays?
tl;dr: Happy 23rd birthday, Mozilla! (it was founded March 31st, 1998) And for the question: yes. Here's a bit more rambling on this topic...
Mozilla Firefox 86 showing the Mozilla Foundations website.
First of all, the Mozilla project was officially started on March 31, 1998, which is 23 years ago today. Happy birthday to my favorite "dino" out there! For more background, take a look at my Mozilla History talk from this year's FOSDEM, and/or watch the "Code Rush" documentary that conserved that moment in time so well and also gives nice insight into late-90's Silicon Valley culture.
Now, while Mozilla initially was there to "act as the virtual meeting place for the Mozilla code" as Netscape was still there with the target to win back the browser market that was slipping over to Micosoft. The revolutionary stance to develop a large consumer application in the open along with the marketing of "hack - this technology could fall into the right hands" as well as the general novenly of the open-source movement back then - and last not least a very friendly community (as I could find out myself) made this young project grow fast to be more than a development vehicle for AOL/Netscape, though. And in 2003, a mission to "preserve choice and innovation on the Internet" was set up for the project, shortly after backed by a non-profit Mozilla Foundation, and then with an independently developed Firefox browser, implementing "the idea [...] to design the best web browser for most people" - and starting to take back the web from the stagnation and lack of choice represented by >95% of the landscape being dominated by Microsoft Internet Explorer.
The exact phrasing of Mozilla's mission has been massages a few times, but from the view of the core contributors, it always meant the same thing, it currently reads:
"Our mission is to ensure the Internet is a global public resource, open and accessible to all. An Internet that truly puts people first, where individuals can shape their own experience and are empowered, safe and independent."
On the Foundation site, there's the sentence "It is Mozilla’s duty to ensure the internet remains a force for good." - also pretty much meaning the same thing with that, just in less specific terms. Of course, the spirit of the project was also put into 10 pretty concrete technical principles, prefaced by 4 social pledges, in the Mozilla Manifesto, which make it even more clear and concrete what the project sees as its core purpose.
So, if we think about the question whether we still need Mozilla nowadays, we should take a look if moving in that direction is still required and helpful, and if Mozilla is still able and willing to push those principles forward.
When quite a few communities I'm part of - or would like to be part of - are moving to Discord or are adding it as an additional option to Facebook groups, and I read the Terms of Services of those two tightly closed and privacy-unfriendly services, I have to conclude that the current Internet is not open, not putting people first, and I don't feel neither empowered, safe or independent in that space. When YouTube selects recommendations so I live in a weird bubble that pulls me into conspiracies and negativity pretty fast, I don't feel like individuals can shape their own experience. When watching videos stored on certain sites is cheaper or less throttled than other sources with any new data plan I can get for my phone, or when geoblocking hinders me from watching even a trailer of my favorite series, I don't feel like the Internet is equally accessible to all. Neither do I when political misinformation is targeted at certain groups of users in election ads on social networks without any transparency to the public. But I would long for that all to be different, and to follow the principles I talked of above. So, I'd say those are still required, and would be helpful to push for.
It all feels like we need someone to unfck the Internet right now more than ever. We need someone to collect info on what's wrong and how it could get better there. We need someone to educate users, companies and politicians alike on where the dangers are and how we can improve the digital space. We need someone who gives us a fast, private and secure alternative to Google's browser and rendering engine that dominates the Internet now, someone to lead us out of the monoculture that threatens to bring innovation to a grind. Someone who has protecting privacy of people as one of their primary principles, and continues work on additional ways of keeping people safe. And that's just the start. As the links on all those points show, Mozilla tries hard to do all that, and more.
I definitely think we badly need a Mozilla that works on all those issues, and we need a whole lot of other projects and people help in the space as well. Be it in advocacy, in communication, in technology, or in other topics.
Can all that actually succeed in improving the Internet? Well, it definitely needs all of us to help, starting with using products like Firefox, supporting organizations like Mozilla, spreading the word, maybe helping to build a community, or even to contribute where we can.
We definitely need Mozilla today, even 23 years after its inception. Maybe we need it more than ever, actually. Are you in?