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Mozilla lays foundation for web's next 100 years

Freedom beyond Firefox

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The Mozilla Foundation is best known for Firefox, but as its head Mitchell Baker recently told us, the group's mission is not merely to produce a browser that kills Internet Explorer.

"The mission is to build certain qualities into the human experience of the internet. We are in a reasonable spot with the browser, and Firefox is important for the immediate future. But we've barely started in user control," Baker said.

What exactly was Baker talking about?

According to executive director Mark Surman, that mission involves efforts to make the web more open by removing its technological, corporate and cultural choke points and getting more regular people to give a damn about where the internet will be in the next 100 years - not just those already working in tech.

This includes something called Drumbeat, a project Surman is leading.

Among Drumbeat's initiatives is a new set of independent programs in open-web technologies like HTML 5 where students' work is rated and scored using a peer-rating system designed to go beyond the standard Microsoft or Cisco certifications.

Outside of coding, there's work to devise legal agreements we can actually read and comprehend instead of just blowing through and clicking "yes" when signing up to services. The Foundation also wants to give individuals control over their digital identities and freedom to move in the cloud, rather than leaving their sign-in and all their data with a handful of default giants like Microsoft, Google, and Facebook.

"Clearly, the goal is to get out to a new circle of people who care about the web already but who don't have a way to participate," Surman told us during a recent interview. "We don't know what the market will be 100 years from now, but we do know that a dramatic increase in levels of ownership and participation in the web will be critical."

Surman is pushing Drumbeat through community meetings and engagements at events like the recent FOSDEM in Brussels and "local drumbeats" later this month in Brazil. He's also looking for involvement through new projects, with 29 listed on Mozilla's Wiki at the time of writing.

Getting the participation and interest means both technology and non-technology projects.

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