roughly edged ideas about building stuff

should Mozilla empower movements?

Posted by suneelgupta on November 11, 2008

In my last post (build your movement here), I thought out loud about Mozilla creating a “Movement Suite”, which would offer a set of applications to empower any group looking to build or expand a movement. In his reply, Mark Surman correctly pointed out that existing sites, such as Social Source Commons, have similar offerings. So there are two issues here: 1) whether Mozilla can make a meaningful contribution in the movement empowerment space; and 2) whether Mozilla would be competing with existing sites if it made this contribution.

1. Can Mozilla make meaningful contributions to a crowded space of sites that offer a central point for movements to build their toolkits? My sense is that we can for two reasons. First, the Mozilla add-ons site, which would be a natural place for a “movement suite” to live, has the traffic to ramp adoption of movement applications better than any other mission-based site I’m aware of. According to, is the 797th most popular online site (over the past 3 months) and nearly 85% of that traffic directs itself to the add-ons site. The ramp is further illustrated by the following chart, which compares traffic with that of, a fantastic and relatively well-known resource for movement builders. and Traffic

The second, and more important reason, is that Mozilla has enough trust to ramp a movement suite. A high traffic applications site doesn’t have impact if a user doesn’t trust it enough to proceed with a download. At the beginning of the year, Ken Kovash at Mozilla announced that 600 million add-ons had been downloaded from This is a positive sign of trust.

2. Would Mozilla be competing with existing sites like Social Source and Tech Soup if it decided to help empower movements? I don’t think it would. The primary objective of a “movement suite” is not to build, but to gather existing applications into a central point. Mozilla’s add-ons site currently hosts over 6,000 add-ons, the overwhelming majority of which were not built internally. To create a movement suite, Mozilla might pick the best 8-10 applications for movement building and package them, like Linked In did with its application suite. If other non-profit sites share our vision to empower movements by guiding them to the right tools, then we would be supporting their mission, not competing against it.

Furthermore, a movement suite might actually include tools built by other movement enablers. Mozilla’s objective would be to promote these tools widely so that more movements have the tools they need to operate effectively.

Lots of wrinkles and further thought needed here. First, we need to continue to build our list of applications that would go into the suite (eg, what does a group need to build a movement effectively?). Second, we need to determine a fair way to select the best applications that achieve these objectives amongst over 6,000 add-ons that live on the site. Third, we need to figure out a way to push the movement suite to those who need it the most – other than promoting it on the add-ons site.

I continue to seek advice, and have learned a lot over the past few days from Nicholas Reville at the Participatory Culture Foundation as well as Atul Varma and Paul Kim at Mozilla. These conversations are helping me to move past the “why” and on to the “how”.


9 Responses to “should Mozilla empower movements?”

  1. abi said

    Exactly what I was thinking… for example, there’s no point for Mozilla to write another blogging software ( 2. in your earlier post). Instead, as you say, we should just have an application suite that includes the best extensions to empower movements similar to what the Firefox Campus Edition used to be.

    I’ve been helping out a bit with ObamaFox ( ). It’s basically just a fancy UI for a feed reader but despite that, it’s actually pretty useful. It can be rebranded to suit any cause so that everyone can keep themselves updated of any news/photos related to that cause. I’m not sure if this extension fits into the suite but it is certainly something that candidates (or movement leaders) can tweak and then, get into their followers to download.

    Regarding what should be included in the suite, a decent blog editor like ScribeFire would be great. Also, the mass mailing tool could just be Thunderbird.

  2. msurman said

    Okay. I get it now. I like the idea of integrating and marketing stuff that already exists … and using it activate people. Movement Suite. Campus Suite (redux). Accessibility Suite (sort of have it?).

    The real juice will be in playing with Movement Suite in the much of some real organizing. So, how about tying the suite into a effort to spark self organizing Open Web Camps all over the world in 2009? The would be almost-no-cost BarCampy events that folks who want to understand, play with and further build the open web organize in their communities.

    I’d be willing to pitch in my energy if this is about organizing *real people* around the values that underpin Mozilla. That matters to me. And it’s the perfect testing ground for a bundle of movementy web tools.

  3. davideaves said


    I wrote on something parallel to this post a few months back – namely that Mozilla and Firefox is itself a social movement in response to the threat posed to the open web.

    Some posts that I’d love to reflect back to you:
    The Open Web is a social Movement
    The Challenge of Mozilla’s Magnetism
    Hacker’s are Social Activists
    Mozilla knows it is part of a Social Movement

    Hope these are of interest!


  4. […] be “How Can Mozilla Empower Nonprofits and Movements?” and will feature Zak Greant and Suneel Gupta of Mozilla.  […]

  5. Majken "Lucy" Connor said

    I’m replying quite late, but maybe it won’t be lost!

    I agree with Mark Surman that it makes more sense for Mozilla to lend skills to creating a movement suite rather than completely taking over. The reasons you gave are great, but sound like things Mozilla could contribute to other projects trying to take on this task.

    I also think there’s a lot of thought needed into how Mozilla builds its own movements. Every project within Mozilla uses completely different tools to grow and communicate with its own community. The only major tools in common are newsgroups and bugzilla. SFx uses Drupal, SUMO Tikiwiki, and AMO of course has its own software. I use these as examples as they’re the 3 projects I see that are most dependent on community interaction.

    Now of course they’re 3 different types of projects, but that makes me think about how each project has its own needs and no one set of tools we currently use would suit all 3. So this makes me wonder if the “movement suite” would need to be directed at a more specific type of project. Of course it would be great if in the process of pursuing this we also helped streamline interaction within Mozilla’s many communities!

    Ignoring the tools for a minute, I think Mozilla’s most vital contribution to any sort of “movement suite” would be the user manual. The tools are pretty secondary to how you use them. Email is email, a blog is a blog which variety you use is a lot less vital to success than using them effectively.

  6. Your blog is very interresting for me, i will come back here..

  7. я вот что скажу: прелестно!

  8. […] talk on his new site Empower Thyself. Suneel Gupta’s been writing an excellent series of blog posts about how Mozilla can help give individuals the tools they need to start movements. The Mozilla […]

  9. I’m not sure where you are getting your information, but great topic. I needs to spend some time learning much more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent information I was looking for this info for my mission.

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