Saturday, September 20, 2008 Posted by Aman Jain
The story begins with a little company called Netscape, which made the first consumer-oriented, visual Web browser. Netscape almost single-handedly sparked the online revolution, and from 1995 through 1997, it dominated the browser industry. As the millennium drew to a close, however, Netscape faced increasingly fierce competition from Microsoft, which undercut Netscape by making its browser free. With billions in the bank, Microsoft could afford to throw thousands of engineers at its fledgling — Internet Explorer — and lose money for years.Two milestones radically — but, in hindsight, futilely — changed Netscape's direction around this time.
First, the online service juggernaut America Online (AOL) purchased Netscape for $4.2 billion. Second, Netscape tried to level the playing field against Microsoft by making the historic decision to release its browser code through a development model called open source.
Most software companies jealously guard their source code because any competitor who obtains it can easily copy the product. However, desperate times called for desperate measures. Netscape was banking on a global community of volunteer developers to emerge and help build its next-generation browser. Volunteers, in turn, would get a chance to influence and develop an Internet browser still used by millions.
Leveraging free talent was Netscape's only shot against the world's richest software company.Although it ultimately failed to keep the company afloat in the browser wars, Netscape's decision to open source the code lead to a vibrant community of volunteers known as Mozilla that persevered long after Netscape bowed out. Self-governing, passionate about the Web, and funded largely on donations, the Mozilla community quickly garnered respect in the development community. The great thing about open source is that anyone can join, regardless of experience, age or other constraints typically imposed on candidates in the professional world.
Mr Blake Ross joined the community during high school at age 14, and soon afterward, his efforts landed him a series of internships at (rapidly sinking) Netscape.Working in the Mozilla community and later interning at Netscape proved great for Blake Ross. However, he was having this obsessive passion to create a simple, lightweight browser that didn't encumber non-technical people with meaningless jargon and endless options.
It was difficult to achieve this in Mozilla because the volunteer developers were more interested in creating a browser that catered to themselves (with all of the associated power-user features). It was also difficult to achieve this at Netscape because the company — now hanging on by a thread — resorted to monetizing its flagship browser at the cost of a simple user experience. Meanwhile, having won the browser wars, Microsoft all but abandoned the browser market entirely.
Intrigued by such a wide-open opportunity, Blake Ross and a small group of others within Mozilla and Netscape in 2002, grouped together to scratch an excellent browser and Firefox was born.
Reference: Firefox For Dummies by Blake Ross
Also See : Making Money by Writing Firefox Extensions