Should Mozilla go public? In a word: No.

Summary:Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox, should go public, cash in on its browser success and grab more resources to fight Microsoft. At least that's Henry Blodget's theory.

Mozilla, the organization behind Firefox, should go public, cash in on its browser success and grab more resources to fight Microsoft. At least that's Henry Blodget's theory.

Blodget argues that Mozilla could be worth a lot on the public market and may go public this year or next. While acknowledging the perils of going public-- primarily Sarbanes-Oxley costs--Blodget says that Mozilla could build a nice business simply by slapping an ad or two on the default landing page. And for good measure Blodget says that Firefox should buy the Netscape brand and rename the company.

Hmmm. Is Blodget having dot-com boom fantasies again? Maybe not--although renaming a company after a dead brand like Netscape doesn't make sense. Dead brands rarely come back. WordPerfect? Pan-Am? Indeed, Mozilla could build a nice business--in fact you could argue that it already has. But that doesn't mean it should go public.

As currently constituted Mozilla has one customer really--Google. And all the financial reasoning aside--and Blodget provides a lot of good points--it's unclear that Mozilla could keep its mojo as a public company. Why? There are distractions. Lots of them. Annoying analysts. Annoying conference calls. Press sniping because you missed a made up revenue target by $50,000. Sarbanes-Oxley. Poison pills. Financial processes. An army of lawyers. There's a reason Mozilla has been successful: All it has to do is herd a bunch of volunteer developers and create a good product (that's a gross simplification). As a public company it would be distracted and the product would suffer. You think Firefox can be weighty now? Just wait until Mozilla would have to monetize it.

If Thunderbird had more traction perhaps Mozilla would have legs as a public company, but the browser business is best kept private. I'd love to be more optimistic, but Netscape got creamed. Opera isn't exactly knocking the ball out of the park. And Firefox going public would only accomplish one thing: Providing a market price so Google could buy it.

Why not cash out? Mozilla the movement is hard for Microsoft to defend against. Mozilla the public company is outgunned on every level.

Perhaps I'm naive--and way out of character given that I'm a financial nerd--but I like Mozilla as a foundation, albeit a well heeled one.

Topics: Government : US, Banking, Browser, CXO, Government, IT Employment

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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