Behind the scenes at Mozilla HQ

Photos: The Firefox browser may be a growing threat to Microsoft's market dominance but the Mozilla Foundation's office is no Redmond campus yet

With all the publicity that has surrounded Mozilla and its Firefox browser, you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a large organisation with hundreds of employees. In fact, there are only 40 Mozilla Foundation employees, many of which are based out of the organisation's head office in Mountain View, California.

The office is in a small, leafy industrial park in the suburbs of Mountain View, a town in the heart of Silicon Valley, 35 miles south of San Francisco. The town is home to 72,200 residents, but grows to 100,000 during the day due to the national and international companies that are based there.

Other companies that have headquarters in Mountain View include Google, Silicon Graphics, Veritas, Verisign and Netscape — the company that provided the original Mozilla source code when it made the Netscape Communicator browser available under an open source licence in 1998.

The Mozilla Foundation office is a relatively small, open-plan office, with tightly packed desks and boxes containing promotional material piled up in the corner. The walls are adorned with Firefox posters, including one surrounded by postcards sent by SpreadFirefox members from around the world. Asa Dotzler, the community coordinator at Mozilla, said the SpreadFirefox community probably includes members from "every country in the planet".

The centrepiece in the Mozilla office is a bridge made out of empty drinks cans. Originally built at Netscape in 1999, it is a model of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and was moved to the Mozilla offices later. Around the base of the bridge are pieces from a giant chess set, plush toys and a life-size cardboard cut-out of Austin Powers.

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Postcards from members of the SpreadFirefox community

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Bridge made of drinks cans, and assorted cuddly toys.

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Bridge made of drinks cans with Mozilla employee Josh Aas in foreground. Aas is currently working on making Firefox work better on the Apple Mac platform.

To see photos of some of the people ZDNet UK met in the Mozilla offices, go to the next page.

Asa Dotzler is the community coordinator for Mozilla. He joined the Mozilla project team at Netscape in May 2000, after working as a volunteer helping streamline the QA process. He was one of the founding employees of the Mozilla Foundation and works on community and marketing activities. For more information on the history of Firefox and how Dotzler got involved, read our interview with him.

Rafael Ebron is the product marketing manager for the Mozilla Foundation, focusing on Firefox and the Thunderbird email client. He joined the Mozilla Foundation in June 2004, after spending five years working as a product manager at Netscape, according to his personal Web site.

ZDNet UK also met some interns in the Mozilla offices; Dotzler said this is the first year where the foundation has been able to support paid internships. Although anyone can apply for these internships, Dotzler said that people who are already active as volunteers in the Mozilla community are preferred.

"People who are the most active in the community are our first choice. It's the same with the people we've hired — most are people who've already done work for the project. That's how I got hired," he said.

Alex Polvi, an intern from Oregon State University, is working on infrastructure and server administration projects at Mozilla. Polvi was involved in one of the most well known Firefox community marketing activities, when he and a group of friends painted a 7.3m × 7.3m Firefox logo in the middle of the quad at their university campus.

"We used 100 percent earth-friendly materials: cornstarch, kool-aid, and water. Our process involved drawing a large grid with yarn and then chalking outlines for the different areas of paint. We only got talked to by campus police once and they were very understanding," said Polvi in his blog.

Zach Lipton, a high school student, is also working as an intern at Mozilla. He started working as a volunteer on the Mozilla project four years ago when he was 13, making him one of the youngest volunteers involved in the Mozilla community, according to Dotzler.

Blake Ross, the creator of Firefox, also got involved in the Mozilla project early on — he started fixing bugs in the Netscape browser at the age of 15 and at 17 started developing an early version of the Firefox browser with another Netscape programmer David Hyatt.

Unlike Ross, who primarily worked as a programmer, Lipton is focusing on testing and QA work. "At least for the summer I'm trading the school part of my life for the Mozilla part and going to be doing some work on Testrunner, QA, and perhaps something related to Mister [a QA tool]," said Lipton in a blog posting.

Another intern, Blake Kaplan, is working on core mozilla features, including the new HTML Parser.

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Asa Dotzler

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Rafael Ebron

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Alex Polvi

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Blake Kaplan

Photo credit: Ingrid Marson

Zach Lipton

ZDNet UK spoke to Asa Dotzler about the rise of Firefox in the enterprise, future marketing campaigns and how the Mozilla Foundation plans to target less tech-savvy consumers. To read the full interview, click here.

To read Dotzler's view of Firefox's and Mozilla's history, click here.