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Mozilla: we'll pay developers where we can

The not-for-profit organisation says it is looking at how to share its newfound Mozillions (well, millions) with the volunteers who work on Firefox and Thunderbird
Written by Tom Espiner, Contributor

Mozilla Foundation has said it is committed to rewarding the community that helps develop its software.

Mozilla's suite, which includes the Firefox Web browser, is partly developed by unpaid programmers, often working in their spare time. Mozilla on Wednesday said it could not afford to pay all of its voluntary contributors, but instead may contribute by providing hardware to some developers.

"Sometimes [volunteers] struggle on bad machines, or stay up all hours looking for someone with a Linux machine to test a program. Maybe we can provide machines," said Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Corporation chief executive and a member of the Mozilla Foundation board of directors, in an interview with ZDNet UK.

Baker said Mozilla got "tens of millions" of dollars in revenue last year from paid relationships with search companies such as Google and Yahoo, but insisted it could not afford to pay all of its developers.

"It's just a drop in the ocean compared with the big Silicon Valley companies. We could never pay everyone on the scale of Microsoft -- we just don't have enough money to fight them [on their terms]," said Baker. "Nobody does, apart from maybe someone like Google."

In a change of tack, Mozilla will hire somebody to work out a way of redistributing resources to developers. The person will be hired "soon" on a six-month contract. Baker previously told ZDNet UK that she herself would work on the model for how funds would be distributed.

The Mozilla Foundation is a Californian not-for-profit organisation and receives donations in a similar way to a charity. Last year it created the Mozilla Corporation, a commercial subsidiary that will be responsible for the development, testing and distribution of the organisation's open source products.

This has sparked speculation over exactly how much the Mozilla Corporation, and the wider Foundation, makes out of Firefox and how it spends the money.

Jason Calacanis, the chief executive of blogging network Weblogs, wrote in his blog in March that an unnamed source at BarCampLA told him the Mozilla Corporation made $72m (£38.5m) last year and is on target to have 120 employees this year, although he admitted he had been unable to confirm these figures.

Calacanis claimed that when a Firefox user does a Google search using the browser's search box Mozilla receives approximately 80 percent of the ad revenue from any associated ad clicks.

Christopher Blizzard, who is on the board of the Mozilla Corporation, said in March that the earnings figure of $72m (£41m) was incorrect "though not off by an order of magnitude".

ZDNet UK's Ingrid Marson contributed to this report.

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