Tomorrow (or maybe today if you're reading this on Tuesday) is a big day. It's the day that Firefox 3.5 will be released, and with it, an upgrade for the entire web. Mozilla's done a fabulous job of showcasing some of these new things here and here, so I won't repeat what you can read all over the web. Suffice it to say that Firefox 3.5 is truly amazing. I know this because I've been using it for a long time. Long before it was in alpha or beta release, long before it became available for download, long before it had a name. I've been using it as long as it's been developed, and I wanted to tell you why that's significant.
A little over a year ago, I blogged about how Firefox 3.0 "represents a new kind of software project: a project welcoming of student involvement." A lot has changed since then, and I'm happy to report that the change is for the better. Since writing that I've had the pleasure to work with many more students at Seneca on Mozilla development. They've found and fixed bugs, worked on enhancements in the platform and browser, done quality assurance, written documentation, improved the build system, and created extensions. They've worked as Mozilla Corporation interns or become employees, they've done Google Summer of Code projects, and they've been a part of the development of Firefox 3.5, and active members of the Mozilla community, all before graduating. How many students can list that on their resume?
Together, along with thousands of others around the world, they've proven that Mozilla isn't simply a company making a product, but a community building an ecosystem based on shared values around open participation and collaboration. I can say this with some authority, becuase I've been present every day that it's happened, helped the students contribute to, and connect with the community, and contributed myself.
It's common for open source projects to tell people that "patches are accepted." In Mozilla's case that's true too, but they go further: patches, and patch authors, are encouraged, mentored, and valued. That's not something every open source project can claim. I haven't found another open source project so dedicated to supporting the next generation of developers and contributors--and I've spent a long time looking.
I'm proud of these students, and proud of how far they've pushed the envelope. I'm inspired by their drive and creativity, and encouraged to do it all again in September, when we'll continue work on another as-yet unnamed browser with a new group of students.
I'm also encouraged that through Mozilla Education we've been able to extend this model to other parts of the world, and found educational partners who dream as big as we do. France, Spain, India, Singapore, Pakista, Serbia, Japan, and across the US and Canada--we've found students and professors, or they've found us. Together we're building something unique that, much like Mozilla, shouldn't work, but does. Students want to work on meaningful output, and Mozilla is one of the best examples in the world that this can be a lived reality.
Part of how we've gotten here is by dreaming big, and following through on those dreams. Mozilla does that too, and tomorrow's a day to celebrate the results of pushing hard to finish something awesome. I offer my congratulations to all those who worked hard to make this possible, and count myself lucky to be among that group, and to have been allowed to bring my students along too. Great work, Mozilla, and great work Seneca.