3 April 2014

The Next Mission

Slides for the brief talk that I gave at a Harvard seminar on privacy and user data organized by John Taysom last week.

My talk was really more about the “network problem” than the “protocol problem”. Networks breed first- and second-mover winners and others path-dependent powers, until the next disruption. Users or rather their data get captured.

Privacy is only one concern among several, including how to realize economic value for many-yet-individually-weak users, not just for data-store/service owners or third parties. Can we do better with client-side and private-cloud tiers, zero-knowledge proofs and protocols, or other ideas?

In the end, I asked these four questions:

  1. Can a browser/OS “unionize its users” to gain bargaining power vs. net super-powers?
  2. To create a data commons with “API to me” and aggregated/clustered economics?
  3. Open the walled gardens to put users first?
  4. Still be usable and private-enough for most?

I think the answer is yes, but I’m not sure who will do this work. It is vitally important.

I may get to it, but not working at Mozilla. I’ve resigned as CEO and I’m leaving Mozilla to take a rest, take some trips with my family, look at problems from other angles, and see if the “network problem” has a solution that doesn’t require scaling up to hundreds of millions of users and winning their trust while somehow covering costs. That’s a rare, hard thing, which I’m proud to have done with Firefox at Mozilla.

I encourage all Mozillians to keep going. Firefox OS is even more daunting, and more important. Thanks indeed to all who have supported me, and to all my colleagues over the years, at Mozilla, in standards bodies, and at conferences around the world. I will be less visible online, but still around.

/be

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