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Mozilla Makes Up With Enterprises

After alienating corporate IT departments with its rapid release policy for Firefox, Mozilla wants to patch things up by re-establishing a group to handle enterprise concerns.

Having adopted a rapid release cycle for Firefox that left businesses in the dust and argued through its executives that enterprises ought to "change how they think about software rollout" if they want to keep up with modern browser development, Mozilla left many corporate IT departments with the impression that the open source browser company didn't care about their concerns.

Statements like "Enterprise has never been (and I'll argue, shouldn't be) a focus of ours," offered by Firefox community coordinator Asa Dotzler, did little to alter that impression, much to the delight of Microsoft, which saw in Mozilla's full-speed ahead strategy an opportunity to win back the loyalty of organizations that had defected from Internet Explorer to Firefox in recent years.

Things were never as dire for enterprises as they might have seemed. Mike Shaver, VP of technical strategy at Mozilla--the one urging enterprises to rethink their commitment to glacial software deployment--made it clear Mozilla was open to discussing enterprise concerns, even if past efforts to accommodate enterprises hadn't been entirely successful.

On Tuesday, Mozilla made its commitment more explicit. Acknowledging the controversy that has swirled around its adoption of a rapid release cycle, Mozilla on its blog reiterated its need for speed--lest it be left to eat the dust kicked up by competitors Apple, Google, and Microsoft--and simultaneously asserted that it cares about Firefox users wherever they are.

"To this end, we are re-establishing a Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group (MEUWG) as a place for enterprise developers, IT staff, and Firefox developers to discuss the challenges, ideas, and best practices for deploying Firefox in the enterprise," Mozilla said. "It will be a place to ask questions and get information about Mozilla plans."

The group aims to establish a unified governance body to represent the interests of enterprise users of Firefox, to drive enterprise requirements, to help Firefox deployments in enterprises succeed, to recruit like-minded firms, to share risk and cost, to advocate for better web browsers and open standards, and to develop prescriptive guidelines for enterprise Firefox deployment.

The MEUWG met three times before, in July, August, and September 2007. In its new incarnation, it will consist of a mailing list and a monthly phone conference, on the first Thursday of every month at 9am Pacific Time. There will also be an annual forum.

In a nod to the controlled corporate culture of enterprises and a surprising repudiation of Mozilla's tradition of open communication, the calls will be private to the group, and participants will not have to identify their corporate affiliation. Meeting minutes will present statements made by participants without attribution "to enable enterprises to participate as fully as possible."

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