The nonprofit Mozilla Foundation that organizes the development of the Firefox Web browser said Wednesday it has formed a corporate subsidiary not to make money but to better focus its activities.
Mozilla Corp. will work mainly on developing and delivering free software products such as the Firefox browser and Thunderbird e-mail program. The foundation will manage the projects, set policies and organize relationships among developers.
"By having a different focus in each of the organizations, it allows each of them to move forward more cleanly," Mozilla Corp. President Mitchell Baker said Tuesday.
The new business will be based in Mountain View, as is the foundation. The wholly owned subsidiary is expected to have about 30 employees, compared with three or four at the foundation, Baker said. Its software will remain free.
"The Mozilla Corp. is not a typical commercial entity," she said. "Rather it is dedicated to the public benefit goal at the heart of the Mozilla project, which is to keep the Internet open and available to everyone."
Such a move is unusual in the open-source world, where communities of programmers — often from different companies — develop software. Some popular projects, however, have formed nonprofit legal entities to relieve some of the burden of business.
The developers of the popular Apache Web server did that in 1999, forming the Apache Foundation. The Mozilla Foundation was formed as a nonprofit in July 2003 to provide organizational, legal and financial support to the Mozilla project.
"With this reorganization, the Mozilla Foundation will look much more like the Apache Foundation than it currently does," Baker said.
The Mozilla project was formed during the so-called browser war between Netscape Communications Corp. and Microsoft Corp. In 1998, Netscape released its underlying code in an effort to compete against Microsoft's Internet Explorer. (MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)
The project continued even after America Online Inc. bought Netscape and Microsoft captured the vast majority of the Web browser market. Two years ago, AOL drastically cut its involvement but helped launch the Mozilla Foundation.
The Mozilla Firefox Web browser, which was officially released in 2004, has been the project's biggest success. To date, the free software has been downloaded more than 75 million times and its market share is estimated to be approaching 10 percent.