Crowdsourcing the State of the Union

January 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

Mozilla partners with public media to empower citizen engagement in U.S. election coverage

Tuesday’s State of the Union Address from U.S. President Barack Obama will include something special: crowdsourced captions and subtitles provided by everyday citizens around the world.

Using new web tools from Mozilla and the Participatory Culture Foundation, participants will transcribe and translate the President’s speech into dozens of languages in a matter of hours, making it more accessible to those with disabilities and in other countries across the globe.

Launching “Open Election 2012”

The event marks the launch of “Open Election 2012,” a new partnership  between Mozilla, PBS NEWSHOUR, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting  (CPB) and Participatory Culture Foundation.

Open Election 2012 will showcase how new open web technologies and citizen participation can make election coverage more accessible to diverse audiences, and provide new ways to engage with the news.

Adding context and interactivity with Mozilla Popcorn
Throughout the election, PBS NEWSHOUR will also use “Mozilla Popcorn,” a new HTML5 media tool Fast Company recently called “the future of online video.”

Popcorn makes it possible to pull other content and context from across the web right into the story, providing new ways for viewers to interact with video news.

Engaging and inspiring audiences
“It is part of the mission of public media to make our content available to everyone,” explained Hari Sreenivasan, Correspondent and Director of Digital Partnerships for PBS NEWSHOUR.

“From Chinese to Dutch, the speech translation is a true service for those for whom English is a second language and the hard of hearing. We hope to engage and inspire audiences too often forgotten.”

Learn more


SOPA and “The Great Firewall of America:” what it is and how to kill it

January 18, 2012 § 3 Comments

This will be remembered as the day the web went dark. Today, Mozilla is joining other public interest organizations, everyday internet users around the world, and tech companies from Wikipedia to Reddit to Google.

Together we’re going on “virtual strike” to shine a light on proposed censorship legislation that could effectively create a “Great Firewall of America.”

And we need your voice to help stop it.

What’s going on?

The U.S. Congress is trying to pass legislation that threatens free speech and innovation on the Internet, under the banner of anti-piracy efforts.

This legislation, the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA) and its companion legislation in the US House, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), would give the US government and private business incredible  global censorship powers, damage the Internet’s security, and discourage  innovation and investment worldwide.

Learn more:

Take action:

There’s a week left until Senators return to Washington from their districts, when their vote is scheduled on the PROTECT IP Act. We need to make one last big push by contacting their local offices and asking them not to support PIPA.

If you’re in the U.S.:

If you’re outside the U.S.:

Other ways to get involved

Mozilla FAQ on SOPA

What’s this about?
The U.S. Congress is trying to pass legislation that threatens free speech and innovation on the Internet, under the banner of anti-piracy efforts.

What’s at risk?
These new laws would give the US government and private business incredible  global censorship powers, damage the Internet’s security and discourage  innovation and investment worldwide.

The result?
Your favorite websites, both inside and outside the US, could be blocked based on a single infringement claim, without any due process of law.

How is it done?
The  US will be able to block a site’s web traffic, ad traffic and search  traffic.

What about piracy?
Piracy is a problem but there are better ways to address it that don’t stifle innovation, knowledge and creativity, or give the US such unchecked power over the global Internet.

What is Mozilla doing exactly?
We’ll be redirecting our main and English web sites to an action page for 12 hours on Wednesday, January 18th (8:00 am – 8:00 pm US Eastern Time). Also, the Firefox default start page will be blacked out so 100% of en-US visitors will see our call to action. Usage of Firefox is not limited or effected.

Why not a full blackout?
We hope the blackout of our US sites will educate people about this important issue. Mozilla believes that the individuals’ security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional. Access to the latest and most secure version of Firefox ensures user security. Thus some of the site functionality will stay in place during the blackout.

How long have you been involved in anti SOPA activities?
Mozilla has been actively involved in the stop SOPA activities from the start with our first public facing activities rallying for support in November.

Why does this matter to Mozilla?
The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet. These new laws would give the US government and private business incredible censorship powers that would have effects globally, damage the Internet’s security and discourage innovation and investment worldwide.

Is this just a matter for Americans to care about?
The laws will have effects globally, damaging the Internet’s security and discouraging innovation and investment in web technology worldwide. As it is a proposed US law, our call to action focuses on US citizens, asking them to reach out to their representatives.

Who owns “you” online?

January 13, 2012 § 6 Comments

There’s a battle going on for your online soul. 2012 will be a year where the good guys take some important steps forward in that battle.

Mitchell Baker and Ben Adidas posts on online identity and what Mozilla is doing to empower users are important reading for anyone who cares about where the web is headed.

As Mitchell notes, all of us are now creating and sharing more and more of our personal data online. This opens exciting possibilities, but also serious questions: How do you protect and empower yourself in the cloud? Who can you trust? And who ultimately owns the online version of “you?”

Who makes the rules? The architecture of “you”

You are valuable. Your online data, decisions and content are worth something to yourself and others. As thinkers like Ben Cerveny have pointed out, each of us leaves a trail behind us as we travel through the “luminous bath” that is the web. This data says something about you, leaving a set of footprints others can potentially follow. Your data is unique, and it has value.

So who makes the rules around how your data gets used? As Mitchell writes:

The ability of big data and cloud service providers to monitor, log, store, use, correlate and sell information about who we are and what we do has huge implications for society and for individuals.

Right now there’s no convenient way for me to share information about myself and maintain control over that information. I share information about myself by putting it someplace where someone else makes all the rules.

This is bigger than just Google and Facebook. The question of “who makes the rules” is a more fundamental question about the architecture of user data and the Internet itself.

This architecture boils down to some fundamental design questions about how your data is shared. Do you decide, setting the rules once, then pushing them out across your online experience? Or are you instead subject to a confusing mishmash of different rules for your data, each set by whatever application or service you happen to be using at the time?

Putting you at the center

Mozilla believes you need to be at the center of your online experience, with the option to store your data in the cloud and then set the rules for how it it accessed across the web. This means you get to set the rules, instead of other sites deciding for you. Mitchell writes:

To really help people with the way we use and share data today, Mozilla will need to offer people the choice of storing data in the cloud in a way that allows services to access it with your permission. This will be a new thing for Mozilla. It will involve new challenges.  It’s important that we take these on and address them well. If we develop an offering that handles user data in the cloud properly we will help ensure choice and user sovereignty in new areas of online life.

Identity that answers to no one but you

Concretely, as Ben Adidad explains, this means Mozilla will ramp up work on a host of “user-centric” (I think of them as “you-centric”) services this year, including an innovative approach to identity, a mobile web-based operating system, and an app store. As a non-profit answerable only to you, we’re in a unique position to take this on, without ulterior motives or fine print. Mitchell writes:

No other organization has both the ability to do something totally focused on user sovereignty rather than financial profit, and the ability to have wide impact. A Mozilla presence in the cloud will allow us to to fulfill our mission in important new areas of online life.

The web you deserve

A web that recognizes “you,” knows who you are, and can respond accordingly is an exciting thing — so long as you’re the one in control of the experience.

That requires a trusted, ideally non-profit broker to help you manage your identity and set the rules for your data — with no ulterior motives or fine print.

This is different than the “bait and switch” model that now seems common in the cloud, luring us in with shiny services and products, only to reveal hidden costs, nasty fine print, or a cavalier approach to our personal data down the road.

The web — and you — deserve better. I’m excited that Mozilla is leading that charge in 2012.

Mozilla seeks designers to supercharge learning in digital badges competition

January 5, 2012 § 6 Comments

Design digital badges for NASA, Intel, Disney-Pixar, the U.S. Department of Education and other leading organizations in the “Badges for Learning” competition. Deadline for entries is January 17.

Help the world level up with NASA, the MacArthur Foundation and Mozilla

Mozilla is seeking designers and developers to participate in the $2 million “Badges for Learning” competition. Participants will have the chance to design digital badges for more than 60 different leading organizations, all aimed at providing recognition for learning that happens on the web or outside of school.

Winners will receive funding from the MacArthur Foundation to make their designs a reality, plus the opportunity to collaborate with Mozilla and other leading organizations in education, industry and government.

The goal: supercharge 21st century learning by building a free, open source badge system that helps people around the world use the web to gain new skills and level up in their life and work.

Why digital badges for learning?

The web provides revolutionary new ways for people to learn, but it’s often difficult to get recognition for learning that happens outside of school.

Mozilla’s Open Badges project aims to help solve this problem, providing software that makes it easy for any organization to award digital badges for learning and achievements that happen online, outside the classroom, or just about anywhere.

Organized by the MacArthur Foundation and HASTAC, the “Badges for Learning” competition provides an ideal opportunity to test this software and approach in the wild, gathering leading organizations, designers and technologists to build badge systems together, all using Mozilla’s free and open source Open Badges Infrastructure.

Collaborators in the "Badges for Learning" competition

From robotics and digital literacy to botany and the environment

As part of the competition, more than 60 badges for learning projects are now open for your design and technical ideas on the competition web site. For example:

Design digital "Robotics Badges" for NASA

Who should enter?

Anyone with an interest in design. Graphic designers, web designers, product or industrial designers, educational technologists, digital humanities majors. What’s important at this stage of the competition is visual and conceptual creativity.

All of the badge projects will ultimately plug into Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure, but it’s not necessary to possess the technical chops to implement at this stage.

All you need is to provide some early visual designs, plus a written description of how your badges will help participating organizations meet their requirements. Visual representations can include a video, diagram, screenshots, napkin sketches or anything that helps get your ideas across. (See the competition web site for complete details.)

Design "Wilderness Explorers" badges for Disney-Pixar

How to get involved

  • Choose a badge project from this list on the competition web site. (These are “Stage 1” winners and collaborators seeking your ideas for the “Stage 2” design and tech portion of the competition.)
  • Then submit your proposal here, with early visual ideas and a written description of how you’d tackle it.

You’re free to enter as many proposals as you’d like — but act quickly. The deadline for submissions is January 17, 2012. Winners will be announced March 2, 2012. Good luck!

IE6 is dead, Firefox lives, and Mozilla is (still) awesome

December 20, 2011 § 9 Comments

Reports of Firefox’s death were greatly exaggerated.

For the last several weeks, we’ve seen a stream of speculative hype and forecasts of doom from many in the tech press. But today, all that’s been put to rest — like we always knew it would be:

And we’re just getting started

As Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs points out, Mozilla is growing, leading, and doubling down on its non-profit mission in crucial new ways: working to create a web literate planet, building a generation of web makers, breaking commercial choke-holds through our vision for apps, setting mobile free, putting people in charge of their online identity, and pushing the web forward.

A nice triple for the open web

As Ryan Merkley pointed out, this week marks an interesting triple play for the open web:

1) Internet Explorer 6, the browser that once threatened to break the internet, is now officially slated for extinction.

Even Microsoft now concedes on its IE6 countdown site that there’s just no place for a non-standards compliant browser:

“…in an era of modern web standards, it’s time to say goodbye.”

Firefox created that era. We’re all now living in the open, standards-based and competitive world Mozilla fought to create.

2) Firefox 9 — the most awesome Firefox yet — just shipped today.

3) And the Mozilla Google deal is done, providing an important revenue stream to continue and expand our non-profit mission for years to come.

It’s a good day to be a Mozillian.

Mozilla web makers round-up: Popcorn wins, Hive buzzes, youth hack

December 14, 2011 § 7 Comments

Our new focus on moving people from using the web to making the web is generating a ton of promising new software, demos, learning resources and activity.

This post is the first in a new weekly series of round-ups that try to summarize that action, created together during our weekly Mozilla Web Maker calls.

The best of these items will feed into a new monthly “Mozilla Web Maker” newsletter. Please sign up here if you’d like to receive it.

Mozilla Popcorn named one of Top Web Developer Tools of 2011

ReadWriteWeb named Popcorn, Mozilla’s HTML5 toolkit for supercharging web video, one of its most promising web developer tools of 2011. “The future of Web media looks good.”

Help shape Hive NYC’s 2012 goals (hint: world domination)

Mozilla Hive NYC is a New York-based learning lab for Mozilla learning and education projects, helping youth acquire digital skills as they make and learn with Mozilla. Chris Lawrence writes about Hive NYC’s goals for 2012, and is seeking your input on how the organization can expand and grow.

Hive NYC is also working on a “how to” toolkit for creating a Hive-style learning network in your city, or a one-off “pop-up” style event similar to the “Hive London” event at last month’s Mozilla Festival.

Check out this fantastic video on Hackasaurus

Hack jams for youth, by youth

The Mozilla Hackasaurus team is training youth to help run hack jams for other youth, building on their recently-released Hacktivity Kit. Check out Jess Klein’s blog posts, and don’t miss these two stellar videos from youth:


Shakespeare goes social: Mozilla Popcorn in the classroom

Mozilla Popcorn supercharges web video, and the implications for learning and education are huge. Community member Kate Hudson’s terrific new demo shows what happens when you mash up social video and Shakespeare to create a powerful new teaching tool. The story got picked up by

Web making  and community building

Alina Mierlus writes about building the Mozilla community in Barcelona by bringing Mozilla’s web maker ethos to new groups:

Two years ago, Mozilla started to explore new ways to advance its mission, grow and rejuvenate the community, diversify our interest domains, and expand focus (go beyond Firefox).

Now, with programs and tools such as Hackasaurus and Popcorn that are getting stronger, and the work on Identity and Apps Ecosystem, there’s a huge opportunity to  build new community (both local and global), inspire others, and promote a new way of working and building relationships.

Stay in touch

Want to stay up to date on what the Mozilla Web Maker community is up to?

Shakespeare goes social: Mozilla Popcorn in the classroom

December 8, 2011 § 4 Comments

What light through yonder Popcorn-powered window breaks?

What can “social video” do for learning?

The hyper-talented Kate Hudson (co-founder of, learning lab shepherd for the Knight-Mozilla project, and a designer on the Mozilla Festival data journalism handbook project) has made an outstanding “Popcorn Shakespeare” demo that highlights the potential of Mozilla Popcorn for learning and education.

I think we’re seeing the birth of a new genre of interactive film — “hyper-video,” “social video,” or pop-up video on steroids — that will revolutionize multimedia in the classroom, and maybe even the lingua franca of learning in general.

Using the web to blend moving images, interaction and context

“Popcorn Shakespeare’s” ingeniously simple user experience: watch video of a Shakespeare performance, then move your mouse away at any point to pause the playback and get help with specific terms or passages you don’t understand. (e.g., “What does ‘Hie thee hither‘ or ‘the golden round‘ mean?”) You can also dig deeper into context or notes from your instructor or peers.

But its more than a glossary tool. You can also navigate the video by clicking directly on portions of the the text (similar to Mark Boas’ work with hyperaudio). Specific terms and passages also get their own URL, so you can skip directly to specific scenes for further study — and begin to “quote” and link to video as easily as you quote text.

Morning Session

Kate Hudson at the Mozilla Festival in London last month

Delivering context and metadata only when you want it

In Tuesday’s weekly Mozilla Web Maker call (which are open to all — please join us), Kate explained that the demo was inspired by seeing other students struggle with the language in Shakespeare’s plays, and the difficulty of looking up every word in a glossary as it occurs in performance. What makes her demo so ingenious is the way she solves this problem with dead simple UX: mouse away and the video stops, mouse back and it seamlessly resumes.

That simple touch helps make the surrounding tools and context timely and relevant, avoiding the “everything but the kitchen sink” problem of many early Mozilla Popcorn demos. Instead of overwhelming viewers with too much information, Popcorn Shakespeare gives you metadata only when you want it.

Turning “lean back” couch potato-ism into “lean forward” learning and interaction

For me, Kate’s demo speaks to the larger potential of social video in the classroom: turning a formerly passive activity (video watching) into an interactive and social experience. This can allow educators to speak the multimedia language that’s native to most learners, while at the same time making it a more engaging, “lean forward” experience than sitting in a darkened room watching some one-way film.

It’s way beyond the educational videos of our youth — transforming video into a canvas for making, learning and playing with moving images and light.

Making your own social video

And of course, the goal is to make it easy for learners to make these social videos themselves, not just consume the work of others. Kate used the more developer-focused and heavy lifting Popcorn.js to produce her Shakespeare demo.  But the more user-friendly “Popcorn Maker” — which just shipped version 0.1 — aims to make it easy for non-developers, filmmakers and youth to make their own social video mash-ups as well, transforming reformed couch potatoes everywhere into web-made movie makers.  “O brave new world, / That has such people in’t!

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