Browsing The Future: Mozilla’s Firefox gave Microsoft a run for its money. What’s next?

At least 18 percent of you already know what Firefox is, because you’re using it to read this interview. (Or so says the statistics engine behind, which tracks things like that.) For the unfamiliar, Firefox is a free Web browser that is built by coders around the world whose open-source work is organized by the Mozilla Corp. and its nonprofit parent, the Mozilla Foundation. Introduced in 2004 as an alternative to Microsoft’s ubiquitous, but buggy, Internet Explorer, Firefox has been a force for innovation in the browser category, with improvements such as tabbed browsing and plug-ins that work on any operating system.Commissions from search engines appear to keep Mozilla awash in revenue for now ($75 million in 2007; the foundation has not released 2008 data), although the vast majority of that comes from a company, Google, that now has its own competing browser, Chrome. Mozilla’s plans for 2009 include a new version of Firefox, which will focus on user-interface polish; an overhaul of Thunderbird, its e-mail client; and taking Firefox mobile. Mitchell Baker, the Mozilla Foundation’s chairwoman, spoke to NEWSWEEK’s Nick Summers and Barrett Sheridan about the challenges of making a browser for mobile phones, adapting to a socially networked universe and what she really thinks of Chrome and Internet Explorer.

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