Despite the giggles and snickers, I’ve always been a Mozilla user – I still use the seemingly archaic Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client, and until recently I was a Firefox user – the Chrome App Store did ultimately got me, but I’m sure i’ll switch once Mozilla gets its add-ons and plugins together into a store. In addition, I’ve always been pretty fond of the Mozilla community – I once wrote a post inspired by my Mozillian friend David Bruant about how developers are modern philosophists, solely based on the way he talked about how the Mozilla community functioned – and yet, I couldn’t help but notice, during my last year exploring and discovering the deepest corners of the Parisian startup scene, that Mozilla was nowhere to be seen. Apart from one fateful visit to a hackerspace occupied by squatters, LaQuadrature du Net, and some programmers wearing Firefox t-shirts, I had yet to see Mozilla make its presence known;
I first brought the subject to my good friend Daniel Maher, a former coworker from my days at French startup Plizy, who is now apart of the elusive Mozilla team. He put me in touch with Tristan Nitot, head of the Paris office, and unofficially the head of Mozilla Europe. There may actually be another Mozilla employee with that title, but Tristan founded Mozilla Europe back in 2004, and has been working with Mozilla since its days at Netscape back in 1997.
I met Tristan at the Mozilla Paris office, located smack-dab in the middle of the Parisian startup ‘quartier’, the Silicon Sentier, as they call it. The office has cardboard boxes lining the walls, old thunderbird and firefox posters lining the walls, and, of course, rows of computers indiscfiriminant of maker and operating system. Most of the team there is working on the graphic interface(Gaia) for Boot2Gecko, an open source (of course) operating system that Mozilla announced this past year which is meant to bring smartphone technology to more people. Stepping into the lounge, a colorful room filled with bean bags, I couldn’t help but recognize that no one in the room had a French accent, not even the only Frenchman in the room, Tristan. Introductions included names, projects worked on within Mozilla, as well as city, state, and country of residence. You see, representatives from London and Mountain View had come out to Paris to check out two potential office locations for Mozilla which are between 1000m² and 1400m², located still in the center of the Sentier district.
As Tristan told me about their plans, phrases like “giant coworking space” and “community center” were thrown out at ease. His biggest complaint about the current office is that they can’t even advertise their events or they will exceed maximum capacity. Comparing the new office to offices in San Francisco and London, Tristan talked about having a bar and café, just for visitors.
France has a fairly large Open Data group, and startups here wear the badge “open” with pride, such as Datapero organizers HomeN’Go and qunb. There isn’t much talk of Open Web, though, and France’s Hadopi certainly hasn’t made that much better. Mozilla already has a great community lying dormant throughout France, with no place to congregate; this new Mozilla France office, which is set to open by the end of the year, might just be the change it needs.