The Power of 10%

At Dries' keynote at Drupalcon Copenhagen today, he talked about what the Drupal project might look like in 10 more years, and what it might mean if the project grows by a factor of 10. I'd like to elaborate a bit on his theme by making an analogy with Mozilla Firefox.

Depending on your data source, Firefox has about a 30% share of the browser market. That number is meaningful---it presents a real threat to the market share of other browsers. It means that Firefox is a true competitor, and other browser manufacturers have no choice but to respond to features and innovations that Firefox introduces. That turns out to have incredibly powerful consequences.

Consider this breakdown of browser market share from July 2010:

Browser | Share
------- | -----
Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 | 17%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 7 | 11%
Microsoft Internet Explorer 8 | 27%
Mozilla Firefox | 31%
Google Chrome | 8%
Apple Safari | 5%
Opera | 2%

These numbers tell an interesting story. Firefox has much better standards compliance than IE 6 did, so IE 7 and IE 8 were both forced to be substantially more standards-compliant than they probably would have been otherwise. Firefox has ad-blocking plugins, so the official Chrome extensions gallery is forced to allow an ad-blocking extension even though clearly Google of all companies has reasons to be opposed to web ad-blocking software.

Firefox has just a 31% market share. However, based on the browsers it has influenced, Firefox arguably has had an influence share of 77% (IE7 + IE8 + Chrome + Firefox). That means that more than 3/4 of the browser market is more open, more standards compliant, and more public-friendly than it probably would have been if Internet Explorer had been able to keep its once seemingly unassailable dominant position in the browser market.

The Mozilla Foundation's mission is "to promote openness, innovation, and opportunity on the web." Certainly Mozilla wants Firefox to continue to thrive, but even if it somehow completely vanished tomorrow, to a large extent it wouldn't matter. Tremendous progress towards Firefox's and Mozilla's mission has been achieved and will continue to be achieved in the future because of Firefox's past success. And Firefox isn't going anywhere, of course, so the benefits will only continue to grow.

So, what does this mean for Drupal?

If Drupal were 10 times bigger, it would serve 10% of the web. As with Firefox, however, Drupal's influence (our influence) on the future of web, community building, data and information sharing, etc. will be a lot more than just 10 times bigger. If we get 10 times bigger, survive for a while, and then somehow fade away... we will already have caused more community features in other CMS's, more openness and freedom into social business software, more content-building flexibility into site-building software, more transparency in government, more of a lot of things we all find important. The Drupal community will have contributed to making the world a permanently better place.

What better mission is there than that?

Acknowledgment: This post was inspired by a recent conversation I had with Luis Villa, currently an attorney for the Mozilla Foundation but also a long-time open source guy.