A Few Good Foxes

Reflecting on life after Content Services

When I joined the Content Services team 18 months ago, I knew we’d be working on big, experimental things. After all, our mandate was to create a new revenue stream for Mozilla while advancing content discovery and user privacy on Firefox New Tab. Over time, I would learn that big, experimental things are made possible only by a few, wickedly smart, and hugely-dedicated people.

We had a lot to prove from the very beginning – both internally, and externally. Nevertheless, a team of roughly 30 people managed to achieve tremendous success in spite of immense challenges. We developed an Add-On that allows users to analyze their interests on the Web, built an entire advertising technology stack, landed a commercially-viable product in Firefox New Tab, raised millions in revenue for the Mozilla organization, and signed contracts with several major content partners. Meanwhile, users were always provided direct control over their experience – including the choice to opt-out at any time from content suggestions. Simply put, Content Services either met or exceeded every goal we were given.

I was therefore deeply saddened by Mozilla’s decision to dissolve the Content Services team and wind-down all advertising activities in its Firefox products.

+++++

Hearing that all your projects are being cancelled is one thing. Learning that your team will cease to exist is quite another. Naturally, emotions are strong and abundant at first. But after letting the news sink in for a bit, I now find myself feeling mostly one thing:

Gratitude.

Even if our collective work is ultimately forgotten, this team certainly won’t be. Over the 15 years I’ve been a creative professional, never have I worked with a group of people who were more willing, able, and committed to one another. Truly, they all demonstrated the qualities anyone could hope for in their teammates…

The Marketing & Communications Team fought to advance our message through collaboration and transparency – not meaningless “messaging”. They sough everyone’s input, allowed for widespread contribution, and demanded that the user’s voice was heard clearest. Above all, they helped us all see the bigger picture, and what was at stake for the industry.

The Business Development, Client Success, and Business Operations Teams were world class. Content Services started with literally nothing. No product. No partners. No research. But somehow they brokered relationships with publishers like Condé Nast, and advertisers like TOMS – amassing an inventory of suggested content that could all be delivered to interested users, while respecting their privacy, and without the tracking. (If you’ve never been in the “ad industry”, that’s crazy talk.) These gals and guys killed it, each and every day – and by doing so won the trust of their teammates and partners alike.

The Product Team approached everything with users foremost in mind. They wanted our products to deliver actual value, not just support a mission or business goals. To this end, research and usability testing were central to their thinking. And no matter what, they were always down to experiment.

The Engineering Team was capable of anything. They didn’t just build an ad stack, they built one that actively protects individual data. Privacy, in other words, was “baked in” from the beginning. As a result, Content Services was able to partner with top-tier partners, while delivering on our promise to respect user identity (instead of collecting and/or selling it). More importantly, their commitment was extraordinary – going so far as manually publishing suggested content late into the night.

Of course, none of this would have happened without The Leadership and CS Operational Support Teams. Their contribution to our progressive success cannot be understated. In two years, a team of 12 grew to over 30… without a single person quitting. The ship held and the crew pulled together, regardless of the storms we faced – and that’s straight-up amazing.

So thanks, everyone, for letting me ride this crazy ride with you. Wherever each of us lands in the coming months, the Content Services Team will forever be without equal at Mozilla. The technology we built, the users we impacted, and the mission we advanced were well worth the fight – and fighting alongside you has been a pleasure.

The Open Web is better off today because of your contributions.

-A

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