Mozilla: Meet Sarbanes-Oxley (and Henry Blodget)
The insufferable Henry Blodget, the disgraced securities analyst who is barred from working in the securities industry (he met up with Eliot Spitzer), is back to his usual chatter. He's pushing for Mozilla to go public. He even recommends that Mozilla buy the Netscape brand and change the company's name to Netscape. Mozilla COO John Lilly responds by saying that Firefox/Mozilla is *not* going to IPO. CEO Mitchell Baker states that "For the foreseeable future, browsers are a fundamental part of Internet life. Firefox is a key component of keeping the web open, interoperable and participatory. Thus the importance of its public benefit nature." In the end, these two gentlemen got it exactly right: Mozilla should not go public.
Blodget argues that Mozilla could be worth a lot on the public market and may go public this year or next. While acknowledging the perils of going public— primarily Sarbanes-Oxley costs—Blodget says that Mozilla could build a nice business simply by slapping an ad or two on the default landing page. And for good measure Blodget says that Firefox should buy the Netscape brand and rename the company. Hmmm. Is Blodget having dot-com boom fantasies again? Maybe not—although renaming a company after a dead brand like Netscape doesn't make sense. Dead brands rarely come back. WordPerfect? Pan-Am? ...As a public company it would be distracted and the product would suffer. You think Firefox can be weighty now? Just wait until Mozilla would have to monetize it. ...I'd love to be more optimistic, but Netscape got creamed. Opera isn't exactly knocking the ball out of the park. And Firefox going public would only accomplish one thing: Providing a market price so Google could buy it. Why not cash out? Mozilla the movement is hard for Microsoft to defend against. Mozilla the public company is outgunned on every level.