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In the tech space right now you can’t have missed the news about the EC and Microsoft’s landmark settlement, and the Browser Choice screen. Its a historic first step in placing choice directly in the hands of the user. But it is just that, a “first step”.

Creating choice, and advocating for it has been integral to the Mozilla mission since its inception (you will recall going back to a time when there wasn’t another solid browser choice to IE). But choice is nothing if you haven’t been able to learn about the options, and therefore ultimately make a decision that’s right for you.

Last week in association with YouGov in the UK, Mozilla commissioned a survey which concluded 77% of Britons did not know the Browser Choice screen was coming, and that they would soon be asked to choose their browser. So what’s the good of choice if (i) no-one knows there is one and (ii) what’s the right choice for them?

If you’re reading my blog via the Mozilla planet blog, it goes without saying that you understand the implications of the choices you make online, and I bet you’ve been bent on helping those around you understand this for many years. You’re tech savvy and web smart — but how does that lady in the next town from you learn more about why choice matters online? How will she learn why her browser is so important to her online experience, and how will she then make the right choice for herself when the times comes?

Its clear much, much more needs to be done to help citizens understand the online choices which are available, and their implications for the individual and the Web. Everyone should have the right to make an informed choice which is best for them.

I’m proud to be part of Mozilla, who has chosen a path to educate people about the Browser Choice Screen. We started our campaign with an Open Letter from John Lilly (Mozilla CEO) and Mitchell Baker (Mozilla Chair), calling for wider discussion around Web choice and in particular the Browser Choice screen.

I believe we all – as individual custodians of the Web, (and just darn nice people!) that it’s our obligation to make sure more people know how best to choose for themselves. In the case of the Browser Choice screen, it doesn’t matter to me which browser is chosen, or if a decision is made not to make a choice. But it is important to know how a choice of browser affects one’s experience online, and that its important a decision to based on a person’s individual needs, and belief.

What can you do?

  • If you’re a journalist – I urge you to write about the browser choice screen, and help your readers make an informed choice. Provide the facts and raise awareness, you have their ears.
  • If you are a blogger and Internet commentator, also please inform your fans and readers. Everything you can do to help people educate themselves, will ultimately better serve the Web.
  • If you’re an individual who has already made your browser choice,  please help educate someone in your school, office and family to make theirs.

opentochoice.org has been started by Mozilla as a place to learn and discuss online choice. Browser choice is simply the beginning, much more needs to happen to ensure Web users are fully in control of their online lives, and can make choices which best serve their needs. Join us there.

Today, millions of people are celebrating Independence Day in America. Originally, begun to celebrate the Declaration of independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1776, millions are simply celebrating family, togetherness and freedom. Being a Brit with many American friends – some in the US, some in the UK trying to reclaim their dependence, I’ve celebrated many an Independence Day and always enjoyed partaking in the celebration of freedom (the Brits were all too happy to take that away from so many over the centuries).

Since joining Mozilla last year, I’ve spent alot of time thinking about what Freedom means particularly on the Web, and for the Web. Be that Freedom from the often evils of propriety technology, freedom to choose and online privacy, to accessibility and security. Its clear to me that here at Mozilla we have been doing an amazing job with our products and work, but there is a long way to go before the Web is closer to the vision we set out in the original Mozilla Manifesto guiding principles. Every day though we do get a little closer, and the Mozilla community grows a little stronger.

Launching Firefox 3 on June 17th recently, and seeing the amazing 8M+ number of downloads clock up in 24-hours – I was thrilled to see so many people freely making a choice on which Web browser they use. In fact, since those 24 hours, another 22M of you have also made that choice (Firefox 3 was now downloaded more than 30 million times in the last 18 days). To take a trip back down memory lane — some years ago, selecting your Web browser of choice was virtually impossible, there was really only one choice for most people. I’m glad to say we’ve come a long way since those days. Mozilla as an open source project and movement has been pivotal in driving back innovation and bringing forward choice to this most important window on the Web. But the work is by far not done, and we are only at the foot of the mountain.

So today on July 4th, I would urge you to also help promote freedom and choice on the Web.

Tell someone they do have a options,

show them how they can participate,

help them understand they too can help make the Web a better place for everyone.

Happy July 4th!