Tech giants rally to keep Mozilla's dev bible alive

Open Web Docs injects $500,000 into the web-development handbook used by engineers across the industry

Google, Microsoft and Samsung are among a handful of tech companies that have banded together to financially support one of the most significant development repositories created.

Open Web Docs is a collaborative project that’s been established to fund and resource the Mozilla Development Network (MDN) Web Docs repository, widely considered the definitive industry handbook for web development.

This group, comprising Google, Microsoft, Mozilla, Coil, W3C, Samsung and Igalia, has been formed to support the community of technical writers behind the strategic creation and long-term maintenance of web development documentation. 

Created in 2005 by Mozilla, MDN Web Docs serves as an all-encompassing repository for developers working in HTML and JavaScript among other languages to build web-based apps and platforms. 

The repository’s future was threatened when Mozilla made a round of 250 job cuts last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, however. This has sprung a number of large tech companies, including Mozilla, to establish a new model for funding and maintaining this critical resource used by developers across the industry.

Although Open Web Docs is a broad initiative that’ll support various documentation resources, the group’s current priority is garnering contributions to support MDN Web Docs, according to its Q&A.

“Open Web Docs was created to ensure the long-term health of web platform documentation on de facto standard resources like MDN Web Docs, independently of any single vendor or organization,” said global lead for programs and initiatives, web developer relations, at Google, Robert Nyman.

“Through full-time staff, community management, and our network of partner organisations, we enable these resources to better maintain and sustain documentation of core web platform technologies. Rather than create new documentation sites, Open Web Docs is committed to improving existing platforms through our contributions.”

The group has received more than $500,000 (approximately £366,000) in funding so far from its founding sponsors Coil, Google and Microsoft and others, as well as individual donations from the wider development community. 

Technical writer and documentation engineer Florian Scholz joined the project in November 2020 as its content lead and will work with stakeholders to define the initial pathways Open Web Docs will pursue. 

The immediate priorities for 2021 will centre on supporting Mozilla’s MDN writers and engineers in an infrastructure transition, as well as progressing key documentation work. This will involve building up the community of contributors around web technology documentation, browser compatibility data, and improving JavaScript documentation.

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