We hear that the Mozilla Foundation is
buying hiring three of the principle folks from Humanized, a small software user-interface shop in Chicago founded by Aza Raskin, the son of famous Apple interface designer Jef Raskin. Humanized has been working on improving the UI of both desktop and Web-based software, with projects like Enso and music search engine Songza. While we don’t know the amount that Mozilla is paying for Humanized, we understand the acquisition is more of a talent buy.
Songza, which is a Crunchies nominee in the best design category, was spun off as a separate company in December and is not part of the deal. Neither executives from Humanized nor Songza would comment on the deal.
Expect to see the Humanized team, which is about a half-dozen folks, not all of whom will be going to Mozilla, put their UI chops to work on Firefox or other yet-to-be-announced software projects. Perhaps new desktop apps that work both online and offline and are separate from the browser? Whatever it is, we can’t wait to see what they come up with.
Update: Mozilla CEO John Lilly confirms his interest in Humanized, but says it is being done as a straight employment agreement, not an acquisition. In a note to me, he says:
Mozilla has hired 3 of the principals from Humanized. They will be joining the Mozilla Labs team on January 16, 2008. We expect a lot of innovation work from them, some Firefox-related, some broader, just like everything else in Mozilla Labs. This was not an acquisition. No premium was paid and no intellectual property was acquired by Mozilla.
The work done by the Humanized principals speaks for itself — there are lots of great, web-relevant ideas in their work and we’re excited to have them join Mozilla.
The four main people at Humanized are Raskin, John DiCarlo, Atul Varma, and Andrew Wilson. Raskin will be joining with two of the others.
Update 2: Aza Raskin speaks. He now tells me:
I am not at liberty to say which founders will be coming with me to Mozilla. However, I will say that the person who is not coming has decided to follow their dream of pursuing ground-to-orbit transfer vehicles and jet-propulsion research. Although I am deeply sad to no longer be working with him directly, if anybody can make space travel a reality, it’s him. He’s one of the top 3 smartest people I know.
The goal of Enso, Humanized’s flagship product, is to make computers more usable for everyone. You shouldn’t need to care about which application or web service has the functionality you want — you should just be able to use that functionality anywhere. You should be able to spellcheck your file names, add maps to your emails, and translate your IMs by simply telling your computer what you want.
There is clearly a lot in common with that goal and Mozilla’s goals. Although I don’t know what the final form will be, there is a huge opportunity to make both the web and the desktop fundamentally more humane.