With the help of some non-profit agency grant funding, Mozilla is working to make the internet a place that fosters better discussion and more reader-centric but newsworthy content. After securing around $3.9 million from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which provides significant funding to groups that are promoting new practices in journalism, Mozilla and two major news outlets are building a platform that will offer not only better reader comments’ sections, but will also leverage the ability of readers to create and post content.
As a key supporter of open standards in the internet, non-profit Mozilla–the creators of the Firefox web browser, among other innovations–is working with The New York Times and The Washington Post on this initiative. Currently, news sites have to screen reader comments before posting immediately, which can not only be a drain on manpower but can also lead to readers leaving the website. With advertising considerations, sites want readers to spend as much time as possible on their websites; the bigger issue, of course, is that readers cannot stay engaged in the discourse if they have to wait for their comments to be approved.
It’s also possible that a lot of the notoriously bad behavior found in the comments sections of news sites and other posting platforms stems from that same feeling of disconnectedness. If commenters know that their feedback is valued and contributes to the ongoing dialogue, there is a valid hope that their comments will be more purposeful. As it stands, sites that require difficult login processes don’t get as much reader feedback, but those that allow basic anonymous commenting get the “grenade effect” of tossing a commentary grenade into the room and evacuating.
More importantly, this joint effort will also allow readers to submit more than pithy diatribe. The goal is to build a platform that fluidly accepts links, photos, videos, and more, all contributed by reader-users. With three powerhouses at the helm of this project, several other publishers have already announced that their sites are anticipating an upcoming rebuild in order to change the way dialogue happens online.