We met with professors and graduate students at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, one of the top universities in Brazil, to learn more about the state of the internet here. While most of the professors were in computer science, we also had and a business and economics professor who studies the business case for open source. According to the professors, the computer science program at FURJ had the first website in Latin America, so this is diehard group.
We then spoke to a group of about 100 students who hung around for almost 3 hours for questions and answers, with many who stayed longer for pictures with us (and by us, I mean Asa). The focus of our presentation was about the past, present and future of Mozilla and how they could be a part of it, with a focus on spreading Firefox. All of the CS students have to complete a “senior project” of sorts and one of the top professors in the school volunteered to “supervise” any student project that deals with Firefox. They also were kind enough to run us quickly by the “world’s deepest pool,” which is used to measure the impact of waves and win on oil rigs, boats and supposedly Oral-B toothbrush commercials.
That evening, we hosted a gathering of students, bloggers, professors and computer professionals to begin brainstorming on how we can spread Firefox in Brazil. Lots of different ideas came up, but people kept coming back to an Orkut extension contest (will do more on the session when we get back). Another interesting question many people brought up was whether the fact that most people at home access the internet in Brazil through dial-up causes people to be less likely to download Firefox because it would be too slow. We didn’t have the answer, but it would be interesting to look if we see a strong correlation with broadband connectivity and Firefox adoption in other regions.
On Saturday, we met with and Asa was interviewed by the Brazil Journal, which is Rio’s oldest newspaper. The cameraman and reporter were huge Firefox fans. The article comes out on Monday online and in print.
Asa took some great photo’s of our meetings on Friday—check them out!
Overall, here is a quick overview of some of the things we have learned:
- There is a strong, passionate group of open source advocates who are excited to work on behalf of Mozilla
- Some 10 million people (roughly 35% of all of Brazil’s internet population) uses Orkut (the social networking site) in a month
- While Google is the most popular search engine (it is suggested that one of the main reasons is their simple home page loaded fastest on everyone’s slow dial-up—off course in addition to having great search), the MSN properties are quite popular (in fact, just slightly smaller than Google). Popular services include MSN Live Messenger, Hotmail and Live.com.
- The top portal and one of the top ISP's is UOL, (many compare them to our AOL). We meet with them in a few days, so will have more to say on them then.
- Website compatibility is an issue (years ago, we had did a lot of work to get the top banks and e-commerce sites to work with Firefox, but this is a reoccurring theme among people we talk to). Many, if not most, of the older web developers/IT managers for Brazilian did not have formal training and are self-taught—so standards aren’t necessarily something they are familiar with (I am pretty sure this isn't unique to Brazil, but this was something many thought was important to note).
- Soccer is beyond huge (this is something I “knew” coming in, but I had no idea how big it is here)…everyone wants a browser skin of their team (personas anyone?)
Once we get back, we will do a more thorough presentation and blog post detailing the trip, the takeaways and the follow-up needed. Of course, we would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions.