Keynote: Designing for Failure with Mozilla's Dan Callahan

How can the Future of Open Source build upon the failures of the past? 2017 is turning to former Mozilla Persona developer, Dan Callahan to help us understand.

1 November 2016

One of the great frontiers of open source is in public infrastructure: Open standards built around Open Source code should, in theory, allow developers to select infrastructure without fear of vendor lock-in.

But who deploys that infrastructure? And what happens when major deployers of that infrastructure go away?

We’re delighted to welcome Dan Callahan to 2017’s keynote stage, to share important lessons from such a piece of Open Source infrastructure. is being held in Hobart, Tasmania from Monday 16 January 2017 until Friday 20 January 2017. Tickets are now on sale: you can find out more about our ticket options from /attend

Dan works as a Software Engineer in Developer Relations at Mozilla, whom he joined five years ago to work on Persona, a decentralised browser-based identity and authentication system, which aimed to replace passwords on the web with stronger cryptographic approaches.

Persona has been covered previously at, including in 2013, where presenter François Marier underscored the importance of open source identity projects for the security and privacy of users, stating that:

“Identity is a very significant piece of Internet infrastructure, and so it is critical that the solution that gets widely adopted be free-as-in-freedom, cross-browser, distributed and ruthlessly focused on making it easy for developers and end-users.”

Despite noble goals and clear needs, development on Persona was halted three years ago, and Mozilla plan to shut down the servers for Persona by the end of 2016.

Dan’s keynote, Designing for Failure, is a retrospective of the technical and human factors encountered during the shutdown of Persona: Why didn’t Persona succeed? How did the shutdown affect the organisations that depended upon Persona? And why, despite being a protocol with an open specification, didn’t a community-backed replacement for Persona emerge?

We’ll get the answers to these questions and more, but Dan asks a deeper question: "How can we design software and services robust enough to not just gracefully degrade, but to gracefully die?"

Come and learn from the past, so that we can better build the robust, decentralised Open Source infrastructure of the future.

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