Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich Steps Down After Backlash

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Brendan Eich resigns as Mozilla CEO because of the furious backlash to his stance on gay-marriage

Brendan Eich’s tenture as CEO of Mozilla is over, as Chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced his resignation in an 3 April blog post.

Eich was promoted to the role of CEO 24 March, and since then controversy has surrounded the company, which makes the Firefox Web browser and mobile operating system.

Gay Marriage

While Eich’s resume is solid – he was most recently Mozilla’s CTO and is the inventor of JavaScript – his politics, Mozilla employees and the public were quick to point out, weren’t in sync with the ethos of the company, which prides itself on openness.

mozilla-foundationThe controversy arose over the news that in 2008 Eich made a $1,000 (£603) political contribution to the campaign for Proposition 8, an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California.

“Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn’t live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: It’s because we haven’t stayed true to ourselves,” wrote Baker.

Eich, she said, made the decision to step down, “for Mozilla and for our community.”

“Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard,” Baker went on.

Hounded Out?

Following Eich’s appointment as CEO, three members of Mozilla’s board resigned, two of them former Mozilla CEOs. (The company released a statement later saying that the resignations were unrelated to Eich’s new role.) On dating site OKCupid 31 March, members were met with a message saying that the site preferred users didn’t access it using Mozilla software, since Eich “is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples.”

Eich had quickly scurried to set things right, promising in a 25 March blog post to do all he could to foster equality for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) employees at Mozilla, as well as promote equality throughout the company, from its guidelines to employment and community-building events.

He didn’t say he regretted his position or had changed his mind, but asked the Mozilla community to let him “show, not tell” his support and expressed regret for “having caused pain.”

Whether he regretted hurting people wasn’t the point for many.

On, a petition calling for Eich to “reverse his anti-gay stance, resign or be replaced” climbed toward its goal of 100,000 signatures. (As of 3 April, the petition had been taken down, with a message from Credo saying it had been “disabled.”)

Tolerance And Diversity

Others wondered, in opinion pieces, whether a CEO’s personal beliefs were the business of his employer – or those he employs.

On SFGate, Debra Saunders shuddered at the bullying of Eich to fold on his position.

“So now the Internet has a sign that warns: If you don’t support same-sex marriage, get out of the sandbox. If they beat Eich, the fear will spread, and the next dissenter will submit quickly,” she wrote. “All hail tolerance and diversity.”

Mozilla’s Baker concluded her post by suggesting we all now turn our attention back to the Internet – and to feeling good about the once-underdog Mozilla.

“We need to put our focus back on protecting [the] Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla,” wrote Baker.

She added that it’s as-yet unclear who will replace Eich, though more information will be offered next week – and Mozilla plans to be much more open about its decision making this time.

“Our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just,” Baker wrote. “That’s what it means to protect the open Web.”

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Originally published on eWeek.

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