Objecting to new CEO, resignations sweep Mozilla board: Report

Stephen Shankland/CNET Mozilla announced some management changes Monday, but it turns out the shakeup isn't over yet.


Three members of Mozilla's board resigned over a disagreement over the Firefox developer's promotion of former Chief Technology Officer Brendan Eich to the chief executive job, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday.


Eich took the new job Monday and, in an interview with CNET that day, said two board members had resigned: John Lilly, a former Mozilla CEO who's now working at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, and Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online education company Schmoop. But Mozilla's most recent CEO, Gary Kovacs, no longer appears on the Mozilla board Web site, and Mozilla spokesman Mike Manning confirmed his departure, too, without commenting on any of the directors' reasons.


As those three left, Spiegel Online CEO Katharina Borchert joined. That formed a board of three along with Chairwoman Mitchell Baker, who co-founded Mozilla with Eich, and Netflix CEO Reid Hoffman.


The board members left because they wanted an outside executive whose experience would help Mozilla gain influence in the fast-growing mobile computing industry, the journal reported, citing unnamed sources. Mozilla's mobile version of Firefox has vanishingly small usage, and its mobile operating system, Firefox OS, is a new arrival in a market dominated by Google's Android and Apple's iOS.


Stephen Shankland/CNET

Mozilla, a nonprofit organization with an unusually principled mission to keep the Web open, is an anomaly in the middle of a Silicon Valley generally more concerned with profitable technology startups. But apparently it's not immune to the boardroom politics of more ordinary corporations, and it's philosophical stance perhaps makes it more of a target for disagreements involving social politics, too.


Eich, on a plane to California on Friday evening, couldn't immediately be reached for comment. On Monday, he said Lilly was 'stepping off [the board] to focus on work at Greylock.'


Eich's appointment triggered some protests, including one prominent one from app developer Rarebit.


'As a married gay couple who are co-founders of this venture, we have chosen to boycott all Mozilla projects. We will not develop apps or test styles on Firefox anymore,' said Hampton Catlin, Rarebit CEO. 'Effective today, we're removing Color Puzzle from the Firefox Marketplace and stopping work on all of our Firefox-related applications, notably the about-to-launch Firefox version of the popular Dictionary! app for iPhone and Android.'


Mozilla employees also took to Twitter to protest. 'Have waited too long to say this. I'm an employee of @mozilla and I'm asking @brendaneich to step down as CEO,' tweeted designer Jess Klein.


Mozilla is sensitive to the criticism. 'Our culture of openness extends to letting our staff and community be candid about their views on Mozilla's direction...We expect and encourage Mozillians to speak up when they disagree with management decisions, and carefully weigh all input to ensure our actions are advancing the project's mission.'


Stephen Shankland/CNET In addition, Eich, Baker, and Mozilla itself posted statements on the organization's policy embracing diversity.


'I am committed to ensuring that Mozilla is, and will remain, a place that includes and supports everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, age, race, ethnicity, economic status, or religion,' Eich said in his blog post. 'I know some will be skeptical about this, and that words alone will not change anything. I can only ask for your support to have the time to 'show, not tell'; and in the meantime express my sorrow at having caused pain.


Daniel Glazman, chairman of the World Wide Web Consortium's group that standardizes the Web's CSS formatting technology, wrote a defense of Eich's right to an opinion. 'Pointing...at someone of our community for his/her beliefs can only have one side-effect: people will stop expressing their opinions because they will be afraid of the kickback,' Glazman said. 'That's not the world I want to live in, that's not my concept of democracy and freedom of opinion/speech.'


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