Eich Falls on Sword for Mozilla

Mozilla Foundation cofounder Brendan Eich — whose recent appointment as CEO of subsidiary Mozilla Corp. sparked an uproar — on Thursday stepped down from the post in a bid to keep the company viable.

Foundation cofounder and CEO Mitchell Baker painted the move as a return to the foundation’s core principles, noting that Eich made the decision “for Mozilla and our community.”

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

Eich’s appointment as CEO, and his resignation, have raised questions about bigotry and freedom of speech.

Does a man have the right to contribute to causes he believes in, and should those actions impact his work? Where do we draw the line, and who says what the line is?

The appointment also raises questions about the open community process at Mozilla. The foundation learned about Eich’s stance on gay marriage in 2012, according to Baker, and it came as a shock. However, it was discussed in the community process, and Mozilla decided to go ahead with Eich’s appointment to the CEO post anyway.

Reaction to Eich’s Stepping Down

Eich’s latest move has triggered yet another furor.

The gay developers at Teamrarebit, whose criticism of Eich’s appointment kicked off the outcry against him, said he’d be a “great CEO” if he reconsidered his attitude and issued an apology.

Credoaction.com, which launched a petition to Mozilla calling on Eich to reverse his stance, resign or be replaced, welcomed his resignation as “an important moment for the Mozilla community and a critical development in our ongoing fight for equality and the open web.”

The Courage Campaign, a California-based grassroots advocacy organization, declared that Mozilla had “once again reaffirmed its credibility as a thoroughly progressive institution.”

Some prominent high-tech figures applauded Eich’s move as being good for Mozilla but decried what they saw as negative implications for free speech.

HumanEvents.com, a conservative blog, described the resignation as an example of mob rule.

Nonaligned Views on the Issue

“Brendan was clearly caught in an issue which has experienced a rapid shift over the last couple of years,” said Al Hilwa, a program director at IDC Seattle.

“What might have seemed a matter of opinion a couple of years ago is becoming a civil and even a human rights issue. It is ironic that this befell Mozilla, since the rapid pace of change in such issues is clearly related to the acceleration of our digital world ushered in by the Internet itself,” he told LinuxInsider.

“While many people’s attitudes towards same-sex marriage have changed during the past two years, Eich’s have not,” remarked Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. “That does not necessarily make him wrong or evil — just out of step.”

Is the Open Process Broken?

Eich’s colleagues at the Mozilla Foundation learned about a US$1,000 contribution he made to Prop. 8, a 2008 anti-gay marriage California state constitutional amendment, according to Re/code.

After discussing this in the open community process, they decided to appoint him CEO anyway.

“That was naivet,” Mukul Krishna, senior global director for digital media at Frost & Sullivan, told LinuxInsider. “They probably thought that since the issue did not blow up in their face when it was first brought up, people would be fine with his appointment to the CEO post.”

However, as CEO, Eich “would represent the company, its ideology and vision,” and that’s where the trouble began, Krishna suggested. “You’re talking about a company that depends on the community, not a company like the Koch brothers would run.”

In the wake of the uproar, opined King, “I expect some fundamental changes to the community’s processes are being considered or are under way.”

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

8 Comments

  • I would like to know if the people calling for his ouster will immediately agree to not use any of Mr Eich’s intellectual property including JavaScript on any platform mobile / internet / network???

    • Are you saying that, if you create something useful, people who wish to use it must first excuse you from the obligation to be a halfway decent human being?

  • I don’t believe anyone would think he was a suitable CEO if he’d given $1000 to a campaign against interracial marriage. His supporters are merely saying that homophobia is an acceptable prejudice.

    This is not merely a matter of a guy having the right to his opinion: it’s a CEO holding an opinion which would prevent his employees having confidence that they will treated fairly.

    Imagine your spouse falls ill, you need to take compassionate leave to care for them, and granting that leave is discretionary. How would you like to ask someone who doesn’t recognise the validity of your marriage to exercise that discretion?

  • It’s rather sad, in my opinion, that he chose to step down rather than take the time to fully explain himself and his thinking, and perhaps reconsider his attitude.

    As things stand there is the appearance that while he may well have run the organisation as he stated in his blog, he did not feel comfortable having to support equal rights for LGBT people.

    Now I guess we will never know.

    • I take it you are right wing, yes? So why are you not cheering as this is a PERFECT example of the free market working! Company hires a CEO many don’t agree with, many choose not to use their products, urge others not to use their products, company looks at losses and decides it not worth it.

      How is that not a perfect example of the free market in action? NO government action or coercion , just a good old fashion grass roots voting with our dollars. Or are the only ones allowed to vote with their wallets those that agree with you?

      THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH LIBERTY, period the end. the government has done NOTHING to stop his right to free speech, okay? You can be the most racist, or bigoted person on the planet but NOWHERE does it say i have to agree with or support your bigotry, okay? No differently than if i refuse to do business with the WBC or white power groups.

      • @hairyfeet: "I take it you are right wing, yes?"

        No. But since you _think_ I am, you’ll ask your friends in the gay lynch mob to pressure my employer to fire me, too? Just the "free market" in action, right?

        So this is the depth to which liberalism has sunk – not like we used to practice, where we argued and won on the _facts_, but employing fear, intimidation, economic warfare, and character assassination to silence our opponents.

        Cowards.

        If someone’s political position frightens you so much that you feel you must try to destroy his career to avoid countering his arguments, perhaps you should examine your own political position?

  • SO anyone who disagrees with Mozilla’s political positions should leave? OK, didn’t know the rule. Deleting Firefox now.

    No liberty, no interest. Period.

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