As if battling Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Google’s Chrome browser weren’t enough, now Firefox browser producer Mozilla has stirred up controversy with its recent appointment of Brendan Eich as the open-source software organization’s CEO.
News that, in 2008, Eich made a $1,000 contribution to the campaign for Proposition 8, an amendment to ban same-sex marriage in California, has made him a wildly controversial figure.
As the Guardian recently phrased it, Mozilla positions itself as a “global community of people who believe that openness, innovation and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet … [and so] it feels counterintuitive to the organization’s aims to let such things go unchecked.”
“Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OKCupid,” the company said in a message on its site, the BBC first reported.
After the appointment of Eich, three members of the Mozilla board resigned, The Wall Street Journal reported March 28. Two of them, Gary Kovacs and John Lilly, were former Mozilla CEOs; the third, Ellen Siminoff, is the CEO of the online education startup Shmoop.
(According to a later report from Ars Technica, the members left for unrelated reasons. Two of them, a Mozilla spokesperson said in a statement, had been “planning to leave for some time,” while the third planned to leave after the CEO search was complete.)
Their departures leave Mozilla with now three board members: co-founder Mitchell Baker; Katharina Borchert, CEO of German news site Spiegel Online; and Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn.
Eich tried to patch up the damage in a March 26 post on the Mozilla blog, not apologizing for his action or explaining his stance, but promising to do all he can to foster equality for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) employees at Mozilla and to make them feel welcome.
He promised an “active commitment to equality in everything we do, from employment to events to community-building”; to work with LGBT communities and allies; to back Mozilla’s ongoing commitment to anti-discrimination policies and company guidelines and the “spirit that underlies all of these”; and his personal commitment to “work on new initiatives to reach out to those who feel excluded or who have been marginalized in ways that makes their contributing to Mozilla and to open source difficult.”
He additionally asked for Mozilla to let him “show, not tell” his support, and expressed his “sorrow at having caused pain.”
A petition on Credo.com demanding that Eich “reverse his anti-gay stance, resign or be replaced” now has more than 70,800 signatures toward the 100,000 it’s hoping for.
“The people at Mozilla and their massive community of users deserve better than a leader that advocates for inequality and hate,” said the petition. “CEO Brendan Eich should make an unequivocal statement of support for marriage equality. If he cannot, he should resign. And if he will not, the board should fire him immediately.”