Brendan Eich's Departure Will Mar Mozilla but Not Stop Its Innovation

NEWS ANALYSIS: Brendan Eich's resignation soon after being named Mozilla CEO will scar the company, but it won't likely halt its major tech initiatives.


Brendan Eich was a key figure in the foundation of Mozilla, and his departure will be questioned and felt for a long time. Eich was named CEO of Mozilla March 24 but resigned April 3 after backlash over a 2008 contribution made in support of a California proposition to ban same-sex marriages.

When Eich was first named CEO, I was confident that he was the right person for the job—based on his technical merits. What has happened since his appointment is a failure of communications and public relations that, if it weren't so tragic, would be comedic.

Eich had been part of Mozilla since day one. He was not a new hire for Mozilla on March 24; it was just a new position with added responsibilities. Eich had been working as the CTO of Mozilla and strangely the same people that objected to his becoming CEO on March 24 were not vocal the day before, when he was just the CTO.

As CTO, Eich helped develop and set technical direction for Mozilla and its technologies that are used by hundreds of millions of people every day. Even more important, Eich is also the inventor of JavaScript, a language that is widely used on the Web and supported in every browser platform. Why isn't there a boycott of JavaScript?

Eich made the controversial donation of $1,000 in support of California's proposition 8 banning same-sex marriage in 2008; that was six years ago.

(Personally, and for the record, I strongly believe in freedom for all, in marriage as in all things.)

Those within Mozilla's executive ranks and board of directors all likely were aware of the issue before Eich was named CEO. That's where the failure of Mozilla's communications and public relations efforts comes into play.

Instead of being open and in front of the issue, which is how effective public relations is done, Mozilla did not effectively communicate with its own community or with the press about the issue.

In fact, I received only one single, solitary email from Mozilla about the whole incident and then it was only to notify me that Eich had resigned.

An effective PR team would have been more active and would have been all over the issue, aggressively and proactively scheduling interviews and press conferences to communicate the facts properly.

It is ironic that Mozilla—an organization that is so open that an outsider can look at code commits and listen in on weekly meeting calls did not extend the same openness to its leadership decision.

The whole incident will undoubtedly scar Mozilla for months (if not years) to come, but it won't likely halt progress on any of the open-source group's major initiatives.

FirefoxOS is Mozilla's mobile operating system effort and a technology effort in which Eich had a guiding hand. At the time of the official FirefoxOS launch in February 2013, Eich was front and center. FirefoxOS development was always bigger than just Eich, and it will continue to move along with technical leadership from individuals like Andreas Gal, vice president of mobile at Mozilla, who was also a co-founder of the Boot-to-Gecko effort that is at the foundation of FirefoxOS.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.