A Week Into His New Job, Controversy Forces Mozilla CEO To Resign

Apr 3, 2014
Originally published on April 4, 2014 6:22 am

Brendan Eich, embattled co-founder of Mozilla and creator of the JavaScript programming language, has stepped down from his new role as CEO of Mozilla, the nonprofit foundation and tech company behind the Firefox browser.

After being appointed to the chief position last week, Eich became embroiled in controversy that pitted the foundational values of his company — equal rights and free speech — against one another. In his private past, Eich had donated to Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that defined marriage as only between a man and a woman. Several employees — and another Internet company, OkCupid — responded by saying this kind of position was hurtful and untenable for the leader of Mozilla.

The ensuing controversy led to a pitched and public back-and-forth featuring several "Mozillians," whose values of openness were on display as they wrestled with these issues in personal blog posts. In a blog post, the company and foundation explained Eich's decision this way:

"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.

"We didn't act like you'd expect Mozilla to act. We didn't move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We're sorry. We must do better.

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He's made this decision for Mozilla and our community."

What's next for the company's leadership isn't yet clear. Mozilla says it will make a decision in the coming weeks. Read the full Mozilla post.

Our original post on the controversy is here.

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NPR's business news begins with a reluctant resignation.


WERTHEIMER: The CEO of Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox Internet browser, stepped down yesterday, less than two weeks in the job, over a private political donation he made many years ago.

NPR's Elise Hu reports.

ELISE HU, BYLINE: Brendan Eich is a technologist who created a popular programming language, JavaScript. He still talks about it speeches, like this one in 2012.

BRENDAN EICH: I try to be the benevolent non-dictator of JavaScript, we're making it super fast.

HU: Eich is also the co-founder of Mozilla - a company and foundation dedicated to the open Web. For years, Eich has served as the company's chief technology officer. But when the board named him CEO last week, his personal political past got a much bigger profile.

In 2008, Eich donated $1,000 to California's anti-gay marriage ballot measure. While Eich sought to distance this donation from his commitment to Mozilla's open, inclusive culture, employees publicly debated whether Eich was the right choice to head the company.

AMY SEPINWALL: I think that your private life really does get to be quite eclipsed when you're holding that role.

HU: Amy Sepinwall is a professor of business ethics and law at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. And she says a personal stance on this issue is particularly hard to separate from a company's culture.

SEPINWALL: It touches the lives of the CEO's employees in ways that other kinds of commitments do not.

HU: So Eich succumbed to pressure to step down. Mozilla's board chair writes, quote, "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right. It's because we haven't stayed true to ourselves."

Elise Hu, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.