Firefox chief steps down three days after OkCupid blockade

Brendan Eich, the well-known techie who has gotten swept up in a controversy about his support of California’s anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8, is resigning as CEO of for-profit Mozilla Corporation and also from the board of the nonprofit foundation which wholly owns it.

Mozilla confirmed the change in a blog post.

In several interviews this week, Eich had insisted that he would not step down from the job he was only recently appointed to, due to the intense backlash over a $1,000 donation he made in 2008 in support of the ballot measure to ban gay marriage.

“So I don’t want to talk about my personal beliefs because I kept them out of Mozilla all these 15 years we’ve been going,” he said to the Guardian, for example, yesterday. “I don’t believe they’re relevant.”

Not so, of course. In an interview this morning, Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said that Eich’s ability to lead the company that makes the Firefox Web browser had been badly damaged by the continued scrutiny over the hot-button issue, which had actually been known since 2012 inside the Mozilla community.

“It’s clear that Brendan cannot lead Mozilla in this setting,” said Baker, who added that she would not and could not speak for Eich. “The ability to lead — particularly for the CEO — is fundamental to the role and that is not possible here.”

She said that Eich — who created the JavaScript programming language, among other prominent computing achievements — had not been forced to resign by her or others on its board, which includes prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Reid Hoffman.

“I think there has been pressure from all sides, of course, but this is Brendan’s decision,” Baker said. “Given the circumstances, this is not surprising.”

Indeed, those circumstances included vocal protests on Twitter by Mozilla staffers and a call by the OkCupid dating site to not use Firefox.

Brendan Eich Steps Down as Mozilla CEO

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.

Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.

Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.

We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.

While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better.

We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla.

What’s next for Mozilla’s leadership is still being discussed. We want to be open about where we are in deciding the future of the organization and will have more information next week. However, our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that’s what it means to protect the open Web.

We will emerge from this with a renewed understanding and humility — our large, global, and diverse community is what makes Mozilla special, and what will help us fulfill our mission. We are stronger with you involved.

Thank you for sticking with us.

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