Internal Dissent over new Mozilla CEO, Report Claims

by Matt Klassen on March 31, 2014

Mozilla may have revolutionized the low end mobile market with the recent announcement of the long awaited $25 smartphone, a mobile device that is set to shatter the longstanding smartphone affordability barrier in the 2/3s world, but the company is reportedly having trouble seeing eye-to-eye on who is to lead this mobile strategy going forward.

Last week Mozilla named its new chief executive, the company’s CTO Brendan Eich, “to lead the non-profit Web organization as it tries to keep its Firefox browser relevant in the mobile age. The appointment has proved controversial in more ways than one,” the Wall Street Journal reported. [italics mine]

As a result of Eich’s appointment three board members promptly resigned, apparently frustrated over the fact that Mozilla didn’t hire a mobile-market expert from outside the company, one with the skills to lead Mozilla confidently into the mobile age. While the company denies the report of such infighting, if rumours prove true such a rift is the last thing the company needs now as it blazes a trail into the budget end of the global mobile market.

According to the WSJ, following the appointment three board members promptly resigned over the choice: John Lilly, former Mozilla CEO who now works at venture capital firm Greylock Partners, Gary Kovacs, another former CEO who heads up popular online security company AVG Technologies; and Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online education firm Shmoop.

The report indicates that the exodus of board members was sparked by frustration over the selection of the new CEO, having wanted “an outside executive whose experience would help Mozilla gain influence in the fast-growing mobile computing industry,” the report stated.

While the company still holds distant second place among PC browser usage, Mozilla has almost no presence in the mobile market, the mobile version of Firefox having negligible adoption and, as mentioned, its mobile FireFox OS aimed squarely at the bottom end of the smartphone sector. Simply put, it seems that for some at Mozilla the company hasn’t adequately responded to the challenges of the mobile market, and the promotion of Eich, part of the company’s old guard, isn’t the change they wanted or the change the company needed.

Mozilla has since responded to WSJ report, denying that the departures were anything but the natural conclusion to a long tenure of service by dedicated supporters of the Mozilla brand.

“The three board members ended their terms last week for a variety of reasons,” the non-profit organization said in a statement. “Two had been planning to leave for some time, one since January and one explicitly at the end of the CEO search, regardless of the person selected.”

If such dissent over the Eich appointment wasn’t enough for the company, it seems the promotion comes with an entirely different set of problems of well, not related to the company’s mobile strategy. According to the WSJ, there is also dissent over Eich’s support of campaign banning gay-marriage, with some employees reportedly frustrated that such a person is now tasked with leading Mozilla into the future.

One things for certain, with key departures and reported discontent among employees it’ll be interesting to see how Mozilla concurrently manages its house as it struggles to gain a foothold in the mobile market.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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