First, let’s start with this: if you want to know what’s really been happening at Mozilla, you should read this blog post, written by a fellow Mozilla Corporation employee. It’s got details from staff meetings, internal discussions, public meetings, and more, and it’s the most accurate representation of the truth of the past two weeks you’ll find anywhere.
Next, let’s recall my previous post, and I will re-iterate that I strongly favor the nationwide legalization of gay marriage, and that I disagree with Brendan on this issue (while also strongly defending his right to hold his opinion as long as he keeps it out of Mozilla business, which he always did).
Now, let’s get into what I personally want to say about the last few days.
In March of 2006, I was the father of a baby girl less than a year old, and had just been let go by my employer—a game development company in Southern California, for whom I was doing Mac programming. Despite a previous arrangement, they decided they wanted me to relocate, which I wasn’t interested in doing. So we parted ways. My old friend David Miller had been working at Mozilla on the Bugzilla project (and doing IT work) for a while, and he suggested I apply for a job as a Mac programmer at Mozilla Corporation.
When Mozilla got wind that I had spent years as a technical writer, I found myself instead interviewing for a job on the developer relations team as a writer for the Mozilla Developer Center site. On April 3, 2006, I started working for Mike Shaver, alongside Deb Richardson, as a technical writer.
I joined Mozilla as someone that didn’t use Firefox. Heck, I didn’t even like Firefox. I also didn’t give a rat’s ass about open source software; indeed, I generally looked down on it across the board as inherently inferior.
I would never have dreamed that someday I would consider myself part of a “community” of Mozilla users. I was not someone that would be a Mozillian. I walked the walk and acted the part, generally, but if you read through my early blog posts, you’ll find clues that I was just in it for the paycheck.
Fast forward to March of 2014. I’m days shy of my eighth anniversary as a Mozilla employee, and I find myself a changed person. I’m an ardent fan of Mozilla and its mission. It’s important to me. It means something to me. It’s part of who I am. I feel every sting when something goes wrong, and exalt in every win Firefox and Mozilla achieves.
I’m not blindly faithful, no. I have my doubts now and again, about specific initiatives or projects, and goodness knows I’m not afraid to say so. I have a well-earned reputation as a bit of a complainer. When I’m troubled, I tend to say so (usually at length). But Mozilla’s mission is my mission: to bring the open Web to everyone, to do it well, and to be sure that everyone knows how to build upon its potential.
I’ll admit: when Brendan was selected as CEO, I was surprised. I had been quite certain that Jay Sullivan would become our permanent CEO, after a long and successful “interim CEO” run. When Brendan was announced, I was somewhat puzzled. Not because of his political beliefs, but because Jay was already in place, doing a good job, and had long experience in more “business management” roles, rather than just “project management” roles.
But I quickly got behind Brendan. As a technical wizard and cofounder of Mozilla (having saved the Mozilla project form the dying embers of what was left of Netscape within the AOL behemoth), Brendan knew and loved the project more than anyone else. Who better than to lead us into the technical challenges that lie ahead? With Li Gong as our new COO to help him, we were in great hands.
Then everything went straight to hell in the media. Taking bits of reality (yes, Brendan donated in favor of Prop. 8, and yes, he didn’t apologize for doing so, and yes, a scant handful of employees tweeted that they wanted him to resign), the press and social media turned reality into some kind of hyper-reality, in which a few basic facts were tossed into a blender with a healthy dose of bullshit and a little wishful thinking on their part.
Soon, we were in the midst of a crisis, with the voices of reason so overwhelmed by outright nonsense that they couldn’t be heard. Several of us tried. We failed. Brendan, overwhelmed by the waves of negative press and outright hate mail he was getting, gave up and resigned. The mob won, and Mozilla lost its founding father.
The press (including the Wall Street Journal) is reporting that Brendan was pushed out by the board. This is not true. Mozilla’s board of directors begged and pleaded for him to stay with us in some capacity. He declined.
Let’s be clear: Brendan Eich left Mozilla because a virtual mob got whipped up into a frenzy and harassed him and Mozilla until he felt the best way to serve Mozilla was to leave. Brendan quit his job because he felt that leaving the organization he loved was better than watching it be dragged down into a cesspool of bullshit.
This situation arose because one man—a key member of Mozilla’s technology team and its community as a whole—exercised his legal civil right to donate money to an unpopular cause (and one that is now, thankfully, a lost cause). That’s the real tragedy here.
But we’ll figure out how to move on. We will mourn for a time. We will do some soul-searching. And then we will get our hands firmly planted back onto the tiller, tack into the wind, and continue our journey. Because we are Mozilla.
Updated at 3:53 PM EDT on April 6, 2014: I got a couple of corrections recommended to me by email, so I applied them above. My apologies for overstating a couple of points in my 3 AM drama mode.