More Context on Brendan Eich’s Appointment as CEO

It goes without saying that Mozilla is an open organization, they promote the open web, promote open source software, and advocate for open learning, open journalism, and even have a pretty badass manifesto. Given the enormous number of companies involved in the badging ecosphere, (see above) who do you want to develop the plumbing that keeps all this together? A company that sees every eyeball as a dollar sign? Or a foundation built on the principals of open source?

I wrote the above soon after joining Mozilla. I still agree with it. Mozilla is the best community I’ve ever been a part of. I care deeply for it. On Thursday, March 27th, almost exactly two years after I wrote the above – and a short time after participating in a Mozilla Foundation discussion about the appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO of Mozilla, I tweeted:

The wording of the tweet was provocative. “I am an employee of @mozilla” makes it clear that my voice in this situation has more power and more responsibility than a non-employee. I chose that wording. I wanted to be clear and unequivocal. Other wording was just as intentional. I didn’t ask Brendan to resign, I asked him to step down as CEO. I didn’t demand, I asked.

When Brendan was announced as CEO, my hope was that he would explain himself, maybe apologize or recant his actions of 2008. Six years is a long time; maybe now he understood the larger context of Proposition 8 and its terrible effect on thousands of Californians. Instead, he was wholly unprepared to speak about the issue. We waited, being told he would write a blog post that would clear things up. The post came, but was underwhelming, and he neither apologized nor offered an explanation for the donation.

In the meantime, Christie Koelher wrote an amazing post explaining that though she disagreed with Eich on the subject of same-sex marriage, she trusted him, and the organization, to not let his personal views cause harm to Mozilla employees. Fundamentally, I agree with Christie – it would be impossible for Brendan to discriminate within Mozilla; he wouldn’t be allowed to exercise his personal views of same-sex marriage in a way that discriminates against employees. There are plenty of checks, both within Mozilla and legally that would protect employees from Brendan’s personal views.

I didn’t ask for Brendan to step down because I was worried he’d discriminate against those in his reporting chain. If that was the case, I would have asked in 2012 when this story originally broke (just a few short weeks after I joined the organization).

So why tweet at all? This morning, Mark Surman, one of the key people who make me proud to be a Mozillian, wrote “I worry that Mozilla is in a tough spot now. I worry that we do a bad job of explaining ourselves, that people are angry and don’t know who we are or where we stand. And, I worry that in the time it takes to work this through and explain ourselves the things I love about Mozilla will be deeply damaged. And I suspect others do to.” I agree with him, we as Mozilla are in a tough spot now. So again – why did I tweet? Why risk damaging a community I love so much? I want to be absolutely clear: I never meant to hurt this community, everything I’ve done has come from a place of love, love for this organization, love for the community it built, and most importantly, love for the people who make it possible.

This very public debate about Brendan’s appointment points to a divide in Mozilla’s identity, which I’d characterize as Mozilla as tech company versus Mozilla as activist organization, which is the fundamental reason why I believe the Brendan Eich that contributed to Prop 8 isn’t the CEO that Mozilla needs. Our power as an organization comes from our ability to assert technology as activism. Webmaker, Open Badges, Web Literacy, a smart phone that puts the web in every hand, the protection of privacy and identity in the face of attacks from every corner.

Mozilla is a leading organization in the fight for an open web. That’s well established. Less known is Mozilla’s role in open education, open journalism open research / science and web literacy. An open web is a tool to empower individuals. To paraphrase Woody Guthrie’s guitar, “This [internet] machine kills fascists.” That’s the open web we’re fighting for, a machine that ends human suffering, a machine that won’t let a government stop our sons and daughters from loving who they choose. An open web not tied to a mission like essential human freedom and empowerment is an empty web.

Our manifesto is vague on this point, “The Mozilla project is a global community of people who believe that openness, innovation, and opportunity are key to the continued health of the Internet.” We promote the health of the internet, but never make the bigger connection to the health of humanity. We interact with organizations who accept that goal, but take it one step further, their goals aren’t just the health of the Internet, their goals are the health of humankind, of the planet, of our place in history.

Mark once quoted Mitchell as describing projects as rockets. A rocket is a thing, but in every rocket, there’s a payload. The payload can be anything, a belief that the web should be open, that open source is a fundamentally different paradigm of work. Paraphrasing, “a rocket without a payload isn’t worth anything.” The payload of Mozilla is human freedom through technological empowerment. Those are my words, my interpretation of the Manifesto, but I can’t imagine anyone in the organization, even Brendan, disagreeing with them.

In a blog post yesterday, we go beyond the Manifesto and state, “Mozilla’s mission is to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just. This is why Mozilla supports equality for all, including marriage equality for LGBT couples. No matter who you are or who you love, everyone deserves the same rights and to be treated equally.” Maybe Brendan can lead us on that path by showing how a person can change, as an example of how a community can change.

The Brendan that contributed money to Prop 8 (and also invented Javascript) is the right CEO for a tech company that makes a web browser. We’re more than that. We have a payload. It’s an open web, yes – but it needs to expand to include a fundamental belief in the right of all humankind to live their lives to the fullest extent of their potential. We don’t just make tools, we change lives. The Internet is the ultimate potential amplification machine, let’s make sure that Mozilla is at the forefront of innovation, both technological and social, for the century to come.

  • madpathfinder

    It’s barely been 24 hours – how can you judge the longterm consequences of something that just happened?

  • madpathfinder

    If that’s how you feel, I know a slave camp that’s looking for volunteers. You can try Scientology, for example.

  • madpathfinder

    Judge and jury, eh? Typical of a religious zealot. How is calling someone out for using money to impose his intolerance of human rights a bad thing?

  • madpathfinder

    Let’s meet here again in ten years and see what happened to JavaScript. Should be interesting.

  • madpathfinder

    Anarchy is good. It moves humanity forward.

  • madpathfinder

    Are you a shareholder, Dee?
    “Any profits made by the Mozilla Corporation will be invested back into the Mozilla project. There will be no shareholders, no stock options will be issued and no dividends will be paid. The Mozilla Corporation will not be floating on the stock market..”

  • Dan Patt

    “This is why Mozilla supports equality for ‘ALL'”
    Does not the word “ALL” include… All? Or is the word “ALL” not all inclusive? So then, would or would not Brendan Eich be included in that word “ALL”? Would you not equally support a man who did support equality within his company?
    Go ahead, hang him from the gallows of inequality, to show that you have equality for all. Seems like an oxymoron to me.

  • Dan

    Actually, he was donating to a cause that was defending someones rights. But people with moralphobic opinions don’t see it that way.

    That aside… What about his reputation at the company over the past 15 years? Did he not support and practice equality within the company, while setting aside his own personal beliefs?

    and… to quote you… (slightly out of context, sorry)
    “As far as I can see none of his critics have contributed … to bar people with homophobic opinions from being promoted.”…. ummm…. hello….

  • Arindam Biswas

    I agree with your assement of 10 years. Macromedia / Adobe Flash is a proof of that. However, the pressing and more pertinent question at this point in time is, have you disabled Javascript in your favourite browser today?

  • Arindam Biswas

    I’d be ‘okay’ when you hit that Disable Javascript button in your browser.

  • Al Billings

    Because the consequences are pretty clear.

    You think the list of potential CEOs is longer or shorter now because of this? Will the people that called on Brendan to be fired do so for the next CEO if he or she doesn’t meet their approval as well?

  • madpathfinder

    TY for the comment – it took a fair amount of research (I’m a button-click admin, not a developer) but I did. Going to check out Opera again after a million years. Then I had to turn it back on for work; SFDC and online grad school require it. I will be free of those shackles soon enough, walking barefoot on the beach and painting masterpieces on the sand and waves.

  • madpathfinder

    I see at least two other possibilities: A CEO who appreciates employees speaking up for human rights and would be fired up to work with “them” OR adopting a new structure, without the C-level. CEOs are not necessarily necessary.

  • Tim F.

    I’d suggest it’s far more problematic to attempt to get universal, open web access for all proclaimed a human right if you are unwilling to address human rights which may be far more basic and foundational to the vast majority of humanity.

  • Tim F.

    The reverse would have been contributing to a campaign to end Brendan’s heterosexual marriage. Supporting same sex marriage in no way limits the marriages of heterosexuals. People are merely hoping Mozilla can find a CEO who’s values actually reflect what they think the values of Mozilla should be.

  • Tim F.

    Did you read what Chris wrote?

  • Tim F.

    Try to convince the world’s population that a universal, open web is a significant human right and that Mozilla is the vehicle to achieve it but that more traditional, basic human rights are irrelevant to Mozilla. I think you’ll find your purely technological goals a lot harder to accomplish after doing so.

  • Tim F.

    I’d be more concerned why the list was so short to start with (relatively speaking) that it came back around to a reluctant Eich and treat this as a small but powerful learning opportunity.

  • Tim F.

    Brendan appears to fear same sex marriage degrades the value of hetero-normative marriage when it should not and does not have any consequence to to it. I think it’s fear to describe that as homophobic, even if Brendan is able to treat homosexuals equally.

  • Robert O’Callahan

    I would hesitate to declare universal Web access a human right. Web *access* isn’t even really what Mozilla is about. (AFAIK we have never done any work specifically to get more people connected to the Internet.) But I also reject your assumption that rights must be prioritized and everyone must work to address them in the same priority order.

    God wants me to do the most good I can with what he’s given me. My talents and training make me very good at pursuing Mozilla’s mission, and not especially good at, say, tackling homelessness. That’s why I work for Mozilla instead of a homeless shelter, even I think for people who are homeless it’s a more important problem than the state of Web standards. (I do give money to charities doing that work, though.)

  • Tim F.

    Firstly, remove the word “access” then, however you want to describe Mozilla’s core guide and its description of that as a basic human right.

    Secondly, I’m not suggesting that you have to work towards bettering the current state of all human rights nor that you have to prioritize them. I am stating that if an open web is a basic human right, merely building the tech is just a part of that goal. Not everyone agrees with you. Striving towards making an open web a human right is a political goal. And getting to that goal is not going to be well served by stating that you have no responsibility to, interest in, concern for, or ability to affect positive change towards improving all rights deemed basic to humanity.

    This may appear glib, but I’m mostly trying to be brief, imagine this convo:

    Mozillian: “An open web is a basic human right.”

    Someone who doesn’t support Mozilla’s mission: “Your CEO doesn’t believe I have a right to marry the person I love, your priorities are screwed up, I’m not interested in an open web at the moment.”

    M: “Other human rights are important but they aren’t my concern. What you need to understand is that you should support me because, really, an open video codec is important and a basic human right.”

    SWDSMM: “…”

    Maybe I’m expressing myself poorly, but I’m very disappointed by the Mozillians claiming technology should and is their only concern.

  • Tim F.

    I should add: if you, as an individual, aren’t effective at improving human rights in general, that’s no skin off my back. But the fact remains that Mozilla has elevated an open web as a fundamental human right. That is a political aspiration and must be considered in concert with all other fundamental human rights. Your work does not specifically need to advance the most important, a hierarchy of, or all human rights, but the values and mission of your organization certainly should reflect an understanding of all human rights (and the fact that the primary human right the organization targets may actually be a “lesser” right than others) if it wants to preserve a logical consistency and actually articulate a voice that can be trusted and agreed with.

  • Disco Obama

    Wacky thinking there, you definitely are a liberal. (That’s something to be ashamed of in my book.) Religious rights are a protected civil right. The IRS had no right releasing Eich’s private information to the Gaystopo. The unfounded, continual on-the-job harassment by you, Mozilla and the gay community violated his civil rights. Eich was in no way obligated to recant, apologise or step down. Why must he evolve and change his views, who the f u c k are you to tell a man to change his opinion? You people are full of doublespeak, I have to assume you all have an extremely low IQ or brain damage of some sort.

  • Disco Obama

    You are a f***ing moron.

  • Disco Obama

    The VAST majority are against gay marriage, are you saying that normal people don’t deserve jobs anywhere and they deserve to get fired? You people make absolutely zero sense. You need to get out a little and expand your circle of friends. Your views and logic are warped, LOL.

    Such a hater.

  • Disco Obama

    Don’t you love killing babies? I bet you warm your apartment with dead babies. Afterall it’s the green thing to do.

  • stambo2001

    And now that you and 4-5 others had your particular political wish granted the entire corporation is suffering across the globe. /clap
    It’s nice we can at least have you publicly admit your intolerance and your willingness to drag politics into the workplace. The market truly is responding, just not at all as your little cabal thought it would. #uninstallfirefox
    I hope any future potential employers of your group if malcontents pay attention to the decimation you’ve caused. What comes around goes around.

  • stambo2001

    It’s been days now and the mass exodus of Mozilla users is actually accelerating across the planet. Who would want to become CEO now and step into this mess that a handful of disgruntled employees created.

  • Scott

    Thanks. Your a nice guy. Were you raise by a pack of wolves?

  • A Mozillian

    I wish you would quit Mozilla you damaged its reputation more in one week then anyone else has in the last 16 years.

  • muyuu

    It’s good when it’s not unnecessarily divisive for your mission. Otherwise you are sacrificing your mission for some political agenda.

  • madpathfinder

    Human rights are not “some political agenda.”

  • muyuu

    And this is not a matter of human rights. At all.

    Fanatics are equating hate to dissent and calling gay unions “civil unions” instead of marriage to be “against gay rights”. It’s not you bigots. It’s a semantic dissent at worst.

    And in any case it has absolutely nothing to do with Mozilla’s mission, even if it was about human rights.

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