There’s a huge cultural shift taking place in the western world, as slowly but surely country after country are finally legalising equal marriage. You may have noticed the shift happen this weekend in Britain, when suddenly it was so that the government didn’t care about your biology before allowing you to register your marriage.
This shift can be seen as not only are laws changing, attitudes are too – with more and more people saying that they’re comfortable with the idea of equal marriage. Heck, look at the polls. In America for example, in just a few years support for equality leapt almost 20%. And things are only getting better all of the time.
Which is why Mozilla’s recent decision has been a little odd.
In case you missed it, the Firefox creators have decided to go against this decisive wave of history by appointing a new CEO who opposes it. A few years ago Brendan Eich donated to a group supporting Proposition 8, the ballot measure in California that outlawed gay marriage. Oh dear.
The blowback from this has been significant. Apparently three Mozilla board members have resigned. Though the linked article claims this is because of concerns over Firefox OS, it does seem a little coincidental, right?
More significantly, has been the reaction amongst Mozilla’s staff, who have openly complained about the appointment. Numerous staff took to Twitter to say “I’m an employee of @Mozilla and I’m asking @BrendanEich to step down as CEO“. Ouch.
Worst of all for Mozilla, the wider Firefox using public’s reaction has been just as harsh – with many users deciding to boycott the browser, or simply switch to competitors.
Now, even if you ignore the substance of his views on equal marriage (you shouldn’t, as it is important and he’s very wrong), there is a wider issue: is this backlash not evidence of a really terrible appointment?.
Mozilla is a charity foundation, and Firefox is a piece of open source software. Unlike a company. The whole reason it continues to exist is thanks to the goodwill of its user-base, who both help develop the software and evangelise its use. Part of the appeal of running Firefox is that because it is backed by a charity and not a huge corporation, it somehow feels weirdly more ethical to use their software than the likes of Internet Explorer and Chrome.
Sure, for all we know Eich may be a brilliant CEO. He might be great at meeting executives, managing staff and pushing development forward… but all of these skills become worthless if he’s killing the image of the Foundation to the outside world. Whilst some companies may not see a problem continuing to deal with Mozilla (profit is profit, after all), individual users are fickle, young and opinionated, and chances are many of them don’t want to support a backwards old man.
Perhaps unfortunately, the logo of the Mozilla Foundation is a dinosaur. Maybe it is time for the foundation to publicly get out of the stone age too?
By James O'Malley | March 31st, 2014