After 11 days on the job, Brendan Eich has stepped down as the CEO of Mozilla. At the root of his departure was his past donations to an anti-gay marriage proposition in California, and the resulting backlash from the community.
I continue to have incredibly mixed feeling about this.
Brendan has made some amazing contributions to Mozilla, the web, and Open Source over the last two decades. He started working on Netscape back in 1995, was the chief architect during the creation of Mozilla in 1998, and when AOL pulled the plug on Netscape in 2003, he was a key player in creating the independent Mozilla.
Yet, despite these amazing qualifications, and due to mounting criticism and boycotts, he decided to step down as CEO of a company that he has had so much to do with over the last two decades.
Part of me thinks that his stepping down is unnecessary – even that it is borderline ridiculous. Why should an obviously highly qualified individual feel the need to leave his job simply due to his own religious or political viewpoints?
Then there is another part of me that thinks him stepping down is the only logical course of action.
No matter how many statements are made by Mozilla or Eich about equality... you just can't shake the fact that Eich is on the record as actively contributing to causes that sought to restrict the civil rights of individuals. This could cause some serious workplace issues. Would you want to work at a company where the CEO was active in trying to make sure you were denied the ability to get married? Not to mention the organizational messaging issues his past would case.
Mozilla is, after all, a company that is pretty heavily focused on freedom. And while this isn't the exact kind of freedom they are focused on, the conflict there was already causing some pretty big messaging issues for them.
Which got me thinking... I've made a lot of statements over the years. Some of them have been pretty gosh-darned inflammatory. While I wouldn't want anyone restricting my rights to say those things, it does make sense that my own past statements and actions would make me a less-than-ideal candidate to be the CEO of some companies.
Take Microsoft, for example. I would make an absolutely terrible CEO of Microsoft. Do I have experience as a software executive? I sure do. I was even pretty good at it. But I should never run Microsoft. I've just said way too many anti-Microsoft things over the years to be an effective CEO of that company.
So, in the end, Brendan Eich – though a highly qualified man – needed to step down. It was the right thing to do for both Mozilla, the community, and himself. Regardless of your own viewpoints on his now infamous donation to California's Prop 8... his continued involvement in Mozilla was going to be, at this point, damaging to all.
I would like to take this moment to salute Brendan for making the right move for himself and the company he has worked so hard on over the years. I wish you well in whatever you do next.
Just don't be the next CEO of Microsoft. You'd be even worse at that job than I.