Dating site wins battle with Mozzila over gay rights stance of CEO Eich

April 4, 2014

The dating site OkCupid launched an on-line attack on the web-browser Mozilla for the perceived anti-gay stance of Mozilla’s new CEO Brendan Eich. Within days, Eich and other board members of Mozilla resigned

I noted this story as I am a user of Mozilla’s Firefox browser. I am also interested in the dilemmas behind leadership decisions, as these offer excellent starting points for making sense of leadership stories. Is this a moral stance or a publicity-seeking piece of PR, I wondered.

A dilemma

Here’s my personal dilemma. I approve of the overall philosophy behind the ‘open-source’ policy of Firefox. The browser serves my purposes reasonably well, with one distinct advantage over rivals who seem increasingly activating business models blatantly putting their commercial interests over the needs of their users. So there are ethical and pragmatic reasons for me to continue to support Mozzila’s Firefox.

It’s April Fool’s day

I came across the when scanning for April Fool’s day stories, and was suspicious of its authenticity at first. If it is a prank, it had been widely reported.

An ethical dilemma

So the ethical issue for me is an example of what Susan Sucher of Harvard calls the right versus right dilemma.

A tipping point?

I hesitate to use the term tipping point, but that’s how the story developed. A few days later, [April 3rd, 2014] pressure from its own Firefox users was followed by the resignation of the CEO and other members of the board. Here’s how the BBC’s Dave Lee reported it:

Brendan Eich was appointed just last month but came in for heavy criticism for his views on same-sex marriage. Mozilla’s executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker announced the decision in a blog post. Mr Eich, who co-founded Mozilla and was also the creator of the JavaScript scripting language, made a $1,000 (£600) donation in 2008 in support of Californian anti-gay marriage law Proposition 8. When the announcement of Mr Eich’s appointment was made [24 March, 2014] angry users voiced their opinions on social media. Several high-profile Mozilla employees also weighed in.

Three board members resigned in the weekend following Mr Eich’s appointment – but Mozilla said the events were not linked. But the most damaging act of protest came via dating website OkCupid. Users who went to the site using Mozilla’s Firefox browser were greeted with a message that read: “Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience. Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla.

I didn’t see that coming.