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Controversial Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich, resigns

Controversial Mozilla CEO, Brendan Eich, resigns

Critics had blasted the Firefox maker for promoting Eich, who had supported California's 2008 ban on same-sex marriage

CEO of Mozilla for less than two weeks, Brendan Eich, stepped down today, the organization announced.

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO," wrote Mozilla Foundation chairwoman Mitchell Baker in a post to the organization's official blog Thursday. "He's made this decision for Mozilla and our community."

Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich. (Image: IDG News Service)

Eich came under fire almost as soon as he was appointed CEO because of his 2008 contributions to supporters of Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage.

According to records on the website of the Secretary of State for California, Eich donated a total of $1,000 -- in two contributions of $500 each -- in October 2008 to ProtectMarriage.com, a collection of conservative and religious political activist groups. Altogether, ProtectMarriage.com raised $40 million to support the ballot proposition.

Proposition 8 was passed by voters in November 2008, banning same-sex marriages. It was later declared unconstitutional by a federal court. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the plaintiffs did not have standing, and allowed the lower court's decision to stand.

Eich's contribution to ProtectMarriage.com first came to light in 2012, but his promotion to CEO reignited the debate over his stand, and its seeming conflict with Mozilla's oft-touted stance on inclusiveness and its stated mission to make the Web open to all.

Last week, Mozilla employees used Twitter to register their vote of no confidence in Eich as CEO because of his contribution. Both Eich and Baker responded with blog posts of their own last week, but the pressure mounted as the news went mainstream, as an online petition calling for Eich to renounce his views or face dismissal accumulated more than 70,000 signatures, and as the OkCupid.com online dating service asked members to boycott Firefox.

Mozilla went into damage control mode, affirming its support of marriage equality.

The result: Eich's resignation.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn't live up to it," said Baker today. "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it's because we haven't stayed true to ourselves.

"We didn't act like you'd expect Mozilla to act. We didn't move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We're sorry. We must do better," she wrote.

Mozilla did not say whether Eich was stepping aside as CEO but remaining with Mozilla, with which he has been involved since 1998, or if he was also leaving the organization. Prior to being named CEO, Eich had served as its chief technology officer and was also on the Foundation's board of directors.

Mozilla declined to comment on Eich's status.

"What's next for Mozilla's leadership is still being discussed," said Baker, adding that more information will be announced next week.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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