The trouble started shortly after the board announced the promotion of Eich, who was previously Mozilla's chief technology officer. Numerous Mozilla employees took to Twitter and other social media outlets to voice their disapproval. The issue: Eich's support of Proposition 8, a voter campaign in California that successfully overturned a court ruling granting same-sex couples the right to marry. Three board members who had wanted an outside pick for CEO allegedly stepped down in response to the promotion.*
Eich's departure appears to be one of the first instances where social media has been used to oust a company executive, and that's exactly why entrepreneurs should be paying attention. What a CEO says and does, especially in the age of social media, is hardly private anymore.
Mozilla Corp., which is best known for creating Web browser Firefox, said it was not giving interviews at this time. The company directed Inc. to its company blog, where a post by executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker indicated Eich had resigned of his own accord, acting in the community spirit of the company, and in an attempt to create rapprochement with employees.
We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public. This is meant to distinguish Mozilla from most organizations and hold us to a higher standard. But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.
Twitter bystanders reacted to the news with a mixture of responses, most of them from angry conservatives who opposed Eich's ouster.
"The gay community is out of control. Hypocrites, hypocrites, hypocrites," said Richard Hernandez. "#Mozilla, I support Brendan Eich!"
Taking a more conciliatory approach, Brandon M. said: "Super proud of the fearless #Mozilla staff who spoke up against inequality."
Baker's post did not indicate what job, if any, Eich would have next at Mozilla. She wrote that Mozilla was still discussing who would take over as chief executive.
Proposition 8 was the subject of multiple state law suits and appeals and eventually wound up in the Supreme Court, which overturned it last June in one of two landmark rulings on same-sex marriage.
*UPDATE: A Mozilla spokeswoman sent this clarification late Thursday night, regarding the allegation that three board members left following Eich's Promotion: “The three board members ended their terms before Brendan was publicly announced as CEO for a variety of reasons. Two had been planning to leave for some time, one since January and one explicitly at the end of the CEO search, regardless of the person selected.”