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Should You Stop Using Firefox Because Their CEO Might Be An Intolerant Dickhead?

By / 04.01.14

You may have heard that this week, OKCupid users on Firefox were blocked from the site by a full-page political message about their browser. No, OKCupid is not choosing sides on the open-source software wars. Here’s what’s going on, and what it’s all about.

The problem is the new CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich. Eich is, technologically speaking, quite qualified to run a browser company. He created JavaScript, was one of the key people in creating Netscape, the first really usable web browser, and helped found Mozilla. However, he also donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8.

His promotion to CEO became ugly fast: “Half the board resigned”, including two former CEOs. You don’t have to go very far to find employees of the company who aren’t very enthused about Eich steering the ship, either.

There’s no defending Eich as a person, to be blunt. The usual argument is that we should show “tolerance” for Eich’s views, but that’s a bit like arguing disliking children gives you the right to defund schools and bulldoze playgrounds. You don’t have to like what other people do or even who they are, but you don’t get the right to be a dick to them because of that dislike. Nobody has to “tolerate” being slapped in the face.

Still, Eich’s appointment reflects a larger problem in tech: How do you make lots of money, and seem really hip and progressive and cool, and still spend money to protect your political interests? Especially when that means supporting a party that at least some of your employees vote against as a matter of preserving their civil rights? Nobody’s found a good solution to that one just yet.

And it’s going to get harder to avoid Firefox. The company is rapidly expanding into mobile and is trying to get its browser onto set-top boxes, smart TVs, and, oh yeah, claw back some market share.

But it’s also a fair point that Mozilla is not Eich. So it’s a personal call; how much does Eich’s position offend you? And are you willing to switch browsers because of it?

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