What's the Big Deal? 5 Reasons Eich Should Step Down

[For an update on Brendan stepping down, please see here, and for a great summary on why Brendan stepped down from a Mozilla insider, see Mark Surman’s post.]

This has been a totally unexpected whirlwind. We thought our original post would be shared by some friends and people in the Sass community. Turns out, it’s started a full-out protest – something we didn’t expect, plan on, or even hope for.

During this time, we’ve had a lot of great conversations with some amazing allies within Mozilla. There are many employees standing up for us both internally and some publicly. To you all, we have endless thanks. Unfortunately, finding satisfactory resolution to the situation has not been easy to come by. I don’t want us all to forget this time.

When we first posted that the only solution to this mess was for Eich to step down, we knew we were making a bold, unlikely statement. To us, we could do that, because no one was going to even notice. Since then, lots of people have been critical of our choice to no longer support the Mozilla foundation. Surprisingly to us, we have realized that our original call for him to step down wasn’t crazy at all, but is pretty straightforward.

Michael and I absolutely want the open web to win, and we love the mission of Mozilla. But here are five reasons why we think Eich has shown himself to be the wrong person for the job of CEO of Mozilla, and should step down.

1) He Won’t Apologize

It’s become clear that Eich has not changed his mind since the donation was first made. If you read what he’s written, it’s pretty conspicuous. There are apologies he can issue that don’t actually require him to approve of our personal lives philosophically, all while apologizing for unintentional damage (we would accept the apology, but we don’t have to like the guy). How about something like this that apologizes for harm, but allows him to keep his bigotry intact:

When I originally donated to Prop 8, I did so on the basis of personal opinion and I was not aware that it would have direct harmful effect on people. To me, marriage is a traditional term that I wanted to protect (and still do), but I did not realize that legal protections were at stake. For instance, I was not thinking about the families with children that were torn apart by immigration officials due to this law. I may not agree with their choices in life, but I don’t want to see families torn apart regardless. The law should protect all of us equally, even if I morally don’t approve of certain life choices.

Bam! If he had issued that 6 months ago, I’d be a fan. If he issues it today, I’d call off our boycott. I’m not holding my breath for a change, though.

2) He’s Hurting the Cause

We don’t believe Eich is an evil person. He has done a lot of good, and we probably agree on more topics than we disagree (one topic we disagree on is if I should be able to visit Michael in the hospital as a family member or not, and, for me, that’s kind of a deal-breaker to being friends). He’s helped build up a great organization and made the Internet a more awesome place. Unfortunately, he’s also hurting the very cause he believes in. I’ve received numerous e-mails from volunteers who have decided to quit the project in protest.

Whether you think they are right or wrong for stopping volunteering, it’s hurting the project. And, they are quitting specifically because of an action that Eich took (not simply “an opinion”). It doesn’t need to be fair for it to be real and damaging.

3) Moral Authority to Lead

In order to run a large community driven business, a leader needs not only academic intelligence, but needs to command the respect of the community. Eich’s creation of JavaScript and his technical leadership have gained him a lot of respect. We understand that. But we believe that you must also be a moral leader if you want to change the world and lead an open web revolution. One can’t lead a moral crusade when they have compromised their moral authority to do so.

We want the open web to win, and we want a leader we can believe in and respect.

4) Experience as CEO

It’s odd that no one’s actually been talking about if he was the right choice even if he hadn’t made the donation. Mozilla is attempting to disrupt the mobile phone market. In order to do that, they need a CEO who can wrangle with some of the world’s most powerful companies. They need someone who can wine and dine the right people, and handle the global politics of the mobile phone market. Personally, we think that his handling of his situation, perhaps more than anything else, is telling of what kind of leader he will be.

5) Leaders Must Lead

If you’ve been following this whole debacle closely, its very clear that the handling on Mozilla’s side has been… lackluster. Their first pro-diversity statement made no mention of why it was being posted, and could easily be summed up as “we do slightly more than the legally required bare minimum.” What a terrible thing to post.

Mozilla believes that everyone internally deserves a voice. When the topic is something easy like “should the NSA spy on us,” then a political opinion is quick to happen. When something much more complex and personal happens, chaos can quickly ensue. If Eich was a smart, swift leader, then this could have been sorted out quickly, and we wouldn’t be writing the damn post.

We understand that Mozilla wants to stand by its co-founder. He has a lot of internal respect and we understand that. But we believe that the Board didn’t properly calculate the effect this would have on the community. How much harder is it going to be now to get the best talent to work at Mozilla, when they have a CEO who’s against equality? How much harder is it going to be to make the web a more open and just place when people think of Mozilla as suspect? How many in the community have lost passion for the project, just so the Board can give an old friend the promotion he always wanted?

Our opinion is that this mess happened not because Mozilla is itself bigoted (we don’t think it is!), but a lack of understanding just how personal this is to many of us who suffered under Prop 8.

Simply speaking, the right thing for him to do is either aggressively start rebuilding bridges with his community or step down.