Brendan Eich resigning from Mozilla shows both the good and bad sides of the web
It has been mere days since Brendan Eich stepped down as CEO of Mozilla. It was one of the shortest-lived tenures in history, but it didn’t have to be that way. I’ll spare you the details -- they have spewed across the internet, ad-nauseum. Suffice to say that his views did not meet with that of the technorati at large.
BetaNews was one of the first sites to run the story about a pair of developers boycotting the browser over a perceived difference in ideals. A firestorm ensued, but also a healthy debate. Until now, I have kept quiet throughout this situation. However with the problems now seemingly resolved, and (perhaps or perhaps not) justice done, then it is time to speak my piece.
First, I approved and ran the original story, a decision I did not take lightly. I had many discussions with the author over it, attempts to make sure that the site nailed everything. But the story goes much deeper than what appeared on the surface. The story was not intended to call into question beliefs, the story was about the perceived wrong and the developers pulling their apps in protest over it.
The story of Mozilla and Brendan Eich, in large part, portrays the internet in a rather general sort of way. There is the bad side, the one with doubters, haters and trolls. There is the good part, where people express legitimate opinions and feelings on the issues at hand.
There have been many discussions of late about a free and open internet -- while much of that swirls around net neutrality, and accusations about Netflix being forced to pay a "toll" to Comcast, much more is about freedom of speech. Only last week we were concerned over Turkey banning this most basic right -- a decision that was overridden by a court quite quickly.
But, as my colleague Brian Fagioli stated, "While I disagree with Eich's perceived stance on marriage equality, I defend his right to express it". I think that sums up the feelings of many.
We live in a world where rights are often taken for granted, and infractions are perceived as slaps in the face or attempts to take these freedoms from us. We forget that others, with differing views, have those same rights. We don't know for sure what Mr. Eich truly believes -- he avoided the same sex marriage question in his statements, which only contributed to the problem.
However, the internet held a discussion and forced a decision. Rightly or wrongly, the masses played judge and jury on this, and in the end there was no alternative solution. Majority rules, and the state of Brendan Eich’s reputation would have precluded his ability to head the company and command the respect of employees and customers.
Now I reach the end, and I shall leave you with something you will not have found in all of the other stories around the web, regarding this sordid mess. At the time BetaNews ran the original post, I also reached out to the developer in question -- Hampton Catlin. He provided much information, some of which he said we were free to quote. I'll leave much of that dark -- he doesn't want any more publicity, but there's a soundbite from our conversation that I'd like to share with you.
"This really was a personal statement of boycott, and it seems to be getting carried as if we are organizing a boycott or that we think Mozilla is evil or that we think Brendan Eich is the devil. None of those things are true. We just were hurt as developers who were committing our time and energy to their platform, that they would go pick someone with an unresolved anti-same-sex-marriage controversy. If he had apologized years ago, this would be a non-issue".