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Mozilla's Gary Kovacs to step down as CEO (blog.mozilla.org)
161 points by arturadib on Apr 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 56 comments

Whoever takes charge, I hope he/she keeps Mozilla going in the same direction it has been in the recent past, because the work coming out of that company has been nothing short of amazing in my opinion.

Basically, Mozilla, don't change, you're awesome.

Mozilla's "phoenix" legacy is alive and well. I have been very skeptical of Mozilla even very recently as Firefox's many performance problems seemed insurmountable. But here I am after many years of using Chrome typing in this box using Firefox. I also hope they don't change direction. They're on fire and rising once again.

Agreed. I've noticed some rather nice performance improvements over the last six months, and, like you, I've switched back to FF from Chrome.

I'm guessing the computer you're running FF on has a solid-state drive; amiright ?

added: my reason for asking is that I run FF (release update channel) and I genuinely wonder whether it would be more responsive if it weren't for my slow hard drive. (in particular, I am hypothesizing that every time I visit a new page, its URL gets committed to disk.) was not trying to slam FF; please don't downvote me!

No, I'm not, actually. Just your standard, Dell-issued laptop drive.

I noticed better memory usage and general performance increases within the last few releases to the beta channel (sorry, I can't pinpoint which one it was). I started to use FF again a few months ago, and found I still needed to restart the browser at least once a day to keep things responsive (and I don't usually have more than a dozen tabs open). Then, after one of the updates, I didn't need to do that, and I didn't notice any performance degradation over the course of several days.

Thanks. I'll try the beta channel.

It's more than performance, they've also picked up must have features like opening up just closed tabs (cmd+shift+t), and cmd+9 to go to last tab, private windows (used to be all of firefox went private), quick updates.

Reopening a closed tab via Ctrl/Cmd+Shift+T has been a longtime feature of Firefox, since at least early 2007.

Oh, whoops. Thanks for correcting me!

The "Recently Closed Tabs" menu item (under "History") has been in FF since version 11 or before.

A few hours after I wrote this, my FF updated itself (to version 20.0) and became much, much more responsive!

Tr changing some disk-related settings in about:config.

Indeed, if it weren't for my startup, Mozilla is the first place I would want to work. I've been nodding in assent with nearly all their newer initiatives -- FirefoxOS, Persona, Rust, etc. Mozilla is pushing the Internet forward in the all the right ways.

My thoughts when seeing this exactly.. "please don't change" - unless it's for the even better of course :)

I gotta agree with napoleoncomplex - Mozilla has truly hit its stride in recent years and for my money is an example of the corporation of tomorrow - code literate and transparent, yet still kicking arse and taking names

Edit: even corporations of tomorrow will not be immune to politics it seems - rereading the post and blog makes it sound much more like a Eich/Baker coup than a well planned transition. It will be very odd to have him stay on the board - two ex-CEOs on your board makes for a lot of looking up not down for the next one

Perhaps I'm overly skeptical, but I have a hard time envisioning them as a "corporation of tomorrow" when, AFAIK/naively assume, they exist (as a corporation that can pay salaries) merely because Google dumps $x00 millions into their lap every year.

To me, this is less "how companies of tomorrow can run", and more like a bunch of techies who hit the jackpot and so can have fun building whatever technology they want.

(Which is awesome, I'm just saying I think Mozilla has a pretty unique situation.)

Unique now, commonplace one day.

I really think we are seeing a shift in organisations - one comparable to that experienced after the in enticing of printing press in 1451. Europe went from a literacy rate of 2% to one of 20+ in a hundred years, and suddenly the trading companies and churches and governments were staffed with people who could read and write - and that changed everything. Literate companies out competed the hell of their illiterate counterparts. And the renanissance saw new forms of company, new trading horizons, enabled in part thanks to, well, letters.

Mozilla is an example of this new company - it is staffed by the code-literate and it is out-competing Nokia, Samsung, Microsoft and holding its own against google/chrome/android who are themselves arguably built of the same DNA

Code literacy throughout the company is important but it then demands other things - remote working is probably the biggest thing - it does enable hiring the best in the world, yes, but it makes transparency of decision making so much more natural that it will most likely become a default.

I think we shall see companies be I ing more open in their working practises, in their internal processes and probably in their balance sheets.

For the best part of a generation at least code literate people are going to be in massive demand as companies like Mozilla show that coding is a massive force multiplier for any company in any industry. And that is not merely going to be higher wages - when the force multiplier is big enough it will simply reshape the corporation around itself.

Mozilla does amusingly also show that the politics of human relations will never go away, but there is a elephant in the room now, and it's not going away till long after we retire - and coping with the impact of that elephant will be the defining characteristic of the next twenty years of organisational and intentstional change.

Software is not eating the world like tigers do - it is eating the world like oceans erode cliffs - re shaping the shoreline and the tides.

I really like your Utopia but it is missing many things in my opinion. Mozilla is a luxury afforded by Google finance wise. There are much darker futures ahead as well. The entire rise of the Company over the State is rather scary.

Arguably the most successful software company (Apple) is a poster child of using open software to its closed advantage.

Software literacy is also highly divisive. It highly rewards the literates but punishes the rest. Because of that it is very important that people use it for ideas that are not just profit.

We really need more models like Mozilla, GNU, or Craigslist.

I think the "Google finances Mozilla out of kindness of their hearts" meme is dealt with here - they have millions and soon to be billions of eyeballs on that google default page. Whatever Google pays is a market rate.

As for the rest, yes illiteracy does count against the illiterate - I think that is a public policy issue. The company vs the state? Historically speaking the one with the army tends to win. Yes regulation is important to ensure companies deliver social value - we have seen that in finance, but that is not a programming issue - back to public policy

As for being open and doing good - yes laudable aims, and I suspect that like now, companies that are more open, more socially beneficial will have the edge of goodwill - but right now the force multiplier of code literacy trumps all.

Edit: I guess I am saying, the force multiplier is so big, that relying on normal market operations to deliver an optimal social good (ie utopia) is a little foolish - we need enlightened governments with perfect regulatory touch to be in tune globally with all the challenges facing the human race.

We're boned.

Google doesn't dump money into Mozilla's lap every year. Google pays Mozilla (and various other companies) for search traffic acquisition.

Yeah nobody should think for a minute that this relationship is in danger of Google dropping that contract either; Microsoft/Bing would KILL to have that default product visibility at the top of another mainstream browser.

It sounds like you're saying MS could outbid Google to be Mozilla's default search engine, which validates Mozilla's business model even further.

Exactly -- you'll occasionally hear people say things like "Google is basically keeping Firefox afloat" -- sure, it's a massive contract that does fund Mozilla almost entirely, but any of the other major search engines would love a chance to be the default install option. Think about what that would do for Bing.

I agree but I feel like the backfire issue is never brought up. If Bing becomes default, would less techy users just switch back to Chrome? I hope not.

Surely this kind of back and forth must have happened during the last Google/Mozilla negotiation over their search engine contract, but it's a situation where while both sides will try to posture within the understood wiggle room [1], they both know that they have a lot to lose by coming to a fall out.

ex: within the range of say, $250MM ~ $350MM

Canonical made such a deal with Yahoo a few years ago and the pushback was significant enough that they backtracked before the final release.

It seems that technical people will prefer the better solution.

> It seems that technical people will prefer the better solution.

Delusional much?

>"Mozilla has truly hit its stride in recent years"

Sure the Memshrink project was a great success. It's the reason I have switched from Chrome back to FF on my netbook. However, on my desktops and home Chrome remains default.

Mozilla had their chance with the electrolysis multiprocessing architecture, but killed it off to focus on Firefox OS, the Mobile OS that none wants. So their desktop browser, their bread and butter, is gimped compared to modern multithreaded browsers like IE and Chrome. Everytime I give FF another shot on my desktops, it's always the same result. The UI starts lagging when I view heavy duty JavaScript/HMTL5 pages.

Also in their petty battles with Google, they have refused to implement some great features like WebP. Mozilla gave a list of features missing, and yet when Google addressed them all in the next WebP revision, they still refused to add the patch.

Memshrink kept FF in the game, but in recent years Mozilla has consistently made poor long term strategic decisions.

You seem to use words like "multiprocessing" and "multithreaded" without knowing what they actually mean. A multiprocess Firefox in the way envisioned by the original Electrolysis project would be a huge undertaking, and would break all add-ons.

Anyway, The project has recently been "rebooted", so to speak, and it looks like we can finally make it happen without breaking add-ons, which is great!

Thank you for correcting me, I should have said "properly multithreaded or multiprocessing browser like IE or Chrome". Since a properly designed multithreaded applications shouldn't suffer from UI non-responsiveness as badly as FF does. Of course separating the user interface process from the content processes also would have fixed this issue.

I'm glad to hear the electrolysis project has been rebooted. That plus a working silent update( see bug #711475 ) would go a long way to making Firefox relevant again.

I heard that he resigned because Rust won't support tail call optimizations.

Well, how could he face the board after that?

He would need to unwind the stack

Only with his tail between his legs.

Kovacs didn't really have any public visibility during his tenure. But Mozilla has been doing great, so I assume at a minimum he "just" ran things, and didn't ruin them, which by my calculus is high praise for any imported CEO, let alone one coming into an unusual organization from a very different background. Well done!

It's a bummer, not sure why this happened. I liked Gary, and saw him as the right man to shepherd Firefox OS from conception to production.

Searching for a new CEO is a huge distraction, particularly at this crucial time when they're trying to prove a major pivot and work out commercial deals with device makers.

I'm sending positive vibes to my former colleagues!

OK, can someone explain this 'pivot'?

I'm typing this into a laptop running Kubuntu (in my kitchen) which is based on a mainframe operating system (I used to talk to a PDP11 via teletype half a lifetime ago).

Won't mobile phones be running Unix soon as well?

User interfaces matter. Optimization matters. Design matters. The same software that's ideal for a laptop or minicomputer isn't always ideal for a touch-screen mobile phone, whether they are both running "Unix" or not.

Aren't they already? What's iOS? Android?

Exactly my point. Is this 'pivot' basically the provision of a fat finger friendly interface to existing technology?

PS: I'm not against this, I'd really love to be able to dock a phone and use it for desktop tasks with a 1080p monitor and proper keyboard. Sort of the Rob Pike approach.


The PDP-11 wasn't a mainframe. It was a minicomputer, which is how Unix came to exist for it in the first place: A mainframe would have been too expensive for such a small project, but a PDP-11 minicomputer was within the budget.

Correction accepted. The mainframe was an IBM 360? and I talked to that one with punched cards. The PDP-11 was on a single rack I remember.

>The mainframe was an IBM 360?


I'm curious as to why google continues to be a important revenue stream for mozilla, despite having 'chrome' itself. Why can't google stop being lovvy dovey with mozilla?

Google isn't being "lovvy dovey" with Mozilla. They are paying for traffic. They pay for traffic from other browsers and from iOS as well. Do you think Google has a loving relationship with Apple? I sure don't.

It's a fine relationship for both sides that simply doesn't require love, or even very much like. That being said, there's a lot to like about a relationship that's been such a win-win for Mozilla and Google for nearly a decade. How many other business relationships between major Web players have done so well for so long?

because microsoft would love for that google box in the upper right to turn into a bing box.

Ahh, I see! Clever answer. Now I know, why they share revenue.

It took til 2010 for them to realize that the future is mobile?! Why would we be looking to Mozilla for leadership on anything?

iPhone came out in 2007, one could argue that mobile was growing fast even before the iPhone. By 2010 Android was a huge thing too. So, what took Mozilla 3 years to figure out about mobile exactly? Even Opera seemed to see mobile as a huge deal long before 2010.

Open source needs near-commodity hardware with open specs and kernel source (mostly). Otherwise the hardware vendor uses its secrets to build a proprietary software stack.

We had Minimo, MicroB, etc. before 2010, for all the good it did. Were you paying attention? Did you see any open source smartphone winners back then? I did not.

Android did help flatten and uplift the smartphone space, and make it open. Qualcomm helped too. Kudos to those two!


The Facebook "phone" approach is interesting: take over the phone to such a degree that it delivers a FB "experience". No dependencies of the Evil Triangle of the cell world: Handset mfgr, OS provider, Carrier.

Yet Moz apparently is looking to become another OS provider? I'm wondering if they might take the FB approach instead.

FB will succeed now with Android, there appears to be no App Store issues. But my bet they'll also force Apple to cry Uncle! relatively soon. Now THAT would be progress

We have a launcher-based approach in the works too. IMHO it's not going to sweep the world, and neither is FB Home.

Strategically, the big problem all such approaches face remains, and it may even get worse as Android matures. Google owns that OS and controls its APIs and rules for extensions.

Anyway, Android 4 doesn't even fit on 256M phones single-core phones, where Firefox OS is entering the market. It is priced out of the launch countries.

So taking a high-end-focused Android-only approach of "[do an FB-Home-like launcher] instead" does not make sense tactically or strategically.

"Also" rather than "instead" can help, we're exploring in the context of Firefox for Android and the Web Runtime based on it -- but it's not exclusively & clearly winning such that we would bet Mozilla on it.


Android is still far from open,and that mostly seems to be because of hardware vendors. My experience says Qualcomm is actually one of the worst here.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this evolves, and if it truly becomes open. Seems unlikely because hardware has really long release cycles.

Did Mozilla get any promises from vendors on that front?

never tinker with your lineup when you're leading your division

Which division is Mozilla leading, exactly?

Did GMoney withdraw affected employee/execs pays/bonuses?

or is he moving to some other company? opera?

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