Mozilla Topics of Discussion in Response to Brendan Eich Controversy
It has been a turbulent past few weeks for Mozilla as co-founder Brendan Eich’s political views sent social media into a whirlwind of opinions. Following Eich’s appointment to CEO on March 24th, Twitter spoke up about his potential to lead the company given his views on same-sex marriage.
On April 3rd, Brendan Eich resigned from his position as CEO, claiming the decision was made in the best interest of the company. A quick ten-day tenure as CEO is a testament to the controversial nature of politics in business. And, related to the interests of Crimson Hexagon, it is a testament to the power of online public opinion.
Firefox, Mozilla’s free, open-sourced browser currently holds 18% of the market share.
Over the past year, Firefox has split positive and negative sentiment on Twitter. Only 6% of conversation represents people saying they refuse to use Firefox for a browser. On pace with Firefox’s global reach, 23% of conversation implied use of the browser.
Prized for its standards of online safety and security, the browser’s popularity makes it vulnerable to boycotts throughout Eich’s stay at CEO. The most prominent of these boycotts was initiated by dating site OKCupid on March 31st.
From a baseline of 6% of conversation over the past year, we see that refusal spiked to 32% of the conversation between March 30th – April 5th. The boycott certainly wasted no time gaining support on social media.
Nice sentiment of OkCupid to ask their users not to use Firefox.
— Icy Sedgwick (@IcySedgwick) March 31, 2014
oh wow… goodbye firefox for now. and wow. okcupid.
— Shony (@sho_akt) April 1, 2014
When Eich resigned, Mozilla apologized for how Eich’s values never aligned with those of the company. Many blamed Mozilla for not supporting their CEO and handling the situation poorly overall. These tweeters perceived the resignation of Eich as surrender.
I think I may just have to find a new favorite web browser. Firefox is going in the trash bin. I just don't have patience for liberal crap.
— C B (@abitcrispy) April 3, 2014
We see in the Topic Wheel below how “Brendan A Debt of Gratitude” represents a slice of the Firefox conversation during the week of Eich’s resignation.
We have a feeling this Tweet by Eich’s peer Marc Andreessen coined the phrase.
— Marc Andreessen (@pmarca) April 4, 2014
During the main week of controversy, posts without any intent to change browsers peaked at 18% of total conversation. These users maintained loyalty to Firefox despite Eich’s relationship with Mozilla.
Much to Mozilla’s liking, the Firefox boycott seems to be temporary in most cases.
Now that Brendan Eich has resigned, I'm reinstalling Firefox. Not using Chrome anymore unless Google cuts ties to #ALEC.
— fütplex (@speaker2codecs) April 5, 2014
It is notable how Firefox users are willing to forgive and forget in favor of using the browser. The story of Firefox is another instance of how Twitter can shape societal standards and empower public opinion.