Mitchell Baker logs off for good as CEO of Firefox maker Mozilla

HTTP 301 Moved Permanently

Mitchell Baker announced on Thursday she's stepping down as CEO of Firefox maker Mozilla Corporation to resume her role as executive chair of the not-for-profit software house.

"During my 25 years at Mozilla, I’ve worn many hats, and this move is driven by a desire to streamline our focus and leadership for the challenges ahead," wrote Baker in a valedictory post. "I’ve been leading the Mozilla business through a transformative period, while also overseeing Mozilla's broader mission. It's become evident that both endeavors need dedicated full-time leadership."

Mozilla's new CEO is Laura Chambers – a tech executive who has served on the of board of directors since 2021. She will run the org as an interim chief exec for the rest of the year, during which time a permanent boss will be found and installed, hopefully.

In a post to LinkedIn, Chambers wrote: "Today, I am looking forward to coming in as CEO, as we continue to work hard to build a better internet … an internet that is not dominated by negativity and divisiveness, but that celebrates, embodies and supports our deepest hopes for human progress."

Some online negativity and divisiveness has concerned Baker's salary, which grew significantly while the market share of the Firefox browser – Mozilla's highest profile product – declined.

Baker first held the CEO job from 2005 through 2008. Her latest stint as the top boss began in 2019 when she became interim chief executive after the departure of Chris Beard. She formally took the helm in 2020, three months after about 100 layoffs. Four months later, she announced the layoff of 250 staff [PDF] due to the COVID pandemic's impact on corporate finances.

At the time, Cal Paterson, a UK-based software developer and Firefox user, published an analysis slamming Mozilla's lavish compensation to executives, which he criticized for being paid despite the org failing to manage its finances efficiently and spending time on side businesses to the detriment of Firefox.

"Fully 30 percent of all expenditure goes on administration," charged Paterson. "Charity Navigator, an organization that measures NGO effectiveness, would give them zero out of ten on the relevant metric. For context, to achieve 5/10 on that measure Mozilla admin [costs] would need to be under 25 percent of spending and, for 10/10, under 15 percent."

"Senior executives have also done very well for themselves," Paterson continued. "Mitchell Baker, Mozilla's top executive, was paid $2.4m in 2018, a sum I personally think of as instant inter-generational wealth. Payments to Baker have more than doubled in the last five years."

According to Mozilla's financial filings, Mitchell Baker's compensation increased from $5,591,406 in 2021 [PDF] to $6,903,089 in 2022 [PDF]. During that period, Mozilla's revenues – long dominated by payments from Google to make it Firefox's default search – dipped [PDF] from $527,585,000 to $510,389,000.

Mozilla is not yet ready to detail the size of Chambers's pay packet. "We are not disclosing Laura's incoming salary at this time," a Mozilla spokesperson told The Register. "Please note that the salary for our leadership team is determined in conjunction with the Mozilla Corporation Board and our compensation strategies at the Corporation acknowledge we are competing for the best talent in a competitive labor market."

Chambers until now has been a member of the Mozilla board’s audit and compensation committees but will be leaving those committees in her new role.

Concerns about Mozilla aren't confined to its cost management and executive pay. As The Register’s own Liam Proven opined last year, the organization lacks focus and "seems to be asleep at the wheel, when it once drove online activity and communications."

The public benefit corporation has given up on at least two dozen projects. That's not as bad as Google, but it's nothing to celebrate.


Mozilla pivots to data privacy champion... but what about Firefox?


In 2020, Mozilla got into the VPN business. More recently, it rolled out an AI documentation chatbot that failed to impress. And just this week it jumped into the crowded consumer data deletion market.

According to Baker, Mozilla will be "doubling down on our core products, like Firefox, and building out our capabilities and innovation pipeline to bring new compelling products to market."

The org is also attempting to alter the markets in which it competes by urging regulators to lower competitive barriers raised by Apple, Google, and Microsoft.

But fighting Big Tech's self-preferencing ways is hard when most of your revenue comes from one of them. Even if Mozilla manages to make its products compelling, Apple, Google, or Microsoft have the resources to launch something similar and the platform dominance to fend off competition.

New leadership at Mozilla is therefore welcome – but probably not enough. Mozilla is going to need regulatory help, in addition to technical innovation, to bring Firefox back from the brink. ®

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