Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich is stepping down as CEO following protests over his support of a gay marriage ban in California.
The Mountain View, Calif.-based organization that makes the Firefox browser infuriated many employees and users last week by promoting Eich.
At issue was Eich’s $1,000 donation in 2008 to the campaign to pass California’s Proposition 8, a constitutional amendment that outlawed same-sex marriages. The ban was overturned when the U.S. Supreme Court last year left in place a lower-court ruling striking down the ballot measure.
Eich’s contribution had drawn negative attention in the past but took on more weight when he was named CEO. Mozilla employees and users criticized the move on Twitter and elsewhere online. Earlier this week, dating website OKCupid replaced its usual homepage for users logging in with Firefox with a note suggesting they not use Mozilla’s software to access the site.
Eich’s resignation is hardly a case of the Twitterverse toppling a titan of industry. Set up as a nonprofit that prides itself on ‘‘making the Web better’’ while putting ‘‘principle over profit,’’ Mozilla is a world apart from most of its Silicon Valley neighbors. Its most noteworthy product, the Firefox Web browser, is the world’s third-most-popular behind Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
Even so, the incident calls into question the extent to which corporate leaders are allowed to express their political views.
Mozilla chairwoman Mitchell Baker apologized for the company’s actions in an open letter online Thursday, saying that Eich is stepping down for the company’s sake.
‘‘We didn’t act like you’d expect Mozilla to act. We didn’t move fast enough to engage with people once the controversy started. We’re sorry. We must do better,’’ Baker wrote.
She said that Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech and that ‘‘figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard.’’
Mozilla is still discussing what is next for its leadership.
A representative for Mozilla could not be reached immediately for further comment.
Mozilla says about half a billion people around the world use Firefox, which has free, open software written in part by volunteers. Google’s Chrome browser and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer are more widely used across desktops, tablets and phones.