Did Brendan Eich Contribute to Firefox's Decline?

August 25th, 2014 by Jacob Barkdull

This may sound like analyzing yesterday's news, but I think it's important, and more than that I need to put this here as a resource to point certain people to.

As we probably all know Brendan Eich [co-]creator of the JavaScript scripting language, co-founder of the Mozilla project, the Mozilla Foundation and the Mozilla Corporation, and ex-chief technical officer of Mozilla Corporation was promoted to chief executive officer (CEO) of Mozilla on March 24, 2014 only to resign on April 3, 2014 due to controversy over his $1,000 donation to the unconstitutional California Proposition 8 in 2008.

We probably also all know that Firefox's popularity has been declining. Today I want to ask the question: Did Brendan Eich's appointment to CEO or subsequent resignation contribute to Firefox's decline?

Firefox's feedback shows a huge spike in negative feedback immediately following Brendan Eich's resignation, however, there is also two similar spikes in negative feedback immediately following Mozilla's introduction of the Australis interface design in Firefox 29, also in April, and these two spikes put together equal around two thirds of the negative feedback received after Eich's resignation.

However, with that said, user feedback doesn't mean anything. It doesn't equate market share nor the loss thereof. So let's take a look at the important metric here, usage statistics...

StatCounter

Appointment...

StatCounter Sept. 2009 to July 2014

A noticeable dip there at the end of March, but it returns to normal by the start of April.

Resignation...

StatCounter Sept. 2009 to July 2014

All over the place with a slight but steady decline.

W3Schools

Appointment...

Nothin'.

Resignation...

A slight raise, slight drop, then slight raise. Basically nothin'.

Wikimedia

Appointment...

Nothin'.

Resignation...

A predictably steady decline, along with Chrome and Internet Explorer, interestingly.


So? Did Brendan Eich contribute to Firefox's decline? The answer... a definitive "No".

It's important to note that when I say "steady" it's in reference to the overall usage statistics of Firefox since 2009. You should view the charts in the article "The popularity of Firefox is definitely waning!" to get a better idea of Firefox's usage over the years. *spoilers* It's been steadily declining.

It's also worth mentioning this comment thread that makes my personal opinions of Brendan Eich, his appointment and resignation, and the "religious views" excuse perfectly clear...

"Anyone who thinks Brendan Eich did no wrong is likely homophobic, or at the very least unable to understand that Firefox is an Open Source project that depends on user contributions from an online community often varying in age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, and that you can't have a healthy community when its CEO is essentially telling a portion of it that they are lesser than the rest."

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