Mozilla names ex-exec Chris Beard as interim CEO

Fills the 11-day opening after Brendan Eich resigned amid marriage equality controversy

Mozilla today named former executive Chris Beard as its interim CEO and appointed him to its board of directors.

"Excited to step in as interim CEO to continue shaping the future of the Web for public good w/ fellow Mozillians," Beard tweeted Monday.

Mozilla named Chris Beard, former chief marketing officer, as its interim CEO to fill the spot vacated by Brendan Eich 11 days ago. (Image: Greylock Partners.)

The announcement came 11 days after Brendan Eich resigned as CEO. Eich, the creator of JavaScript and one of the co-founders of Mozilla, lasted just 10 days. Eich stepped down as controversy over his 2008 contribution to a group fighting same-sex marriage in California spiraled out of control.

"It's great that they picked a CEO and are moving forward," said Al Hilwa, an analyst with IDC who follows Mozilla. "They have a full agenda that they have set for themselves, especially around becoming a full play in mobile platforms."

Beard was most recently Mozilla's chief marketing officer, a position he held until June 2013, when he left for a spot as an executive in residence at Greylock Partners, a Menlo Park, Calif. venture capitalist firm.

Mitchell Baker, Mozilla chairwoman, announced Beard's appointment Monday on the open-source organization's blog. Mozilla is best known as the maker of Firefox.

"In this time of transition there is no better person to lead us," Baker said. "Chris has one of the clearest visions of how to take the Mozilla mission and turn it into programs and activities and product ideas that I have ever seen."

According to his LinkedIn profile, Beard joined Mozilla a month before the November 2004 launch of Firefox 1.0. During his time with the company, he also held titles of vice president, products; and chief innovation officer. After leaving Mozilla he continued to advise the organization.

At Greylock, Beard joined John Lilly, Mozilla CEO from 2008 to 2010, who is one of Greylock's investing partners. Lilly was also formerly on the Mozilla board, but resigned from that position last month.

"Mozilla needs to act quickly and decisively," Baker said today, referring to its naming of Beard. "This is key for any leader at Mozilla, including our CEO, whether interim or otherwise. Chris' experience and insight is highly aligned with our goals."

Baker also said that Beard was a "strong candidate" for permanent CEO, but said that there was work still to do, including a long-term plan for the CEO's role, fleshing out the board -- which now has four members -- and "continuing our efforts to actively support each Mozillian to reach his or her full potential as a leader."

The latter was a reference to pledges that Mozilla made in the midst of the Eich controversy, including an affirmation of its support of marriage equality and various commitments to inclusivity of both employees and volunteer contributors.

Firefox's share of active desktop browsers has slumped in the last year, and Mozilla has turned its attention to Firefox OS, the browser-based mobile operating system that it hopes will give it a toe-hold on smartphones, where Apple's Safari and Google's Android and Chrome browser dominate.

Last month, Firefox accounted for just 17.7% of the global desktop browser user share, down 2.4 percentage points in the past year, and 7.4 points off its all-time high of 25.1% in four years ago.

"The Web platform is fast changing and has pressing security needs, and Mozilla has both an opportunity and a challenge to differentiate in this area," observed IDC's Hilwa.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed. His email address is gkeizer@computerworld.com.

See more by Gregg Keizer on Computerworld.com.

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