Firefox maker Mozilla axes a quarter of its workforce, blames coronavirus, vows to ‘develop new revenue streams’

250 ‘true Mozillians’ laid off, Taiwan office completely shuttered

Firefox maker Mozilla has axed 250 employees, or a quarter of its workforce, claiming the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is to blame after hitting it in the wallet. The organization will also “ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams.”…

Firefox maker Mozilla has axed 250 employees, or a quarter of its workforce, claiming the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic is to blame after hitting it in the wallet. The organization will also “ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams.”

“Economic conditions resulting from the global pandemic have significantly impacted our revenue,” Mozilla Corp CEO Mitchell Baker said in a public statement today. “As a result, our pre-COVID plan was no longer workable.”

Mozilla gets the vast, vast majority of its funding from Google, Yandex, and Baidu, who pay to be the default search engine in Firefox in their regions. In 2018, Moz had a $451m cash pile, 95 per cent of which, some $430m, was provided by these web giants. Those deals will expire [PDF, p25] in November 2020 unless renewed or renegotiated.

Seeking alternative funding sources, the open-source browser developer planned to roll out paid-for services to bring in more dosh. According to Baker, “our pre-COVID plan for 2020 included a great deal of change already: building a better internet by creating new kinds of value in Firefox; investing in innovation and creating new products; and adjusting our finances to ensure stability over the long term.” These efforts have not done, or are unlikely to do, the trick, apparently.

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In her memo [PDF] to staff, Baker said Mozilla has shut down its operations in Taiwan, some 60 or so employees will be expected to change teams, and 25 per cent of the workforce will be cut.

“The people who are included in the reduction are both true Mozillians, and professionals with high degrees of skill and expertise and commitment,” she said. “This action is not in any way – not, not, not – a reflection on personal or professional qualities. Indeed, to the contrary, the contributions of this set of people are valuable and important and are a part of Mozilla that we cherish.”

Mozilla has offered to continue paying former staff their full salary until the end of the year as severance. Some people will also receive bonus payments based on their prior work performances.

“In order to refocus the Firefox organization on core browser growth through differentiated user experiences, we are reducing investment in some areas such as developer tools, internal tooling, and platform feature development, and transitioning adjacent security/privacy products to our New Products and Operations team,” the memo stated.

Those products include Moz’s app Pocket that allows netizens to compile a list of saved articles to read later, its virtual social meeting rooms Hubs, and its $4.99-a-month VPN subscription service. Mozilla also said it’s creating new teams to focus on design and machine learning.

“We are organizing a new product organization outside of Firefox that will both ship new products faster and develop new revenue streams,” Baker said in her memo.

Google Chrome continues to dominate the browser market – desktop and mobile – though there are suggestions that Firefox’s extensive use of anti-tracking technology hurts its ranking among usage monitors. Net Marketshare pegged Chrome at 71 per cent and Firefox on seven per cent on the desktop, and Chrome on 63 per cent on mobile, and Firefox less than one per cent.

“Today we announced a significant restructuring of Mozilla Corporation. This will strengthen our ability to build and invest in products and services that will give people alternatives to conventional Big Tech,” Baker insisted. ®

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