Mozilla announced today that it is laying off 250 employees, the second time this year that it’s been forced to do so. The problem? Its flagship product, Firefox, is losing users and thus revenues at an alarming rate.
“Today we announced a significant restructuring of Mozilla Corporation,” Mozilla CEO Mitchell Baker writes in the announcement post. “This will strengthen our ability to build and invest in products and services that will give people alternatives to conventional Big Tech. Sadly, the changes also include a significant reduction in our workforce by approximately 250 people. These are individuals of exceptional professional and personal caliber who have made outstanding contributions to who we are today. To each of them, I extend my heartfelt thanks and deepest regrets that we have come to this point. This is a humbling recognition of the realities we face, and what is needed to overcome them.”
According to Baker, Mozilla initially intended to make significant investments in Firefox, one of the few remaining Chromium holdouts in the browser space, in 2020. But with COVID ravaging the planet, the firm has had to step back and reassess its priorities. And face a new reality in which Firefox is struggling with single-digit usage share and Mozilla, as a company, is smaller.
“We’ll experiment more,” Baker writes. “We’ll adjust more quickly. We’ll join with allies outside of our organization more often and more effectively. We’ll meet people where they are. We’ll become great at expressing and building our core values into products and programs that speak to today’s issues. We’ll join and build with all those who seek openness, decency, empowerment and common good in online life.”
Of course, Mozilla’s fall has been a long time coming, and as recently as 2018, Firefox still had north of 10 percent usage share. But with Microsoft announcing that it would adopt the Chromium browser engine in late 2018, it appeared that Firefox would soon have a new foe to worry about, and as I argued at the time, Mozilla and Firefox are going to have to change to adapt to this reality. They have not done so quickly enough.
My advice remains the same: Mozilla needs to adopt Chromium and stop wasting resources trying to match the capabilities of the industry standard. Like Brave, Microsoft, Opera, Vivaldi, and the others that build browsers on top of Chromium, Mozilla can continue to add value to its own product, and it will save a lot of time and money doing so.
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