Mozilla cuts 70 employees as it looks beyond Firefox priorities

The nonprofit is concentrating on privacy and trying to recraft the web for individuals, not big corporations.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read
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Mozilla  laid off about 70 employees Wednesday as part of an effort to preserve funding for its top new priorities like protecting privacy and fighting surveillance online. The nonprofit is best known for creating the Firefox web browser, but it also is expanding into new areas including password management, file sharing and private network connections while doubling down on its longstanding push to improve online privacy.

"We're making a significant investment to fund innovation. In order to do that responsibly, we've also had to make some difficult choices which led to the elimination of roles at Mozilla which we announced internally today," Mozilla Chair Mitchell Baker said of the layoffs in a blog post.

And Mozilla is being more cautious with revenue and expenses. "We are taking a more conservative approach to our finances. This will enable us to pivot as needed to respond to market threats to internet health, and champion user privacy and agency," Mozilla said in a statement.

Former Mozilla Chief Executive Brendan Eich tweeted Wednesday that the layoff hit about 70 people, a figure one source familiar with the cuts confirmed. Mozilla had about 1,200 employees at the end of 2017, including both the employees at the Mozilla Foundation parent organization and its for-profit subsidiary, Mozilla Corp. The layoff only affects the Mozilla Corp. and will cut its staff from just under 1,100 to about 1,000.

Chart showing a slow, steady decline in the number of monthly Firefox users from 2017 through 2019.

Mozilla faces slow but steady declines in the number of monthly Firefox users.

Mozilla; screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET

Mozilla gets most of its funding from search ad deals with Google and other search engines. In an internal memo from published by TechCrunch Wednesday, Baker said a Mozilla's expected increase in revenue from subscriptions and other new sources in 2019 "did not happen."

Firefox is used by millions of people, but it's steadily losing users, according to Mozilla's usage statistics. The number of Firefox installations used monthly dropped from about 312 million three years ago to 253 million today. Firefox usage drives searches that produce search ad revenue.

Meanwhile, Google's dominant Chrome browser continues to increase in usage. Its open-source foundation, Chromium, is now the underpinning for Microsoft's new Edge browser, released for the first time Wednesday. Also using Chromium are browsers such as Samsung Internet, Vivaldi, Opera and Brave -- the latter from Eich's new startup Brave Software.

New Mozilla priorities

Mozilla declined to say which areas were affected by layoffs. But in her statement Baker listed several top new priorities.

"From security and privacy network architecture to the surveillance economy, artificial intelligence, identity systems, control over our data, decentralized web and content discovery and disinformation - Mozilla has a critical role to play in helping to create product solutions that address the challenges in these spaces," Baker said.

In Mozilla's most recent tax filing, the nonprofit disclosed that Baker's pay in 2018 was $2.4 million.

"Delivering on the potential of the Mozilla organization requires strong leadership, and competitive compensation is critical to our ability to recruit top talent. We develop compensation packages carefully, with attention to compensation practices at peer organizations," Mozilla said in a statement.

Today's layoff is not Mozilla's first. It cut some jobs as it restructured Asian operations in 2018 and eliminated an effort to spread Firefox to electronics devices in 2017.

Some of those who just lost their jobs took to Twitter. "Anyone want a badass senior release manager," tweeted Liz Henry. "I'm so proud of my work at Mozilla, shipping Firefox to hundreds of millions of people around the world."

The pay for Mozilla Chair and longtime leader Mitchell Baker in 2018 surpassed $2.4 million.

The pay for Mozilla Chair and longtime leader Mitchell Baker in 2018, the most recent year for which the organization released the information, surpassed $2.4 million.


First published 12:32 p.m. PT.
Update, 1:06 p.m. PT: Adds more detail and comments from Mozilla.

Watch this: Check out Firefox's new content-blocking tools