Mozilla names Chris Beard permanent CEO

The acting CEO, hired back to Mozilla in April after a two-week crisis left the Firefox developer without a leader, will have a full slate of management and technology issues to handle.

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Mozilla CEO Chris Beard
Mozilla CEO Chris Beard. Eric Millette

Mozilla has given acting chief executive Chris Beard the job permanently, bringing an official end to the management crisis that struck the Firefox developer four months ago with the short-lived tenure of Brendan Eich.

"Chris has a keen sense of where Mozilla has been -- and where we're headed," said Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker in an announcement Monday. "Chris has a clear vision of how to take Mozilla's mission and turn it into industry-changing products and ideas."

Eich, Mozilla's co-founder and chief technology officer, was promoted to CEO in March, but resigned less than two weeks later in April after a firestorm of protest about his 2008 contribution of $1,000 to a movement against gay marriage in California. His departure was a big deal: Eich was a major figure in the Web technology world, having invented the JavaScript programming language and being involved in standards work. Internally, Eich was responsible for many technology and product decisions.

Beard isn't a stranger to Mozilla, though. He worked there for years and rose to the rank of chief marketing officer before leaving in 2013 to become executive in residence at venture capital firm Greylock Partners. Baker said he was qualified for the job:

Chris first joined Mozilla in 2004, just before we shipped Firefox 1.0 -- and he's been deeply involved in every aspect of Mozilla ever since. During his many years here, he at various times has had responsibility for almost every part of the business, including product, marketing, innovation, communications, community, and user engagement.

Before taking on the interim CEO role, Chris spent close to a year as Executive-in-Residence at the venture capital firm Greylock Partners, gaining a deeper perspective on innovation and entrepreneurship.

Beard faces many challenges at Mozilla.

For one thing, Firefox's share of usage on personal computers plateaued years ago and has been declining more recently, according to two major analytics sites, StatCounter and Net Applications' NetMarketShare. For another, the browser has yet to make a dent in the fast-growing mobile world, dominated by Apple's Safari and by Google's Android and Chrome browsers.

Mozilla's answer to the mobile problem is an entire operating system, Firefox OS, which runs apps built using the same technologies out of which websites are made. Using Web apps gives the company a head start compared to building a completely new software ecosystem the way Google has done with Android and Apple with iOS, but Mozilla still has a long way to go.