Mozilla hires new CEO who will focus on Firefox OS

You've known Firefox since its birth as the alternative Web browser company. Now, under the rule of the new CEO Brendan Eich, it wants to be known as your smartphone operating system.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Mozilla, the company behind the popular Firefox Web browser, has been searching for a new CEO since Gary Kovacs, who came on-board in 2010, decided to leave almost a year ago. Mozilla has finally picked a new leader, former CTO Brendan Eich. With him comes change. Mozilla's job number one will not be its Web browser, but its mobile operating system: Firefox OS.

Brendan Eich
Mozilla's new CEO Brendan Eich may have been one of Netscape's early developers and one of Firefox's creator, but it's the smartphone operating system, Firefox OS, that he sees as Mozilla's future.

Eich is best known in technical circles as the inventor of JavaScript in 1995. He started at Mozilla as one of the early deveopers of Firefox's ancester, Netscape Navigator, and became involved with Firefox from its very beginning.

Since August 2005, he's been Mozilla's CTO. Even before his promotion to the top chair, he managed the product and platform engineering teams.

In a CNET interview with Stephen Shankland, Eich explained that while he's been the CTO for almost a decade, he's already been doing management. Looking ahead, he doesn't see himself getting much tech work done.

Instead, he'll be leading "all the parts of Mozilla, including the marketing effort. He also sees Mozilla deliver more Mozilla user servers such as Mozilla Location Service. This will help users use public Wi-Fi access points pinpoint their locations without needing GPS.

The real news moving ahead, however, is that under Eich's leadership Mozilla is making Firefox OS its top project. Eich said he sees the Firefox OS as Mozilla's highest priority. "It's like the great circus act — spinning plates while doing back handsprings, and we are definitely turning mobile in the only way that can be really effective. The highest priority is to get volume to Firefox OS, especially the $25 phones."

Can Mozilla make the jump from Web browsers to smartphones? Eich is determined to make it happen. The company has already been making changes, such as adding ads to its browser, and putting more and more emphasis on Firefox OS.

Mozilla may be being led now by one of its founders, but it's no longer going down its old roads. With a shrinking Web browser marketshare and a business model that was far too dependent on Google's good graces, it was time for a radical change. Now we'll see if Firefox OS can beat out Windows Phone and Ubuntu to become the number three smartphone operating system after Android and iOS — or if they'll die trying.

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