Mozilla lays off 250 employees while it refocuses on commercial products

Mozilla: "Our pre-COVID plan is no longer workable."

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The Mozilla Corporation announced today it was laying off approximately 250 staff members in a move to shore up the organization's financial future.

The layoffs were publicly announced in a blog post today. Employees were notified hours before, earlier this morning, via an email [PDF] sent by Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Corporation CEO and Mozilla Foundation Chairwoman.

Baker's message cited the organization's need to adapt its finances to a post-COVID-19 world and re-focus the organization on new commercial services.

Baker said that after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mozilla attempted to minimize the healthcare crisis' financial impact with "immediate cost-saving measures such as pausing our hiring, reducing our wellness stipend and cancelling our All-Hands [meetings]."

However, Baker said that Mozilla's "pre-COVID plan is no longer workable."

"We have talked about the need for change — including the likelihood of layoffs — since the spring. Today these changes become real," the Mozilla CEO said today.

"We are reducing the size of the MoCo workforce by approximately 250 roles, including closing our current operations in Taipei, Taiwan. Another 60 or so people will change teams. The people who are included in the reduction are both true Mozillians, and professionals with high degrees of skill and expertise and commitment. This action is not in any way - not, not, not - a reflection on personal or professional qualities."

Baker said that all the 250+ employees that have been laid off today will receive severance pay for the rest of the year, along with H1 2020 bonuses.

The company also plans to publish a "talent directory" where it plans to advertise the skills and experience of the staff members it laid off today (if employees agree to have their names listed).

In 2018, the Mozilla Corporation said it had around 1,000 full-time employees worldwide. Mozilla previously laid off 70 employees in January. Several sources have told ZDNet that the recent layoffs accounted for nearly a quarter of the organization's workforce.

Main casualties of today's layoffs were the developers working on the company's experimental Servo browser engine and Mozilla's threat management security team. The latter is the security team that investigates security reports and performs incident response. The security team that fixes bugs in Mozilla products is still in place, according to sources and a Mozilla spokesperson.

Mozilla to refocus on its own commercial products

Going forward, Baker said Mozilla will also be re-thinking its core business model and put more focus on financially viable products.

"Recognizing that the old model where everything was free has consequences, means we must explore a range of different business opportunities and alternate value exchanges," Baker said.

"We must learn and expand different ways to support ourselves and build a business that isn't what we see today."

This most likely includes a bigger focus on Mozilla's VPN offering, which Mozilla formally launched last month. Virtual Private Network (VPN) apps are one of today's biggest money-makers in tech, and Mozilla, despite arriving late to the party, is set to become one of the biggest players on the market, primarily due to its reputation as a privacy-first organization and civil and privacy rights advocate.

Furthermore, Mozilla's contract with Google to include Google as the default search provider inside Firefox is set to expire later this year, and the contract has not been renewed. The Google deal has historically accounted for around 90% of all of Mozilla's revenue, and without it experts see a dim future for Mozilla past 2021.