No Mo'zilla for about 100 techies today: Firefox maker lays off staff as boss talks of 'difficult choices' and funding

Enjoy that new version 72? Donate.mozilla.org is a thing, folks

On Wednesday Mozilla Corporation, maker of the Firefox browser and would-be internet privacy protector, said it plans to lay off an undisclosed number of employees.

"Creating the new products we need to change the future requires us to do things differently, including allocating resources for this purpose," said Mozilla executive chairwoman Mitchell Baker in a blog post.

"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."

A Mozilla spokesperson declined to provide a copy of Baker's internal memo discussing the job cuts, said to affect 70 people. The spokesperson declined to confirm a specific number of affected employees but said the organization's total number of employees "was just under 1,100 prior to today's announcement and will be just over a 1,000 going forward."

California's Employment Development Department told The Register that it has not received a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) from the company, which suggests that fewer than 50 Mozilla workers in America's Golden State have been let go.

Via Twitter, Mozilla testing engineer Chris Hartjes said, "All the leads in QA got let go. I haven’t been let go (so far). No idea what I will be working on or who I will be reporting to."

Discharged Mozillans meanwhile have already signaled on Twitter that they're looking for new jobs.

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In 2018, Mozilla got serious about diversifying its revenue stream, which remains highly dependent on royalty payments from search engines to be the default search service in Firefox. That new revenue plan, which involved upselling Firefox users from free services to paid premium offerings, doesn't appear to have done very well, as the departure of CEO Chris Beard in August last year suggests.

Coincidentally, 2018 marked a significant revenue decline and saw expenses ($451.4m) exceed revenues ($450.9m). In its 2018 financial report, Mozilla said it had generated $436m from royalties, subscriptions and advertising revenue, down from $542m in 2017. About 91 per cent [PDF] of this $436m, or $397m, came from search deals in 2018.

In 2017, search specifically represented 93 per cent of that revenue segment, suggesting that there is some revenue diversification happening, albeit slowly. Mozilla has yet to disclose its 2019 financials.

During 2018, the global market share of Firefox, as measured by Stat Counter, started at 5.66 per cent and finished the year at 4.93 per cent, representing a 12.93 per cent decline. That persistent downward trend, if not reversed, suggests future search royalties will fall further still and underscores the need for alternative sources of revenue.

If you have any ideas about how to entice a dwindling pool of ad-averse Firefox users accustomed to free things to pay for online services they can probably get for less from a goofily-named startup burning through VC funds, Mozilla is still looking for a permanent CEO. ®

PS: Speaking of browsers, Google will "end support for Chrome Apps on Chrome OS for all customers" in June 2022.

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