Today: Mozilla's new leader steps down from the Mountain View nonprofit after a backlash stemming from his financial support of initiative to ban same-sex marriage. Also: Google gains after stock split.
The Lead: Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich steps down after Prop. 8 uproar
"While painful, the events of the last week show exactly why we need the Web. So all of us can engage freely in the tough conversations we need to make the world better," the Mountain View nonprofit's other cofounder, Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker said in the announcement of the move. "We need to put our focus back on protecting that Web. And doing so in a way that will make you proud to support Mozilla."
The backlash against Mozilla, which produces the Firefox Web browser, included calls for his resignation from developer groups and Mozilla's employees, as well as a widely discussed block on Firefox browsers at the dating site OKCupid, which asked users to switch their choice of Web browsers to show their support for gay marriage.
"The difference between marriage equality as a right versus a matter of political or personal opinion is nuanced, historically recent, and culturally complex for a global community like Mozilla's. And it's on us to demonstrate that we understand and show respect," Mozilla Foundation Program Manager Matt Thompson wrote last week on his blog.
Prop. 8 was approved by Californians in the 2008 election that gave Arnold Schwarzenegger his only full term as governor of the state, with the ban on same-sex marriage receiving about 52 percent of the vote. The ban was eventually struck down by a federal appeals court in California, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that backers of the law looking to appeal that decision did not have the standing to do so, which brought same-sex marriage back to the Golden State.
Eich's contribution first caused controversy in 2012, when he was still chief technology officer of Mozilla, a position he took in 2005. While that firestorm died down, it sprang back to life after Mozilla ended a yearlong search for a new chief executive by promoting Eich from within.
"Brendan Eich, as a founder and a well-respected innovator of Web technologies, is uniquely equipped to lead Mozilla with his deep understanding of the organization's core values and technology vision," LinkedIn cofounder and Mozilla board member Reid Hoffman said in the announcement of Eich's promotion.
Mozilla and Eich attempted to take control of the conversation and save the appointment with open responses last week.
"Mozilla's community is made up of people who have very diverse personal beliefs working on a common cause, which is a free and open Internet," an unsigned Mozilla blog post read. "That is a very rare and special thing."
Eich pledged "active commitment to equality in everything we do" in a personal blog post, and said he would work "with LGBT communities and allies, to listen and learn what does and doesn't make Mozilla supportive and welcoming."
"You will see exemplary behavior from me toward everyone in our community, no matter who they are; and the same toward all those whom we hope will join, and for those who use our products," he wrote.
Those promises were not enough to save his job at the nonprofit foundation, however, and Mozilla said Thursday that it will return to the drawing board in a search for a new leader.
"What's next for Mozilla's leadership is still being discussed," Baker wrote Thursday, later adding, "Our mission will always be to make the Web more open so that humanity is stronger, more inclusive and more just: that's what it means to protect the open Web."
SV150 market report: Wall Street declines, Google gains after stock split
Wall Street indexes declined Thursday ahead of the release of March's jobs report on Friday, with Silicon Valley tech stocks falling more than 1 percent despite a gain from Google on the day for both versions of the Mountain View Internet giant's newly split stock.
As expected, Google's share price was cut in half after the 2-for-1 stock split took place, with Wednesday's closing price of $1,135.10 becoming $568.12 for the new class of shares, which moved as high as $588.30 Thursday before calming down to a gain of 0.6 percent at $571.50. The split creates three classes for Google stock: The "A" class, which previously existed and has voting power and trades under the ticker symbol GOOGL; the "B" class, owned only by cofounders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and select other early stakeholders; and the new class of "C" shares, which have no voting power and trade under the ticker symbol GOOG. The new class of shares closed at $569.74 after a gain of 0.5 percent, keeping the two classes of publicly available shares in a similar trading range, which is important to Google after the company settled a shareholder lawsuit on the split by agreeing to pay up to $7.5 billion to make up any difference to existing investors. That lawsuit held up the split, which was originally announced almost exactly two years before the split actually took place.
Juniper Networks gained 1.7 percent to $26.80 after announcing that it will cut about 6 percent of its workforce, which seems to be an attempt to sate hedge fund Elliott Management, which agitated for such a move after investing in the company earlier this year. Apple dropped 0.7 percent to $538.79 after announcing that its annual Worldwide Developers Conference will take place in the first week of June, with attendees chosen at random; TechCrunch reported that the Cupertino tech giant had acquired a speech-recognition company, presumably to help further development of its Siri virtual-assistant offering. Pandora initially gained after announcing that listener hours increased 14 percent year-over-year in March -- a monthly update it intends to halt later this year -- but closed with a 5.1 percent descent at $29.85 after analysts disagreed about how to interpret the company's numbers. Twitter dropped 3.7 percent to $44.05 after the Turkish ban on the service was officially lifted, and Yahoo fell 2.4 percent to $35.76 after adding more security in an attempt to thwart surveillance.
Up: Intel, Juniper, Nvidia, Google, Cisco, Applied Materials, Symantec, Gilead
Down: Workday, Yelp, Facebook, SolarCity, Pandora, Adobe, Salesforce, Zynga, Twitter, LinkedIn, Yahoo, Tesla, Netflix, Oracle, Hewlett-Packard, eBay, VMware, AMD, SunPower
The SV150 index of Silicon Valley's largest tech companies: Down 17.15, or 1.14 percent, to 1,490.99
The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite index: Down 38.71, or 0.91 percent, to 4,237.74
The blue chip Dow Jones industrial average: Down 0.45 to 16,572.55
And the widely watched Standard & Poor's 500 index: Down 2.13, or 0.11 percent, to 1,888.77
Check in weekday afternoons for the 60-Second Business Break, a summary of news from Mercury News staff writers, The Associated Press, Bloomberg News and other wire services. Contact Jeremy C. Owens at 408-920-5876; follow him at Twitter.com/jowens510.