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Mozilla names new CEO as it pivots to data privacy

Mozilla Corp., which manages the open-source Firefox browser, announced today that Mitchell Baker is stepping down as CEO to focus on AI and internet safety as chair of the nonprofit foundation. Laura Chambers, a Mozilla board member and entrepreneur with experience at Airbnb, PayPal, and eBay, will step in as interim CEO to run operations until a permanent replacement is found.

Baker, a Silicon Valley pioneer who co-founded the Mozilla Project, says it was her decision to step down as CEO, adding that the move is motivated by a sense of urgency over the current state of the internet and public trust. “We want to offer an alternative for people to have better products,” says Baker, who wants to draw more attention to policies, products and processes to challenge business models built on fueling outrage. “What are the connections between this global malaise and how humans are engaging with each other and technology?”

Chambers says she plans to focus on building out new products that address growing privacy concerns while actively looking for a full-time CEO. Prior to being recruited to the Mozilla board three years ago, Chambers says she was feeling “pretty disillusioned” about society because of the influence of money in politics and the growing power of the tech giants. “I was confused about what to do and this felt like a genuine way to make an impact.”

Chambers says she won’t be seeking a permanent CEO role because she plans to move back to Australia later this year for family reasons.  “I think this is an example of Mozilla doing the right role modelling in how to manage a succession,” says Chambers. 

The move comes at a time when Mozilla has no choice but to reimagine its role in a world dominated by Big Tech and AI. Firefox, which launched 20 years ago to challenge the dominance of Internet Explorer and once accounted for more than 30% of the global browser market, has shrunk to low single digits in a world dominated by Google Chrome. Mozilla now makes most of its almost $600 million in annual revenue from promoting Chrome as the default search engine on its home page. 

But AI has given the nonprofit foundation and its cofounder Baker a fresh sense of mission in creating alternatives to tackle deepfakes, data privacy issues and the power of big tech. It launched a Mozilla.ai startup last year and Mozilla Corp. is focused on product extensions like Mozilla Monitor that wipe subscribers’ data off the web. 

For Baker, success is about influencing the conversation and giving consumers, as well as developers, a meaningful choice in how they operate online. “Our goal is to build something different,” she says, “business models with some societal purpose and public benefit” that give users meaningful control over their data. “The qualities of online life can be improved.”

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