From Coding to CEO Controversy by Brendan Eich

Brendan Eich

"The web is a big deal."

- Brendan Eich

Brendan Eich was one of the people that saw the browser war coming. Although his team lost the game, Eich continued his contribution in creating JavaScript, the web scripting language that is now an international standard.

His work helping the growth of the web didn't stop there. He helped the launch of one of the most popular browser, Firefox. And eventually after his relentless dedications, his career continues up to a point where Mozilla was looking for a new CEO. The company looked no further and appointed him as the best man for the title.

Early Life

Brendan Eich was born in 1961 in Sunnyvale, California. Eich received his bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science at Santa Clara University. He then continued his studies and received his master's degree in 1986 from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Eich that calls himself "a nerd from a tender age", studied Java in early 1995 with Kipp Hickman. After Hickman started writing his own JVM, he helped Eich in writing the first version of NSPR as a portability layer underlying his JVM.

Early Career And JavaScript

Brendan Eich started his career at Silicon Graphics where he worked for seven years on operating system and network code. After retiring from Silicon Graphics, he then worked at MicroUnity System Engineering where he wrote microkernel and DSP code for three years. He was also doing the first MIPS R4000 port of GCC.

He then started to work at Netscape Communications Corporation in April 1995 when the company was about a year old. At that time, Netscape was looking for someone to work on a scripting language inside the browser that could be used to automate parts of a web page and making it more dynamic. Eich contributed in Netscape's move because the company said that it was implementing the Scheme language to the browser. Client engineering management including Tom Paquin, Michael Toy, Rick Schell and Marc Andreessen, were convinced that Netscape should embed a programming language, in source form, in HTML.

After Microsoft won the first browser war, Mozilla was in a desperate move to make something useful of the Netscape's open-source code base.

Eich created JavaScript or ECMAScript (originally called Mocha by Marc Andreessen before changing its name to LiveScript) in a 10-day burst of activity for the Netscape Navigator 2.0 web browser that was released in September 1995. LiveScript was renamed JavaScript on December 4, 1995. "Whether that language should be Scheme was an open question, but Scheme was the bait I went for in joining Netscape," said Eich.

Since then, JavaScript, the object-oriented web scripting language, has become an international standard allowing web developers the ability to write Dynamic HTML that works on multiple browsers. Java Script beats Java on the client, rivaled only by Flash, which supports an offspring of JavaSript, ActionScript.


In January 1998 when Netscape started to open-source Mozilla project, Brendan Eich helped found, serving as Chief Architect. When AOL shuts down Netscape browser unit in July 2003, Eich helped spin out the Mozilla Foundation where he serves as the Board member. Brendan helped launch the Firefox web browser in September 2003 and Thunderbird email client in December 2004.

In August 2005, after serving as Lead Technologist and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Mozilla Foundation, Eich became CTO of the newly founded Mozilla Corporation to manage the product and platform engineering teams. His central focus was guiding the company's technical work.

In 2009, Eich also contributed to the creation of the Rust programming language at Mozilla. The project that was first initiated in 2006 by lead developer Graydon Hoare was officially unveiled in 2010. Eich has been a Member of Advisory Board at B.V. since March 2011, and a member of Advisory Board at Aptana, Inc..

In 2014, Mozilla was looking for a new CEO when Gary Kovacs announced his departure. Eich was elected to became the CEO, and officially holds the position in March 24, 2014.

The Anti-Gay Controversy

Brandan Eich took the job for just a little more than a week before stepping down on April 3rd.

The cause for this was his $1,000 donation in 2008 to the campaign supporting California Proposition 8, a California ballot proposition and a state constitutional amendment created by opponents of same-gender marriage. This was recorded in a public database with Mozilla's name attached as his employer. This reached public notability in March 2012, being controversial in the tech sphere and the gay press both in the U.S. and internationally. Twitter reaction itself achieving press noteworthiness.

And when Eich became the CEO of Mozilla, the controversy over the donation again reached U.S. and international news. A number of employees asked him to step down. The protest also came from Mozilla's third-party app developers. Since many of these developers have same-gender spouses, "we have chosen to boycott all Mozilla projects. We will not develop apps or test styles on Firefox anymore," said Hampton Catlin, Rarebit CEO.

Three people from Mozilla's Board members also had resigned: John Lilly, a former Mozilla CEO who's now working at venture capital firm Greylock Partners; Ellen Siminoff, CEO of online education company Schmoop; and Mozilla's former CEO, Gary Kovacs. Although it was first said because of Eich's controversial move, but Mozilla stated that the three board members ended their terms for a variety of reasons.

"Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn't live up to it," Mitchell Baker, the Chairwoman of Mozilla, wrote. "We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: It's because we haven't stayed true to ourselves."

"Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard."

"Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He's made this decision for Mozilla and our community."

Brave Software

After Mozilla, Eich co-founded Brave Software, an internet security company, and became its CEO. Another co-founder is Brian Bondy, who previously worked on Firefox and Khan Academy.

The company's product is the open-source Brave web browser, which has built-in ad and trackers blockers, a micropayments system that offers users a choice between viewing selected ads or paying websites not to display them, built integration of 1Password and LastPass password managers, etc..

Personal Life

Brendan Eich is married and have five children. Brendan Eich was named Web Innovator of the Year by in April 1998.

Eich’s support of the ban was made public years before he was promoted to CEO. But when he was, half of the Mozilla Foundation's board members and thousands of its employees and people in Silicon Valley’s Mountain View community were angered, many of whom weighed in on social media.

In an interview, Eich doesn't believe his "personal beliefs" are relevant to his job. "I don’t believe they're relevant."