Why Brendan Eich had to go

It looks rather like the failure of the Mozilla executives to defend CEO Eich from the Gay Mafia campaign being waged against him may have been at least in part due to the desire to remove a major obstacle to DRM being added to Firefox. Consider these three blog posts from three Mozilla figures, including Eich:

“With most competing browsers and the content industry embracing the W3C EME specification, Mozilla has little choice but to implement EME as well so our users can continue to access all content they want to enjoy. Read on for some background on how we got here, and details of our implementation.”
– Mozilla CTO Andreas Gal, 14 May 2014 

“Mozilla will be adding a way to integrate Adobe Access DRM technology
for video and audio into Firefox, via a common specification called
Encrypted Media Extensions (EME).”

– The Mozilla Blog, 14 May 2014

“the W3C willfully underspecifying DRM in HTML5 is quite a different matter from browsers having to support several legacy plugins. Here is a narrow bridge on which to stand and fight — and perhaps fall, but (like Gandalf) live again and prevail in the longer run. If we lose this battle, there will be others where the world needs Mozilla.

“By now it should be clear why we view DRM as bad for users, open source, and alternative browser vendors:

    Users: DRM is technically a contradiction, which leads directly to legal restraints against fair use and other user interests (e.g., accessibility).
    Open source: Projects such as mozilla.org cannot implement a robust and Hollywood-compliant CDM black box inside the EME API container using open source software.
    Alternative browser vendors: CDMs are analogous to ActiveX components from the bad old days: different for each OS and possibly even available only to the OS’s default browser.

“I continue to collaborate with others, including some in Hollywood, on watermarking, not DRM.”
– Brendan Eich, 22 October 2013

Eich stood firmly in the way of Mozilla incorporating DRM into Firefox. Now that he’s gone, and his technological authority with him, Mozilla immediately caved to Hollywood interests. It’s also interesting to note that the justification for Mozilla making this change is given as fear that users will abandon them. That demonstrates that the campaign to #uninstallfirefox was based on a sound principle, even if it was not quite as successful as I would have liked it to be.

As of yesterday, Firefox still represents 21 percent of the traffic here at VP, although it is down from 34 percent historically. But at least 8 percent of the overall traffic, (and nearly a quarter of the former Mozilla traffic), now uses Pale Moon. If you haven’t switched yet, I encourage you to try it out. Perhaps Mozilla’s embrace of DRM will convince you to do so.