Mozilla, the company behind the well-known Firefox internet browser, announced on Tuesday that it would be laying 250 employees, roughly a quarter of its workforce, in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The company’s remaining employees will also be refocused on projects expected to generate the most money.
“Economic conditions resulting from the global pandemic have significantly impacted our revenue. As a result, our pre-COVID plan was no longer workable,” CEO Mitchell Baker said in a blog post about the layoffs. “Though we’ve been talking openly with our employees about the need for change — including the likelihood of layoffs — since the spring, it was no easier today when these changes became real. I desperately wish there was some other way to set Mozilla up for long term success in building a better internet.”
As part of its initial plan to generate more revenue, Mozilla will shift focus to a handful of major products. These include Pocket, the company’s VPN service; Hubs, a virtual reality chatroom service; and, a handful of other “security and privacy” offerings.
Mozilla generates the majority of its revenue from deals to make certain search engines the default option in its Firefox browser. This includes Google in the U.S., Baidu in China, and Yandex in Russia. The company has also been moving toward subscription-based offerings in the last year, including a VPN available directly from Firefox.
Mozilla has long had an operating philosophy that put the demands and concerns of the customers before revenue. The company’s main site boasts the motto, “Internet for the people, not for profit.” However, in the wake of the recent economic downturn, Mitchell admits that the company has had to reevaluate how it approaches this philosophy.
“Recognizing that the old model where everything was free has consequences, means we must explore a range of different business opportunities and alternate value exchanges,” Mitchell said in the blog post.
Mozilla is also coming off of many years of dwindling business, with bigger companies eating up market share and big product gambles, like the proposed Firefox smartphone, failing to materialize. As of July 2020, Firefox ranked third in use among Internet browsers with 4.26% market share, overwhelmingly bested by Apple’s Safari at 16.65% and Google Chrome at 65.89%.