This is a big effing deal: A boycott that actually worked.
Mozilla's new CEO has just stepped down after barely a week on the job, after the internet discovered he opposed gay marriage. Brendan Eich had to resign as CEO after users launched a massive boycott of Firefox.
The dating website OkCupid took a radical approach to promoting the boycott. They interrupted their Firefox users' access to the site and asked them to stop Firefox because of Eich's opposition to gay marriage:
In 2008, Eich donated $1,000 of his personal funds to support Proposition 8, which re-banned gay marriage in California.
Mozilla was forced to defend itself for appointing Eich and reiterating its commitment to equal rights:
Mozilla prides itself on being held to a different standard and, this past week, we didn't live up to it. We know why people are hurt and angry, and they are right: it's because we haven't stayed true to ourselves,"
Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. 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.
Our organizational culture reflects diversity and inclusiveness. We welcome contributions from everyone regardless of age, culture, ethnicity, gender, gender-identity, language, race, sexual orientation, geographical location and religious views. Mozilla supports equality for all.
Earlier this week Eich attempted to stave off his resignation by publicly reassuring everyone that he would support the gay community. But refused to say whether he might donate to a similar political cause in future, and that silence probably lent fuel to the boycott.
Eich's resignation tells us we're seeing a huge sea change in gay rights. Apparently, it's now impossible to run a major internet company if you oppose gay rights. The PR damage is just too great. But companies in more traditional markets can weather boycotts like this much better.
A similarly targeted boycott against Chick-fil-A has had no effect, perhaps because it didn't hurt the company's bottom line, since it's been countered by pro-Chick-fil-A "spending" by conservatives who oppose gay marriage. As of January 2014, Chick-fil-A still donates to the American Family Association, America's leading opponents of gay rights.
Meanwhile a boycott from the other side, against gay marriage, is also meeting with resounding failure. One Million Moms and the American Family Association are boycotting Honey Maid over their ad featuring gay parents. But far from being effective, this boycott - which entailed emailing Honey Maid to express disapproval and withdrawal of custom - has been turned into a whole new successful ad campaign by Nabisco.
Based on all of this, here's how you know if a boycott might work: it works best if you target a company who share your beliefs. Trying to convince Chick-fil-A's management to switch sides has not been a winner. But Mozilla's lack of support for Eich reflects the company's socially-liberal values.