After installing a new interim CEO earlier this month, Mozilla, the organization behind the Firefox browser, is making some major changes to its product strategy, TechCrunch has learned.
Specifically, Mozilla plans to scale back its investment in a number of products, including its VPN, Relay and, somewhat remarkably, its Online Footprint Scrubber, which launched only a week ago. Mozilla will also shut down Hubs, the 3D virtual world it launched back in 2018, and scale back its investment in its mozilla.social Mastodon instance. The layoffs will affect roughly 60 employees. Bloomberg previously reported the layoffs.
Going forward, the company said in an internal memo, Mozilla will focus on bringing “trustworthy AI into Firefox.” To do so, it will bring together the teams that work on Pocket, Content and AI/Ml.
Mozilla started expanding its product portfolio in recent years, all while its flagship product, Firefox, kept losing market share. And while the organization was often sharply criticized for this, its leadership argued that diversifying its product portfolio beyond Firefox was necessary to ensure Mozilla’s survival in the long run. Firefox, after all, provided the vast majority of Mozilla’s income, but it also meant the organization was essentially dependent on Google to continue this deal. With these changes, it now looks like Mozilla may refocus on Firefox once more, something that will surely make many hardcore Firefox fans quite happy.
Here is the full internal memo:
Scaling back investment mozilla.social: With mozilla.social, we made a big bet in 2023 to build a safer, better social media experience, based on Mastodon and the Fediverse. Our initial approach was based on a belief that Mozilla needed to quickly reach large scale in order to effectively shape the future of social media. It was a noble idea but one we struggled to execute. While we resourced mozilla.social heavily to pursue this ambitious idea, in retrospect a more modest approach would have enabled us to participate in the space with considerably greater agility. The actions we’re taking today will make this strategic correction, working through a much smaller team to participate in the Mastodon ecosystem and more rapidly bring smaller experiments to people that choose to live on the mozilla.social instance.
Protection Experimentation & Identity (PXI): We’re scaling back investment in some of our standalone consumer products in the Security and Privacy space. We are reducing investment in market segments that competitors crowd and where it is challenging to deliver a differentiated offering. Specifically, we plan to reduce our investments in VPN, Relay, and Online Footprint Scrubber. We will maintain investment in products addressing customer needs in growing market segments.Hubs: Since early 2023, we have experienced a shift in the market for 3D virtual worlds. With the exception of gaming, education, and a handful of niche use cases, demand has moved away from 3D virtual worlds. This is impacting all industry players. Hubs’ user and customer bases are not robust enough to justify continuing to dedicate resources against the headwinds of the unfavorable shift in demand. We will wind down the service and communicate a graceful exit plan to customers.
Right-sizing the People Team
Given the reduction in staffing and lower headcount budget moving forward in MozProd, some roles have been consolidated in the People and other support services orgs so that we are offering the right level of support to our product portfolio.Optimizing our org to sharpen focus
In 2023, generative AI began rapidly shifting the industry landscape. Mozilla seized an opportunity to bring trustworthy AI into Firefox, largely driven by the Fakespot acquisition and the product integration work that followed. Additionally, finding great content is still a critical use case for the internet. Therefore, as part of the changes today, we will be bringing together Pocket, Content, and the AI/ML teams supporting content with the Firefox Organization. More details on the specific organizational changes will follow shortly.Within MozProd, there are no changes within MDN, Ads, or Fakespot. There are also no changes to Legal/Policy, Finance & Business Operations, Marketing, or Strategy & Operations.