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Netscape Lays-Off Mozilla's Chief Lizard Wrangler, Mitchell Baker, & Others?

Mike Angelo -- 4 September 2001 (c)

Webmaster's Note: In response to this article, an additional comment from "Gervase Markham" was added to Bug 96747 noting changing the Bug Summary from, Mitchell Baker is gone from mozilla.org to Mitchell Baker is gone from Netscape and noting that "Mitchell is not gone from mozilla.org. thus confirming this article's report that Mitchell Baker is no longer at Netscape but still is with the Mozilla Organization. Markham is listed on the Mozilla Organization Web site as Mozilla Organization's newest member. We believe that Netscape pays him.

According to Bug Number 96747 in the Mozilla Organization's Bugzilla database, Mozilla's Chief Lizard Wrangler, "Mitchell Baker has left Netscape and Mozilla.org." However, she still is listed on the Mozilla Organization's Web site who we are Web page as the Mozilla Organization's "manager".

Partial screen shot of Bug 96747 from the Mozilla Organization's Bugzilla database.
Webmaster's Note: In response to this article, the Bug Summary was changed from, Mitchell Baker is gone from Mozilla.org to Mitchell Baker is gone from Netscape

This analysis is based on MozillaQuest Magazine Staff research, assorted announcements by Mozilla Organization staff and developers, and information from anonymous sources. However, there is an atmosphere of secrecy surrounding the Netscape layoffs. Therefore, some of this explanation is hypothetical. If we obtain any additional or corrective information, this story will be updated accordingly. So please stay tuned.
Here is what we think happened. It appears that Mitchell Baker's position at Netscape was eliminated and that she consequently was laid off on or about 23 August 2001. Although Mitchell served as head of the Mozilla Organization she actually was a Netscape employee and she was being paid by Netscape for her work at the Mozilla Organization.

The core Mozilla Organization is comprised mostly of people employed by and paid by Netscape to work on the Mozilla project. However, there also are some core Mozilla Organization people employed by and paid by other organizations to work on the Mozilla project or core Mozilla Organization activities. A few core Mozilla people are contributing to the Mozilla Project on their own time.

Mitchell's being laid off by Netscape would not preclude her from continuing to work for the Mozilla Organization as the lizard ramrod or in any other capacity in which she and the Mozilla Organization might agree -- either on a non-paid basis or paid by the Mozilla Organization.

There also are rumors flying around that Netscape has laid off other employees that had been working on the Mozilla project.

The lion's share of people working on the entire Mozilla project are people that are employed and paid by Netscape -- or at least were employed by Netscape. Netscape through its spokesperson Catherine Corre has refused to disclose how many Netscape employees work on Mozilla. However, it is likely that number is/was at least 100 people and could be more than 200 people. So, layoffs at Netscape could have a substantial impact on the Mozilla project and progress on the Mozilla browser-suite and underlying Mozilla code.

In addition to Netscape, other companies such as Red Hat and Sun have people working on the Mozilla project. However there are not many people from other companies working on the Mozilla project.

There also are many independent developers and people helping with the Mozilla project. There likely are at least 100 of these independents involved with the Mozilla project and that number could exceed 200 people.

Unanswered Questions

We sent an e-mail inquiry to AOL-Time-Warner's Netscape division spokesperson, Catherine Corre about the lay-offs. Her reply was that she was away on business and that she would answer the e-mail on 31 August 2001. That date has come and gone without the promised reply.

In that e-mail to Netscape's Corre, we asked her about Baker's employment termination and also about rumors that Netscape has laid-off other Netscape people that were working on the Mozilla project. Here is an excerpt of that e-mail:

How many people were and/or are being laid off and/or fired at Netscape?

Are some of these people, people who are/were working on the Mozilla project? If so, how many?

Is it true that Netscape . . . [laid off] Mitchell Baker? If that is not true, is Mitchell Baker still employed by Netscape and/or Mozilla?

How many Netscape people are involved in the Mozilla project and/or organization?

What is/are the reason(s) for the layoffs and/or firings?

Netscape, through its spokesperson Catherine Corre, has failed to answer these questions. Our experiences in dealing with Corre are that when she fails to answer questions, the information suggested in the questions usually is true. Even when she answers questions, she tends to be very evasive, misleading, and lacking in creditability. For example, not so long ago she told MozillaQuest Magazine that Netscape 6.1 is not built upon Mozilla code. Please see our article, Mozilla 0.9.2.1 AKA Netscape 6.1 Browser Source Code Released for more about that.

We also sent an e-mail to Mitchell Baker asking her about the lay-offs. She did not reply to the e-mail. Here is an excerpt of that e-mail inquiry to Mitchell Baker:

. . . Is it true that your job at Netscape was eliminated and that you have been laid off?. . .

You also are or at least were, the head of the Mozilla Organization -- referred to as the head lizard wrangler. The Mozilla Organization Web site lists you in part as the Mozilla Organization manager. Is this the position that Netscape eliminated?

Are you still a part of the Mozilla Organization? In what capacity?

What do you see as the Mozilla Organization´s and Project´s major accomplishments and achievements to date?

What do you see as the Mozilla Organization´s and Project´s major problems and failings to date?. . .

There seems to be lots of concern and confusion about the relationship between AOL-Time-Warner´s Netscape division and the Mozilla Organization and Project. My understanding is that the Mozilla Organization and Project are supposed to be independent of AOL-Time-Warner´s Netscape division. However, the fact that Netscape eliminated your position as head of the Mozilla Organization and Project seems to indicate that Netscape has lots of control over what happens with the Mozilla Organization and Project. Could you explain this please?

Conclusion

In the absence of answers from Catherine Core for Netscape and Mitchell Baker for herself and the Mozilla Organization, and in light of the Mozilla Organization Web site still listing Mitchell as Mozilla's manager, we conclude that Netscape has laid-off an undisclosed number of Netscape employees that had been assigned to work on the Mozilla project. Mozilla's chief lizard wrangler, Mitchell Baker is one of these laid-off Netscape employees. However, Mitchell still is Mozilla's manager but she is no longer paid by Netscape to do that.

Stay Tuned.




Copyright 2000, 2001 -- MozillaQuest -- Brodheadsville, Pa..USA -- All Rights Reserved


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