Today, most tech companies are polluting the internet with stupid pranks. But there's one brave statement being made on the internet that isn't a dumb joke at all. OKCupid is blocking Mozilla Firefox users from its service with a message encouraging them to use other web browsers. Why? Mozilla's CEO supports anti-gay causes, and as OKCupid founder Christian Rudder told me today, his company won't stand for it.
"April Fools pranks are so fucking lame," Rudder told me this morning. "Let's do something we actually believe in this week." In an interview a few minutes ago, Rudder broke down the company's reasoning for blocking Mozilla when there are so many other companies it could oppose. The reasoning, it turns out, was pretty simple. This was the right thing to do. The resolution might prove more complicated, though—because OKCupid doesn't have a plan.
For those of you just catching up, last week Mozilla appointed a new CEO named Brendan Eich. An uproar ensued when it was learned that Eich opposes gay marriage. In 2008, he gave $1000 to the campaign to pass Proposition 8, the ultimately successful California ballot initiative that explicitly changed the state's constitutional definition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
Eich's position on gay marriage bothered OKCupid's founders. In a series of emails over the weekend, they discussed the extent to which they should take a stand when they disagree with a company they work with. According to Rudder, about 12 percent of OKCupid's traffic comes from Mozilla, which in Rudder's estimation, makes the browser's developer something of a business partner.
Eich's opposition to gay marriage was deeply offensive to many, but to OKCupid's founders, it undermined their work: A decade spent building a dating service that brings people together. "It's not like we're looking to make political statements left and right," he says. "Marriage and people's treatment of marriage is core to our business."
The plan to block Firefox traffic unfolded in under 36 hours, as the founders mulled the possible consequences and notified employees of what was about to happen. It all happened haphazardly—lending credence to Rudder's claim that this isn't just a lame stunt. April Fools pranks end promptly on April 2nd, but OKCupid's actions could have long-standing consequences, especially in light of how it all went down.
In the time it took OKCupid to get the plan going, Mozilla back-peddled—making an official statement that as a company it supports marriage equality. After OKCupid put up its anti-Firefox message, Mozilla complained that "OKCupid never reached out to us to let us know of their intentions, nor to confirm facts."
Despite Mozilla's cover, OKCupid decided to move forward because in Rudder's words, "it just seemed like the right thing to do." Everything happened so fast, though, that its founders didn't have a plan at the outset for how it would like to see the whole situation resolved. "To be perfectly honest, I didn't think this would get that much traction," he says. "Our goal was to raise awareness. We don't want [Mozilla CEO Eich] to lose his job or anything."
Which raises a perfectly legitimate question: What does OKCupid does want? If you're complaining about a CEO's beliefs, isn't the natural outcome that you'd like to see him fired? "I don't have a good answer for you," Rudder says. OKCupid is having a talk with Mozilla this afternoon to discuss a possible resolution. Rudder says he has no idea what that might look like: "We'll see what happens."