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Mozilla 2023 Annual Report: CEO pay skyrockets, while Firefox Marketshare nosedives
(and that appears to be the plan)
December 28, 2023
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The Mozilla Foundation has released their latest annual report -- covering the time up through December of 2022 (Mozilla's reporting always lags by one year) -- and something peculiar leaps out of the data:

  • The compensation of the Mozilla CEO has skyrocketed (by millions)
  • While the Mozilla revenue drops
  • And the Firefox Marketshare takes a nosedive

While, at first, this seems ridiculously lopsided... perhaps it actually makes sense.

Perhaps the decreasing Firefox marketshare is a good thing, from the Mozilla point of view.

Mozilla CEO gets a raise

Let's start by looking at the pay of the Mozilla CEO.

Source: Mozilla Foundation 2022 IRS 990

That's right.  Your eyes do not deceive you.  The Mozilla CEO earned $6,903,089 in 2022.  Just shy of $7 Million.

The year prior (2021), the CEO earned $5.6 Million.  A raise of $1.3 Million dollars.  Not a bad year-on-year increase!

Now let's take a look at the core performance of Mozilla: The overall revenue, and the marketshare of their core product (Firefox) during that same period.

If a CEO gets a $1.3 Million dollar raise, surely those numbers will be excellent!  ... Right?

Turns out... the revenue for Mozilla actually dropped between 2021 and 2022.

Source: Mozilla Foundation 2022 IRS 990

To be fair, not a huge drop.  Revenue went from $600 Million in 2021 to $593 Million in 2022.  Roughly $7 Million lower.  A small decrease, percentage wise... but a decrease just the same.

The Firefox Nosedive

Now let's look at the marketshare of Mozilla's primary product: Firefox.

From the end of 2021 to the end of 2022 (the period during which the Mozilla CEO received a $1.3 Million Dollar raise), Firefox marketshare took a massive tumble.

Going from (an already declining) 3.79%... down to 3.04%.

It's almost as if there is an inverse relationship between Firefox Marketshare and Mozilla CEO compensation -- as marketshare goes down... CEO pay goes up by a similar percentage.

Absolutely wild.

Something doesn't add up... or does it?

So.  What can we learn from all of this?

Well, for starters, it is clear that Mozilla CEO compensation is not tied to either the success of the Firefox web browser (their current primary product) or to the overall revenue of Mozilla.

So what, exactly, could be the justification for that massive pay raise?

Turns out there are two big, measurable goals that Mozilla appears to have... and, at those goals, it is performing exceptionally well:

  1. Continued increases to overall corporate financial assets.
  2. Transitioning Mozilla away from Firefox.

That first goal is rather obvious.  Let's be honest, what company doesn't want to have a massive pile of financial assets?

In 2022, the Mozilla war-chest (total assets) grew to a staggering $1.3 Billion Dollars -- up $157 Million from the year prior.  A huge increase to their financial assets.

Source: Mozilla Foundation 2022 IRS 990

With over half a Billion Dollars in cash alone.  That's a lot of cheddar.

But that's only part of the story.

The De-Firefox-ification of Mozilla

Let's take another look at the 2022 revenue breakdown.


Note that revenue from "Royalties" is down substantially -- a decrease of $17 Million.  Those "Royalties" are, in large part, made up of default search engine placement, within Firefox, for one single customer... Google.  This decrease makes sense considering the signficant decline in Firefox marketshare.

But then look at the second row: "Subscription and advertising revenue".

What is that, exactly?  That line item includes some of the more recently launched subscription services -- "Pocket Premium" and "Mozilla VPN" (plus some advertising placement).  And, you'll note, that revenue jumped from $56 Million to $75 Million in 2022.

While that may be a drop in the bucket of the overall Mozilla revenue and war-chest... it's a critical strategy for Mozilla to diversify their revenue stream away from Firefox.

As it turns out, moving away from Firefox is exactly Mozilla's plan.

Earlier this year, Mozilla laid out their vision for the future of their organization -- and it did not include Firefox.  The focus for the future of Mozilla -- according to Mozilla -- is primarily based around Artificial Intelligence services.

In fact, Mozilla leadership stated, quite plainly, that they intend to take Mozilla "in a different direction."

When you consider the goals of Mozilla... the decreasing Firefox marketshare is no longer much of a concern.  In fact, moving revenue away from Firefox, while investing in A.I. systems (and other subscription services) becomes the primary goal.

And, at that, the Mozilla CEO is excelling.

The future of Mozilla

What does all of this mean for the future of Mozilla?  What have we learned from Mozilla statements coupled with their financial reports?

  • Mozilla rewards executives who oversee a decreasing success and reliance upon Firefox -- so we can expect more of that.
  • In turn, that likely means reduced investment in Firefox development and promotion over the coming years.
  • Mozilla intends to focus on A.I. -- so we can expect more A.I. investment, and possible A.I. services, in the year ahead.
  • If all of that holds true, we can likely expect the Mozilla CEO to receive additional raises in the next annual reports.

If you are a fan of Firefox... none of that points to a particularly bright future.

That said... if you are the CEO at Mozilla... you might bring in enough income to buy your own island fortress pretty soon.  And who doesn't want an island fortress?


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The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go

Back in July of 2016, I wrote a short article for Network World entitled “The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go."

While the title was certainly viewed as a bit “over the top” and “conspiracy theorist-y”, it was really just a collection of (in my opinion, rather bizarre) facts that – even without any sinister connection – were worth documenting. I am republishing it here, with some additional (increasingly odd) details added at the end (including radio and TV appearances related to this article).

Some of the details relating to the exact permissions and capabilities of the Pokémon application have changed over the last few years… but everything else remains correct, factual, and up to date.

 


 

The CIA, NSA, and Pokémon Go

With Pokémon Go currently enjoying, what I would call, a wee-bit-o-success, now seems like a good time to talk about a few things people may not know about the world's favorite new smartphone game.

This is not an opinion piece. I am not going to tell you Pokémon Go is bad or that it invades your privacy. I’m merely presenting verifiable facts about the biggest, most talked about game out there.

Let’s start with a little history

Way back in 2001, Keyhole, Inc. was founded by John Hanke (who previously worked in a “foreign affairs” position within the U.S. government). The company was named after the old “eye-in-the-sky” military satellites. One of the key, early backers of Keyhole was a firm called In-Q-Tel.

In-Q-Tel is the venture capital firm of the CIA. Yes, the Central Intelligence Agency. Much of the funding purportedly came from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA). The NGA handles combat support for the U.S. Department of Defense and provides intelligence to the NSA and CIA, among others.

Keyhole’s noteworthy public product was “Earth.” Renamed to “Google Earth” after Google acquired Keyhole in 2004.

In 2010, Niantic Labs was founded (inside Google) by Keyhole’s founder, John Hanke.

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In 2015, Niantic was spun off from Google and became its own company. Then Pokémon Go was developed and launched by Niantic. It’s a game where you walk around in the real world (between locations suggested by the service) while holding your smartphone.

Data the game can access

Let’s move on to what information Pokémon Go has access to, bearing the history of the company in mind as we do.

When you install Pokémon Go on an Android phone, you grant it the following access (not including the ability to make in-app purchases):

Identity

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Contacts

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Location

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  • Approximate location (network-based)

Photos/Media/Files

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Storage

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  • Read the contents of your USB storage

Camera

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Other

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  • Control vibration

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  • Full network access

  • Use accounts on the device

  • View network connections

  • Prevent the device from sleeping

Based on the access to your device (and your information), coupled with the design of Pokémon Go, the game should have no problem discerning and storing the following information (just for a start):

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  • Where you were

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  • When you were at each location

  • How long it took you to get between them

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  • What you were looking at in the past

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I’m not going to tell people what they should think of all this.

I’m merely presenting the information. I recommend looking over the list of what data the game has access to, then going back to the beginning of this article and re-reading the history of the company.

Update: April 14th, 2020

In March of 2017, a little less than a year after this article was originally published, WikiLeaks released what they called “Vault 7." A series of documents that was purported to be a large leak of CIA related documents focused heavily on hacking and electronic surveillance.

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One other little tidbit:

The original CEO of In-Q-Tel was a man named Gilman Louie. Louie received multiple awards for his work with In-Q-Tel - including CIA Agency Seal Medallions, Director's Award by the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and Director of National Intelligence Medallion – which included investing in Keyhole.

Louie now sits on the board of directors of Niantic.

In 2019 alone, Pokémon Go earned $1.4 Billion (USD). As of February 2019, the game had been downloaded over One Billion times.

Update: June 15th, 2024

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Giving the show's host "The Look".
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