Mozilla ‘Chief Lizard Wrangler’ Gives Way to Lilly

Mozilla Corp. CEO Mitchell Baker, once known as the open-source firm’s “Chief Lizard Wrangler,” has stepped out of the top spot, a position she has held since the company’s creation.

Replacing her will be the Mozilla Corp.’s chief operating officer, John Lilly, the company said.

Baker will stay on as chairman of Mozilla Corp., as well as chairman of the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation, which launched Mozilla Corp. in August 2005 as a commercial subsidiary.

The executive moves could signal a shift in strategy for the open source Web browser vendor as it continues to chip away at the share of market leader Microsoft and its Internet Explorer browser.

Mozilla is also aiming to deliver several key products and milestones this year, including the launch of Firefox 3, which has faced some delays in development.

The company announced its executive shift in typical fashion — by way of late-day blog posts from both Lilly and Baker.

In her post, Baker argued that Lilly is the right person to guide Mozilla’s product and organizational maturity. She also said he has already been performing a similar role in his position as COO, which he has held since August 2006.

Baker, in addition to leading both the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corp., is known as the architect of the Mozilla Public License, the open source license under which the group’s products are produced and distributed.

Baker helped create the Mozilla Foundation, formed in July 2003 as the official open source organization behind the project, which had AOL spun out from its Netscape division in 1998.

“I’ve had a leadership role since the early days and … I’ve been involved in — and often instrumental in — almost every major strategic and organizational decision following the launch of Mozilla,” Baker wrote in her blog post. “My focus ranges across the Mozilla world, and no one title captures the scope of what I think about and where I try to lead.”

In her role as chairman of the board, Baker plans to remain active, she said, adding that she had been involved with “shipping Mozilla products since the dawn of time, and have no intention of distancing myself from our products.”

Though Lilly hasn’t been with Mozilla for as long as Baker, he’s got his fair share of management experience. Before joining Mozilla in 2005, Lilly co-founded Web Services vendor Reactivity, where he also served as CEO and CTO. Networking giant Cisco bought Reactivity in 2007 for $135 million.

Lilly wrote in his blog that he wanted Mozilla Corp. to become a more invisible partner in developing open source software. He also has some hard tangible goals for getting a few key Mozilla products out the door.

“We’ve got a lot to do in the coming years, starting with getting Firefox 3 out the door, and then swiftly followed up by our work in mobile and services,” Lilly wrote. “Mozilla2 [the underlying browser codebase] will be a major step forward on the platform after that, not to mention our new experiments in Labs and the work that we’re doing to move the whole Web forward with Javascript 2, HTML 5 and other standards work.”

Firefox 3 is currently in its Beta release cycle and is expected to ship this year, after having been somewhat delayed during its development cycle.

The Mozilla Labs effort include the Operator semantic web effort, the Web application Mozilla Prism project and the new data syncing Mozilla Weave initiative.

As CEO of Mozilla Corp., Lilly also will be responsible for managing the growing business. In its latest reporting period, the company raked in $66.8 million, most of it from Google search revenue.

While the business of Mozilla may be good, Lilly has maintained that the company has no intentions of going public.

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