Mozilla is shutting down its “connected devices” group, which was responsible for the failed smartphone operating system Firefox OS and, more recently, attempts to build the OS into devices like routers, streaming boxes, and even basic computers. The nonprofit organization recently told employees that it is eliminating the team tasked with bringing Firefox to connected devices, according to people familiar with the situation. The cuts affect about 50 people. Ari Jaaksi, the senior vice president in charge of the effort, is leaving, and last week, Bertrand Neveux, director of the group's software, told coworkers he's departing, too. Mozilla had about 1,000 employees at the end of 2016.
Mozilla’s initiative to get Firefox inside of connected devices never really got off the ground. It gave up on putting Firefox OS into phones back in late 2015, and began shifting over to “exploring the IoT market” last year — making some layoffs in the process. Whatever came of that effort never made it to the public.
"We have shifted our internal approach to the internet-of-things opportunity," Mozilla said in a statement, "to step back from a focus on launching and scaling commercial products to one focused on research and advanced development, dissolving our connected devices initiative and incorporating our internet-of-things explorations into an increased focus on emerging technologies."
The layoffs greatly curtail the nonprofit organization's ability to make Firefox relevant again. Once a dominant choice for internet browsing, it has long been overshadowed by Google's Chrome. Mozilla tried to take the web technology powering Firefox to other devices, but struggled to get acceptance. Its shrinking influence comes at a time when more people are browsing the internet on their phones - an area where Firefox is particularly weak.
Unlike what motivates most tech companies, Mozilla's agenda isn't to make money but instead to push for an improvement in the web experience. Even if you don't use Mozilla's software, anyone who's used the web has benefited from Mozilla's role developing new technologies and keeping the browser business competitive.
For its part, Mozilla still believes it could find a role in the growing ecosystem of connected devices. “IoT is clearly an emerging technology space,” the company says, “but it's still early.”