Andrew Sullivan argues Eich should not have been forced to resign from Mozilla for his anti-gay marriage donations, combined with his unwillingness to recant his position. As a supporter of gay marriage (as of course Sullivan is too), I very much agree. Like Sullivan, I see such such ideological witch hunts as unjust, counterproductive, and stifling of free discourse.
I see some further economic angles to this dispute.
First, it implies the market share of browsers is fairly arbitrary, and highly subject to potential consumer rebellion. I can think of other businessmen who have alienated parts of the American public through their political stances, but still their products are bought and there is little talk of deposing them from their leadership roles. Free products seem especially vulnerable to fluctuations in corporate image, in part because no product has a durable edge on price. Since more of our economy seems headed in the direction of “free to consumers for direct use,” we might want to start thinking about this tendency a little more carefully and cautiously. Charging people a positive price liberates you to be less conformist, at least provided you fare well in market competition.
Second, ambitious young people just got more boring. It wasn’t long ago that opposition to gay marriage was the mainstream position in American society and of course in many places it still is.
Third, let’s say that “recantation” is becoming more important and more potent as a defense mechanism against charges (I’m not sure this is generally true, but it does seem to be true in the Eich case). That will make people more likely to express their eccentricities in youthful bursts, rather than as a consistent pattern of donations or support over many years. Consistent support over time is harder to recant, but a single act is easier to write off as a youthful indiscretion.