Baker will remain as chairman of the open source non-profit organisation but Lilly will take over operations effective immediately. The timing of the announcement, in the middle of the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, will surprise many but appears to have been well planned.
"Sometimes in life, you find an opportunity to make a difference in something you care about, and it feels like, even though you didn’t know it at the time, that the last few years have really just been practice, giving you the background, skills and ability to really help," said Lilly in his blog.
"And in a very few circumstances — once or twice in a lifetime if you’re lucky — the opportunity you get to make a difference is one that has a very large, even global impact. My new role as CEO of Mozilla Corporation feels like one of those times."
Lilly has good credentials as he's been a member of the board of directors at the Open Source Applications Foundation for the last seven years and has concentrated on building up smaller companies.
"I've worked with both Mitchell and John for a number of years now, and I strongly support these moves at Mozilla, which should allow the organization to do more things than ever before and to do them well," said Mitch Kapor, board member and former chairman of the Mozilla Foundation.
The decision will be good news for those worries about rumours that Mozilla might go public and cash in on its success. Annual revenues have grown to over $50 million and the organisation is expanding to develop its software further.
But Lilly has in the past signalled his opposition to such a move.
"There’s no presumption that for-profit (or, more properly, non-tax-exempt) entities are bad and non-profits are good.
"That’s a ridiculous, naive position to take. I’ve been parts of many for profit companies and think that there are many who do incredibly important things for their shareholders and the world. Absolutely. But the reason that we’re non-tax-exempt in the Mozilla Corporation is so that we can properly pay taxes, not to maximize profits."
Mitchell Baker steps down as Mozilla appoints new boss
By Iain Thomson on Jan 8, 2008 1:53PM