The message posted by OkCupid urged Firefox users to use alternative browsers to access the website:
Hello there, Mozilla Firefox user. Pardon this interruption of your OkCupid experience.
Mozilla’s new CEO, Brendan Eich, is an opponent of equal rights for gay couples. We would therefore prefer that our users not use Mozilla software to access OkCupid.
Politics is normally not the business of a website, and we all know there’s a lot more wrong with the world than misguided CEOs. So you might wonder why we’re asserting ourselves today. This is why: we’ve devoted the last ten years to bringing people—all people—together. If individuals like Mr. Eich had their way, then roughly 8% of the relationships we’ve worked so hard to bring about would be illegal. Equality for gay relationships is personally important to many of us here at OkCupid. But it’s professionally important to the entire company. OkCupid is for creating love. Those who seek to deny love and instead enforce misery, shame, and frustration are our enemies, and we wish them nothing but failure.
If you want to keep using Firefox, the link at the bottom will take you through to the site.
So, this brings up a few perspectives of mine. Though I support OkCupid for supporting same-sex marriage, I don’t particularly appreciate penalizing users for their use of a web browser or holding strong views that represent an entire company. It’s entirely plausible they did this for public relations reasons because of their actions, they have earned a great deal of media coverage and blog posts either supporting or criticizing the company for this move.
Also, I don’t get the sense that Brendan Eich was on a mission to deny rights of others. He, like all of us, is entitled to his own personal views. And the contribution amount wasn’t egregious – just $1000. If the amount of the political contribution was greater than $10,000, I could see how that would be significant to OkCupid’s cause, but considering this fact, it causes me to shake my head.
Having a perspective and standing behind it.
Conversely, I think it is nice to see companies who hold a view, stand behind it and stay consistent. OkCupid’s mission is quite simple: they want people to find love. And it makes sense they would support same-sex marriage. It is rare these days considering the sterile world of public relations to only issue inoffensive, vague statements on controversial topics. I’m all for having transparency and leading thought-provoking discussion, but this is what blogs are designed for.
Contrary to what most of us in the technology space tend to think, users do not care about the browser they use. Most don’t even know what browsers they have installed. They care about accessing websites they care about. Interfering with this causes friction. Friction like this means users are likely to lose trust in you, not their browser, for delivering value.
Unreal expectations, unclear outcome.
The message concludes with a vengeful wish for the Mozilla Corporation to fail. This is an unlikely outcome from this browser-based politics stunt. It’s also a bit delirious to think that telling users to switch browsers will substantially cost Mozilla users, so much so, the CEO under-performs and is later ousted from the company. The call to action might have been better to send a letter to the CEO or the board of Mozilla asking them to support same-sex marriage.
An effective PR stunt.
OkCupid has a vested interest to attract users. In the letter, it suggests that 8 percent of relationships are same-sex. One could infer that they intend to attract more same-sex singles desiring love, hence, why they leveraged this opportunity to have a stand and make a bold statement. The tech media reported this amid the new CEO of Mozilla. This fits nicely into a real-world application of Newsjacking, coined by David Meerman Scott. A quick Google News search suggests over 7000 media hits for OkCupid. Not bad for an hour’s worth of work.
Company perspectives are not necessarily shared.
The letter is signed by the business entity and not the CEO or other staff members. I always get bothered by this because there is always a human behind screen, but I digress. Is it possible that not all employees support this view? I think so. Should the company issue statements that makes those employees feel disenfranchised or otherwise attacked? No. Some would probably hold the view that people who hold anti-gay views are not welcome at the company, but to me that is just as discriminatory as the argument they are making.
OkCupid is a brand operated by InterActiveCorp (IAC). A list of employees with political contributions to supporters of Prop. 8 was published on Pastebin. So, it’s entirely possible that not all employees share this blanket perspective.
Failing to acknowledge the counter-response.
Though the CEO made a financial contribution six years ago, Mozilla responded on their blog saying that he and the company actively support the LGBT community and that they want the web to be inclusive of everyone. OkCupid didn’t acknowledge this effort, other than casually dismissing it. Simply, they are saying someone is indefinitely wrong for holding a perspective and won’t accept an apology afterward. It’s kind of immature of you ask me.
Maybe this will spark change and perhaps will result in a favorable outcome. I don’t know. I just know how disruptive this is for users. As far as my browser choice is concerned, I use a combination of Google Chrome and Firefox about equally.
Update #1 – April 3, 2014: PC Magazine reports that OkCupid removed this message/interruption without explanation.
Update #2 – April 3, 2014: Kara Swisher from Recode reports that Brendan Eich has voluntarily resigned from Mozilla including its board. Mozilla published an apologetic statement for not reacting sooner. I am a bit disappointed to see that the CEO left in haste due to what I would equate as bullying. The issue was manufactured and had zero impact on the Mozilla user community. So, apparently, the message was sent that if you hold some conservative views, you are not in a position to lead technology company.