Cuddled up to Google
Mozilla chairperson Mitchell Baker announced its lucrative contract with Google has been extended to 2011.
Mozilla is the maker of Firefox, an open source web browser that's captured nearly 16 percent of the US market two years since its inception. (It now serves 20 percent of the market.) While it's no "Explorer-killer," it has certainly put Netscape to bed.
Per its extended contract with Mozilla, Google will serve as the default search engine on Firefox in exchange for "a substantial sum," reports TechCrunch. 2006 revenues from the deal were in the ballpark of $57 million — 85 percent of Mozilla's total revenue.
Google clearly stands to benefit from the browser's growth. Firefox users are more likely to use Google Search and are thus more likely to see — and click on — Google-run ads.
Firefox also sports a Google toolbar. Introduced in July 2005, the toolbar was the result "not of a blinding insight, but of gradual groping and sheer slog," writes Glyn Moody on ComputerWorld UK, observing the Google deal gives Mozilla the "power and room to manoevre that other free software projects can only dream of.
But some are skeptical of the relationship. It's all well that the Mozilla Foundation receives funding for its open source projects, but profiting so much from Google could pose a conflict of interest, CNET argued last year.
Mitchell Baker defended Mozilla's capacity to make decisions independently of Google in an interview with the Linux Foundation. "The revenue relationship [does] not result in technical decision-making about the product," said Baker.
The addition of AdBlock Plus to Firefox's suite of Add-Ons — a kind of feeble wrist-slap against free content supported by advertising, particularly Google advertising — may help the organization maintain some non-profit street cred.
Mozilla is expected to update Firefox with proprietary privacy-friendly features in 2009. In related news, Internet Explorer, which remains the dominant browser, released IE8 this week. The feature set includes InPrivate mode, which automatically blocks and deletes cookies, and also subscribes users to block lists.