The Mozilla Foundation has announced it’s divorcing its chief search engine partner Google Inc. after ten years, and will instead offer Yahoo! as the default search tool in its Firefox browser. Mozilla didn’t discuss how much money was involved, but said the deal will last for the next five years.
Firefox has always allowed users to choose which search engine they want, but since 2004 Google has been the default engine. Google paid Firefox huge royalties for that honor, so much that they accounted for almost 90 percent of Mozilla’s $311 million revenues in 2012.
But in recent years Firefox has become a less attractive option for Google. Whereas it was once the only real alternative to Microsoft Corp’s Internet Explorer, it’s user base has long since dwindled – it’s now only the third most popular desktop browser, behind IE and Google Chrome, according to NetMarketShare.com.
Mozilla has had a pretty tough year of it – last summer, controversy over the perceived anti-gay stance of its CEO Brendan Eich caused him to resign. Before that, the organization announced plans to bring advertising to Firefox for the first time, a move that upset many of its users.
Yahoo! is putting a lot of positive spin on the move, with CEO Marissa Mayer announcing it as “an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us”, but one can’t help but think both companies need all the help they can get. Without Yahoo!’s cash Mozilla would be dead and buried, while Yahoo’s search engine hasn’t exactly set the world alight either.
In terms of the wider web, this announcement probably isn’t that big a deal. Google, thanks to its brower and search engine, is the top Internet company by some distance and will remain so for the forseeable future. But not everyone appreciates what Google does, and those who don’t will be happy to know Mozilla and its Firefox browser will be around for at least the next five years.