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An "adware function" in the German version of Firefox has been dropped following user protests. Fans of the open source browser cried foul after they realised its eBay search function went through an affiliated site www.webtip.ch, run by Swiss firm Metaspinner, instead of calling up eBay Germany directly.

Firefox markets itself as free of adware or spyware but it agreed to an experiment that arguably undermines this stance. In a statement, Mozilla said the redirect was used only to collect anonymised statistics. It has dropped the feature and issued an update so that existing German installations of Mozilla Firefox will be referred via the search function on mozilla.europe.org directly to eBay.de.

The adware redirection was confined to the German version of Firefox. But it provoked debate about the meaning of the issue for the entire Firefox community. Mozilla's German statement indicated it is unlikely to repeat the experiment / money-making trial elsewhere, but a clearer statement of policy would still be appreciated. At time of writing, Mozilla had not responded to our requests for comment.

The strong feelings aroused show that open source fans hold Mozilla to higher standards than they would expect from other browser suppliers. Internet Explorer's tendency to "phone home" on the slightest pretext is well documented. And that's to say nothing of the security risks...

Separately, a OneStat.com survey out yesterday estimates that Mozilla now commands 7.35 per cent share of the browser market, up from 2.1 per cent at the end of May. Mozilla Firefox was used by around one in 20 surfers (4.58 per cent). The rise in Mozilla browsers has taken a bite out of Microsoft's market dominance, but Internet Explorer still rules the roost with a global usage share of 88.90 per cent. Opera's global usage share is 1.33 per cent and Safari has 0.91 per cent. ®

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