Feeds

Firefox at 5: the Google Cold War

Saving the interwebs from 'cable TV'

Boost IT visibility and business value

As Firefox pops the champagne on its fifth birthday, one of its founding fathers has warned the world against an interwebs ruled by a certain money-minded tech giant.

That would be Google.

The Mountain View Chocolate Factory was instrumental in the rise of Mozilla's open-source web browser, contributing not only code, but considerable amounts of cash. Since 2004, Mozilla has pocketed a slice of all Google search cash generated by Firefox traffic, and in 2006 and 2007, Mountain View dollars accounted for more than 85 per cent of the open-sourcers' revenues.

But following the debut of Google's very own Chrome browser last year, a certain chilliness has come between the two. Their financial relationship hasn't changed - Mozilla still needs the cash, and Google still needs the traffic - but in other ways, they aren't as close as they once were.

Firefox was founded to revive the mid-90s browser wars with Microsoft and Internet Explorer. But five years after the official debut of Firefox in November 2004, a kind of browser cold war has developed with Microsoft's biggest rival.

"I look at Google and I don't see a lot of alignment with the big picture of the internet," says Asa Dotzler, the ten-year Mozilla vet who was among the team of three or four who founded the Firefox project back in 2002.

"Google is essentially an advertising company. That's where they make their money. They provide a wonderful service - primarily their search service - but it serves their advertising goals. It serves their revenue goals. The more they can know about their users, the more effective they believe they can advertise, the more money they believe they can make. That is most fundamental."

He doesn't see Google as the new Microsoft. Far from it. But Google is still a threat to the Mozilla way. Redmond and Mountain View have absolutely nothing in common, Dotzler says, except that they're both public companies legally beholden to maximize revenue for their stockholders. He's adamant that if Google's ad-centric vision comes to dominate, the web will wind up as something we've all seen before.

"I hope that there is renewed competition in the search space and in the advertising space and in revenue models for the web beyond advertising," he says. "I fear that we would end up in a worse case scenario where the users of the web become consumers of content who sit in front of commercial advertising all day long and have no control over their experience. And that sounds like cable TV to me. The internet can be so much more."

The irony, of course, is that Google ads are still propping Mozilla's bottom line. But the organization has revenue deals with multiple search engines, and Dotzler insists that none of them - not even the most lucrative - has an effect on the company's egalitarian mindset.

As you might expect, he wholeheartedly nominates Mozilla as the outfit who can save the net from both Microsoft and Google. "Mozilla creates a product that makes sure that the non-commercial aspects of the web - those things which haven't purely been designed to generate revenue - are well represented and that anyone can come along and participate without having to be a part of the financial model of the web," he says.

"There are civic and cultural and educational aspects of the internet that needs a defender and an advocate. They won't get that from traditional commercial organizations who have a legal responsibility not to care about this stuff."

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

More from The Register

next story
Why has the web gone to hell? Market chaos and HUMAN NATURE
Tim Berners-Lee isn't happy, but we should be
Linux turns 23 and Linus Torvalds celebrates as only he can
No, not with swearing, but by controlling the release cycle
Apple promises to lift Curse of the Drained iPhone 5 Battery
Have you tried turning it off and...? Never mind, here's a replacement
Sin COS to tan Windows? Chinese operating system to debut in autumn – report
Development alliance working on desktop, mobe software
Eat up Martha! Microsoft slings handwriting recog into OneNote on Android
Freehand input on non-Windows kit for the first time
This is how I set about making a fortune with my own startup
Would you leave your well-paid job to chase your dream?
(Not so) Instagram now: Time-shifting Hyperlapse iPhone tool unleashed
Photos app now able to shoot fast-moving videos
prev story

Whitepapers

A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.