Firefox millions - now only 9 per cent Google free
No banking on Microhoo
Mozilla revenues climbed to $79m last year - and 91 per cent of that came from Google.
According to the Mozilla Foundation's latest financial statements, 2008 revenue leapt 5 per cent from 2007. But they also indicate the open-sourcers are more dependent on the Mountain View Chocolate Factory than previously thought.
With its 2007 financial statements, the Foundation pegged Googly contributions as 88 per cent of its revenue. But the latest tax return now puts this 2007 figure at a whopping 94 per cent.
As usual, Mozilla boss Mitchell Baker avoids mention of those Google figures in her blog post about the Foundation's 2008 revenues. But the financial statements put it like this:
Mozilla has a contract with a search engine provider for royalties which expires in November 2011. The contract was recently amended and extended to November 2011. Approximately, 91% and 94% of Mozilla's revenue for 2008 and 2007, respectively, was derived from this contract.
That "search engine provider" would be Google. Since 2004, Mozilla has pocketed a portion of all Google search cash generated by Firefox traffic. In the US and Western Europe, you'll notice that Google is the default home - the default search bar in the top right hand corner of the browser.
Mozilla has deals with various other search engines as well, and in some cases, the defaults are not Google. In Russia, Firefox defaults to the native Yandex. In China, it defaults to the native Baidu.
But at of the end of 2008, Google still provided the lion's share of the revenues. And with relations chilling between the two organizations - over a certain browser/OS called Chrome - this has to be a concern.
Certainly, Google benefits from all that Firefox traffic - the browser now controls 25 per cent of the market. But does there come a point where it's better off with Firefox out of the way? It isn't just that Google is now offering its own browser. Firefox isn't exactly friendly to Google's beloved online advertising.
Speaking with The Reg, Asa Dotzler - one of the Firefox founding fathers - says the Googly revenue situation is not a concern. He even told us the outfit is looking at ways of breaking up Google's search hegemony.
"Maybe there is some opportunity for Mozilla to help feature or highlight emerging search organizations or features in a way we're not doing today," he says. "This is definitely something we're thinking about."
In the past, the Foundation has also told us that if Google did pull out, any number of search engines would be clamoring to fill its spot. But now that Microsoft is on the verge of running Yahoo!'s search engine, is that really the case?
Mozilla does not have search deal with Microsoft. And we can't imagine one would ever come to pass.
With Yahoo! out of the picture, who does that leave? ®
Google won't do anything stupid
Selling search advertising is Google's core business - browsers and OSes are just sidelines (which don't bring in the profits). I'm sure Google would do a deal with Microsoft to be the default search engine in Internet Explorer if they got the chance.
And if Google ceased to support Firefox, that would hurt Firefox but it would also hit Google at the heart of its business even while it benefits the Chrome team. It's better for Google to have every Firefox user go to Google for search, than to kill Firefox and have a sizeable proportion of its users swap to IE (which isn't really that bad these days) and find their way into the Microsoft universe.
Owning the competition
When MS bailed out Apple in the 90s, saved them from bankruptcy and made Office and IE available for it again, everyone cried foul as MS were only doing it to create a credible competitor and get the courts off their back.
Well surely this is no different to what Google are doing now with FireBadger? They have Chrome and Chrome OS, so why do they have any interest in Firefox? It's been clear for years that they have no interest in FF, yet still they feed it millions.
Isn't this just a measure to establish a strong rival so that no one can moan that Chrome and the OS are as bad as Windows, if not worse?
God help Mozilla if Google no longer have a strategic reason to keep them afloat. The next phase will be to swiftly get all the FireBadger users over to Chrome, and with it getting ever more bloated and slow, people may migrate more easily than you might think.
After so many years of nerds arguing over the precision of rendering engines, perhaps we're now approaching the point where none of it matters anymore - They all render well enough to do the job, meaning speed and adaptability are more important. Google and Apple have already chosen WebKit and Opera are doing well with mobiles and other gadgets. So where does that leave Firebadger without Google's money on tap?
Microsoft will fund Firefox eventually
I don't agree that Microsoft wouldn't fund Firefox - remember that Microsoft has a long history of funding "competitors" for its own strategic interests. Microsoft bailed out Apple so much that to this day Microsoft employees get the Apple employee discount!
Ultimately MS needs to push Bing versus Google way more than it needs to push IE versus Firefox - basically, the world has moved on: a rival browser is only really a threat to Microsoft if it's closely associated with a full-stack competitor like Google, as Firefox currently is.
I'd expect MS to choose a big, loosely regulated market (Latin America?) and pilot Bing-Firefox integration there first...