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Mozilla man sends Firefoxers to Microsoft Bing

Schmidt privacy rant sparks Google snub

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Mozilla director of community development Asa Dotzler - co-founder of the original Firefox project - has encouraged Firefox users to switch their search engine from Google to Microsoft Bing in the wake of Eric Schmidt's now infamous words on net privacy.

In an interview aired by CNBC on Sunday, the Google boss insisted that anyone who worries about Mountain View retaining personal data must be guilty of improper behavior. "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place," he said.

"If you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines - including Google - do retain this information for some time and it's important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities."

In a post to his personal blog Thursday morning, ten-year Mozilla vet Asa Dotzler quoted Schmidt in full before indicating that he's not too happy with the Googler's haughty take on data retention.

"That was Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, telling you exactly what he thinks about your privacy," Dotzler says, after quoting the Google boss. "There is no ambiguity, no 'out of context' here."

Then he pointed Firefox users to an add-on that inserts Bing into the browser's built-in list of search engines.

"Here's how you can easily switch Firefox's search from Google to Bing. (Yes, Bing does have a better privacy policy than Google)," Dotzler said. The links are his.

Dotzler was part of the tiny Mozilla team that founded the Firefox project back in 2002. The project was originally known as Phoenix, a standalone open source browser that would rise from the ashes of Netscape. It was specifically designed to battle back against the Microsoft borg, which had commandeered 95 per cent of the browser market through, shall we say, less-than-fair methods.

Speaking before the fifth anniversary of the browser's official debut, Dotzler showed signs of Mozilla's usual contempt for Redmond. But following Google's shock entry into the browser market in the fall of 2008, Mozilla has exhibited a certain chilliness towards Google as well, and Dotzler wasn't shy about it.

"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 even indicted that Mozilla would work to boost traffic to alternative search engines via Firefox.

But today's blog post is still a tad unexpected. It's not just that Microsoft is traditionally Mozilla's mortal enemy. According to the open source outfit's latest financial statements, Google supplies 91 per cent of Mozilla's revenues.

Since 2004, an agreement between the two organizations gives Mozilla 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.

Last month, Dotzler seemed confident that the financial relationship between the two won't change anytime soon. "We need the revenue," he told us, "and they need the traffic." And he made a point of saying that when it comes to questionable web behavior, Google is no Microsoft.

That was meant as Google praise. But it would appear that as of today, those words could be read quite differently. As Firefox celebrated its fifth birthday, we spoke of a Cold War between Mozilla and Google. But now we wonder if the chilliness has escalated to something else entirely. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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