Skip to navigation
Latest News

Why Firefox's future lies in Google's hands

Firefox

By Stuart Turton

Posted on 19 Jan 2010 at 14:14

Firefox has just turned five, and it’s doubtful anybody outside of Redmond begrudges Mozilla’s celebrations. The open-source browser now accounts for 25% of the global market, according to figures from Net Applications, and has brought a radical rethink in what we expect from a browser.

However, as Mozilla blows out the birthday cake candles, it might also be reflecting on the curse of getting what you wish for. Its success has forced rivals to raise their game, and the past two years have seen Microsoft, Apple and Opera close the features gap significantly.

“They’ve been forced to improve their browsers, and they have resources at their disposal that Mozilla doesn’t,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group. “It was a different ball game when it was Mozilla against Microsoft, everybody was on its side. Now that there are alternatives, it’s going to be harder.”

It was a different ball game when it was Mozilla against Microsoft, everybody was on its side. Now that there are alternatives, it’s going to be harder

Not least because of Google, which with the release of Chrome now stands as both benefactor and rival to Mozilla. Google is the default homepage when Firefox first opens, and the default search engine when users type something into the “awesome bar”. The deal, which runs until 2011, was worth $66 million to Mozilla in 2007, accounting for 88% of the foundation’s revenues that year (the last year for which it had published accounts). But now Google is a competitor as well as a partner, is it really wise for Mozilla to be so dependent on the search giant?

“I don’t see any reason why Google wouldn’t want to have a similar relationship with Mozilla after 2011,” Mike Shaver, Mozilla’s vice president of engineering told PC Pro. “I don’t see any signs that the value of Firefox placement will be lessened in that time: we’re continuing to grow quickly in terms of market share and user reach.

“We have other relationships with eBay, Amazon, Yahoo, and Canonical, which provide some revenue today, although not on the scale of our Google relationship. We’ve always structured our finances to emphasise long-term sustainability, so we’re definitely intending to be a force for good on the web, for some time to come,” he said.

But, as Shaver notes, that investment exists only so long as Firefox retains its market share, and with Google signing deals with PC makers to make Chrome their default browser, it’s possible that Firefox’s growth may be stymied.

Playing politics

However, experts believe that politics will prevent Google from pulling the plug on its Firefox funding. “I think Mozilla would suffer in a big way [if Google pulled the deal], but the branding hit for Google would be huge as well,” said Professor Sandeep Krishnamurthy, director of business programs at the University of Washington, Bothell, who wrote a paper on the future of Mozilla. “It would be regarded as the evil corporation shutting down a non-profit. Not what it wants – that cute, cuddly image is paramount for Google.”

According to Krishnamurthy, the real danger to Mozilla lies with smartphones, which are becoming an increasingly popular way of accessing the web. Apple, Google and Microsoft all create smartphone operating systems packaged with their own browsers and Cloud-based services. Mozilla’s mobile browser, Fennec, isn’t due for release until 2010, and even then it will need to offer compelling features to make people switch from their bundled browser (presuming they’re even allowed to, of course – the iPhone App store blocks rival browsers, for instance).

1 2
Subscribe to PC Pro magazine. We'll give you 3 issues for £1 plus a free gift - click here
User comments

5? I've been using it as my main browser for nearly a decade! :-S

By big_D on 19 Jan 2010

5 years since the version 1 release?

By james016 on 20 Jan 2010

Versions 1.0 was released on the 9th of November 2004.

Version 0.1 came out in 2002 so I'd be surprised if you've been using it for almost a decade. Are you perhaps thinking of the Mozilla Suite? I was using that before I switched to Firefox 2.

By peterm2k on 20 Jan 2010

NetApplications, with its limited

and USA-biased network, seems to consistently underestimate Firefox's market share. According to StatCounter, which bases its statitics on a much larger network, Firefox presently enjoys a global market share of over 30 % (http://preview.tinyurl.com/yeqn57z ). In Europe, Firefox's market share is about 40 %, in both North and South America well over 30 %. The only major market is which Firefox lags behind is Asia, where the browser has only captured some 25 % of the market due, mainly to the fact that it only enjoys less than 4 % of the enormous Chinese market - with the security consequences we have recently witnessed....

Henri

By mhenriday on 20 Jan 2010

But the USA

is the only market worth talking about - which is why NetApps doesn't go further afield
(Disgruntled, of UK)

By hminney on 21 Jan 2010

USA/EU

Populationwise:
USA 309 162 581 people
EU (not whole Europe) 501 259 800 people
Please check poverty in those two entities, and than talk about importance of a market.

By QuestToAnsw on 21 Jan 2010

USA/EU

Populationwise:
USA 309 162 581 people
EU (not whole Europe) 501 259 800 people
Please check poverty in those two entities, and than talk about importance of a market.

By QuestToAnsw on 21 Jan 2010

Writing on the Wall for Firefox?

I've used Firefox for a year or so but recent "upgrades" have made it very slow and a serious resource hog - even after closing it down. I'll miss some of the add-ons but will welcome back proper Help files, easily edited bookmarks that I can save as files. And I won't have to keep using Task Manager to release memory.

By Walsallian on 21 Jan 2010

Writing on the Wall for Firefox?

I've used Firefox for a year or so but recent "upgrades" have made it very slow and a serious resource hog - even after closing it down. I'll miss some of the add-ons but will welcome back proper Help files, easily edited bookmarks that I can save as files. And I won't have to keep using Task Manager to release memory.

By Walsallian on 21 Jan 2010

USA/EU

Populationwise:
USA 309 162 581 people
EU (not whole Europe) 501 259 800 people
Please check poverty in those two entities, and than talk about importance of a market.

By QuestToAnsw on 21 Jan 2010

Leave a comment

You need to Login or Register to comment.

(optional)

advertisement

Most Commented News Stories
Latest Blog Posts Subscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest ReviewsSubscribe to our RSS Feeds
Latest Real World Computing

advertisement

Sponsored Links
 
SEARCH
Loading
WEB ID
SIGN UP

Your email:

Your password:

remember me

advertisement


Hitwise Top 10 Website 2010
 
 

PCPro-Computing in the Real World Printed from www.pcpro.co.uk

Register to receive our regular email newsletter at http://www.pcpro.co.uk/registration.

The newsletter contains links to our latest PC news, product reviews, features and how-to guides, plus special offers and competitions.