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Will Firefox Lose Google Funding? 644

Posted by samzenpus
from the cutting-you-off dept.
SharkLaser writes "Mozilla's future looks uncertain. Last week Chrome overtook Firefox's position as the second most popular browser, the new versioning scheme is alienating some Firefox users, and now the advertising deal between Mozilla and Google, the one that almost fully funds Mozilla's operations, is coming to an end. One of Firefox's key managers, Mike Shaver, also left the company in September. 'In 2010, 84% of Mozilla's $123 million in revenue came directly from Google. That's roughly $100 million in funds that will vanish or be drastically cut if the deal is either not renewed or is renegotiated on terms that are less favorable to Mozilla. When the original three-year partnership deal was signed in 2008, Chrome was still on the drawing boards. Today, it is Google's most prominent software product, and it is rapidly replacing Firefox as the alternative browser on every platform.' Recently Mozilla has been trying to get closer with Microsoft by making a Firefox version that defaults to Bing. If Google is indeed cutting funding from Mozilla or tries to negotiate less favorable terms, it could mean Mozilla's future funding coming from Microsoft and Bing."
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Will Firefox Lose Google Funding?

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  • by gameboyhippo (827141) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:04PM (#38268436) Journal

    It's because Chrome is the better browser. It shouldn't matter that it comes from a mega company like Google. If a better product comes out, that should be king. Now why people are still using IE is beyond me.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:13PM (#38268580)

      "It's because Chrome is the better browser. It shouldn't matter that it comes from a mega company like Google. If a better product comes out, that should be king. Now why people are still using IE is beyond me." - by gameboyhippo (827141) on Monday December 05, @01:04PM (#38268436)

      If that's purely the case as you state it, Opera should have won long ago then as "top most used browser". Opera was technically superior on many grounds:

      ---

      1.) Speed (for years & on most all fronts tested/testable)

      2.) Built in features natively without having to use addons

      3.) Features other webbrowsers or addon makers literally copied from Opera's playbook (and integrated into their own webbrowsers).

      ---

      * Will Mozilla/FireFox die? No, doubt it - too good of a codebase built up for decades to just "die"... it'll live on (if in anything, WaterFox (very fast, I'm impressed in fact by it)).

      APK

      P.S.=> No, I think it has to do a LOT with who's backing you in this world (not just programs, but that same goes for individuals also (ala "it's not what you know, but who you know", though I think that's speaking TOO much in "absolutes" also)... in the end? It's a mix of both... imo @ least!

      ... apk

      • by Superken7 (893292)

        That would be true if you didn't have to add an important "feature" to the list:

        4) Pages easily break under Opera

        I have found myself trying really hard to use Opera as my daily driver. Time and again, I encountered a web page that would not work properly. From pages that would not load at all, to content disappearing when viewed with opera, to buttons and javascript not working, and a long list of etcetera. And by the way, identifying as something else other than Opera did not solve anything, so this wasn't

    • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:13PM (#38268584)
      That and those Mozilla People should stop screwing up and hiding their mistakes in ever increasing version numbers.
      Firefox group. If you want to beat Chrome... Stop making your product to look and function more like it does. You are only making your product a cheap ripoff of the other product.

      Netscape was a dominate browser, IE was a cheap rip off (one of those crappy software that comes free with the OS)
      Then IE made their browser faster and lighter with a UI that wasn't trying to copy Netscapes look and feel.
      Then Firefox had started to dominate because it was faster and lighter with a UI that wasn't trying to copy IE look and feels.
      No chrome came out that was faster and lighter and a UI that didn't look like Firefox.

      Now Firefox is remaking their product to look and feel more like chrome. Why, should I stick with Firefox if I can get a real chrome like UI from Chrome.
    • by catbutt (469582) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:22PM (#38268748)
      Problem there, though. This happened before. IE4 was clearly better than Netscape. Once Netscape became irrelevant, IE stopped improving.

      Lack of competition is a bad thing.
    • Contradiction? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:23PM (#38268790) Journal
      I found your post subject:

      Free market for the win

      And text a little bit contradictory.

      It's because Chrome is the better browser. It shouldn't matter that it comes from a mega company like Google. If a better product comes out, that should be king.

      In my mind, the ideal functions of a free market are where N competing products vie for marketshare. The 'one browser to rule them all' mentality is, in my opinion, an antithesis to the free market concept. And what's more bizarre is that your post ends with an acknowledgment that IE has enjoyed an abnormally long run incorrectly as the leader. Don't you fear that if Firefox died tomorrow we would be one browser closer to the old system where IE stagnated and just got crappier and crappier with no competition in sight?

      Products do die in a free market, I just haven't seen Firefox deserve this and given the barrier of entry into the browser market we should really cherish what we have for options.

      I agree that chrome is the better browser -- though not in all categories. As such, I wish to see Firefox remain healthy and would enjoy them to improve upon areas that Chrome has gained on them. Not to 'fragment' the market (we grow closer to actual HTML standards everyday) but instead to keep these guys on their toes, moving forward and trying to win me over. When I saw Arcade Fire's music video in HTML5 on Chrome, that won me over. That was it. I don't want Firefox to die, I want Firefox to pull a similar move.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Dishevel (1105119)

        I am not sure you know how a free market really works.
        In a free market if I can build a car that is better than a BMW for less than the price of a low end Kia I will most likely dominate the car market.
        When I use that dominance to produce better cars for even less money that is still good. Even though it makes it much harder for someone else to compete with me.
        The free market is not about making things even. It is about honest competition. In an honest competition you have winners. Sometimes even dominators

        • Re:Contradiction? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by BZ (40346) on Monday December 05, 2011 @11:31PM (#38275966)

          Google is routinely authoring sites that only work in WebKit-based browsers.

          Apple (but not Google, to their credit) routinely encourages web developers to create WebKit-specific website via their developer documentation.

          So the exclusivity arrangements part is all effectively happening, just like in 1999 or so.

    • by chrb (1083577) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:52PM (#38269260)

      Better in some ways, not so good in others. I can think of a few areas FF wins:

      * Firebug > Chrome debugger

      * Firefox sync > Chrome sync (and it doesn't use your Google account password by default and then send your "encrypted" passwords to Google!)

      * Firefox fullscreen mode is better (I like to max the vertical space, particularly on small wide screens. With FF, F11, Ctrl-L still works, which is essential for my browsing habits)

      I use both, but to be honest most of the time I can't tell the difference: they both do a pretty good job of actually rendering web sites. Sure, Chrome may have lower memory requirements, but the real reason Chrome is gaining more market share is probably because Google is actually marketing and advertising it.

  • Sad (Score:2, Troll)

    by recoiledsnake (879048)

    Sad if this happens and Firefox has to beg money from Bing. Whatever happened with the 500k/yr Mozilla CEOs who were paid so much money to diversify the revenue sources? Sad really.

    • Re:Sad (Score:5, Interesting)

      by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:06PM (#38268470) Journal

      The problem is ultimately that Firefox was out-Firefoxed. Chrome is what Firefox was in its beginning, a pretty small and basic web browser without all the cruft. Part of the issue to my mind, or at least why I abandoned Firefox was simply that the developers refused to fix long-standing bugs, and basically began to ignore the community that used the browser. So far as I'm concerned, IE and Chrome have left Firefox behind.

      • I dont know about IE, it still seems to drag a lot of the time when compared to firefox. I use Chrome preferentially, then Firefox, then IE when nothing else wants to behave.

      • by Eric Coleman (833730) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:19PM (#38268704)
        For the very reason that Google wouldn't want to give Bing any sort of leg up on their own search engine. I think Mozilla could come out ahead if there happens to be any backroom bidding wars to keep that 3rd place browser out of the other big guy's hands.
      • Re:Sad (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Microlith (54737) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:20PM (#38268718)

        a pretty small and basic web browser without all the cruft

        How has this changed? Seriously, clean installs of Phoenix 1.0 and Firefox 11.0 are largely equivalent in terms of UI being presented (browser, bookmarks, history, tabs.) What "cruft" has been added that wasn't removed in the initial split from Seamonkey?

  • Netscape redux (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fault0 (514452) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:07PM (#38268488) Homepage Journal

    IE slowly killed Netscape.. Chrome slowly killed Firefox.

  • SharkLaser again (Score:4, Insightful)

    by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@gmail.cCOBOLom minus language> on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:13PM (#38268582) Journal

    This guy's gunning for Troll of the Year.

  • by slashkitty (21637) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:14PM (#38268600) Homepage
    Don't you think $123 Million buys a better browser than Firefox... It's pretty good, but it could be so much better. I'm glad it has more competition.
    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Yeah, that is $123M per year. That is a LOT of money - most of the bigger community linux distros probably have donations of maybe 0.1% of that per year.

      Sometimes throwing money at a problem makes it worse - an organization with that kind of income usually ends up with a lot of professional management.

      I'm not sure how much money Google is spending on Chrome, but it wouldn't surprise me if the development budget is less than what they're spending to fund Firefox.

      So, if you're the CEO of Google do you want t

      • by BZ (40346)

        > I'm not sure how much money Google is spending
        > on Chrome

        It's obviously not public information, but the following things are known:

        1) The number of Google employees working on Chrome full time definitely measures in the hundreds. I'd be very surprised if it's less than 500-600 or so.

        2) The amount Google spent on Chrome _marketing_ in the past year is somewhere between $400 million and $2 billion depending on the estimates you look at. Keep in mind that we're talking subway ads all over London, T

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:16PM (#38268624)

    For the reverse look at this relationship, "How browsers make money, or why Google needs Firefox" - http://www.extremetech.com/internet/92558-how-browsers-make-money-or-why-google-needs-firefox

    • by openfrog (897716) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:56PM (#38269302)

      Thanks, this article does contribute to the conversation. Here is an excerpt:

      Back in 2010, one of Mozilla’s noisiest bigwigs, Asa Dotzler, famously renounced Google because of its poor privacy policy, and started using Bing instead. At the time this wasn’t a big deal, but Dotzler is now the Director of Firefox Desktop — and when November rolls around, it’s safe to assume that he might vote for Bing to replace Google as the default search engine.

      As for me, I am very loyal to the idea of open source, and therefore to Firefox. Firefox has changed the web as we know it in proportions that we will become more aware of if it disappears or becomes irrelevant. Mark my words.

      On the other hand, I have received the news of Firefox leaning toward Bing as a betrayal of the worst kind. This Asa Dotzler in my view should be invited to quit Firefox in short order. He is damaging the company's goodwill and reputation to an extent that is currently under-appreciated, whatever the tactic is behind this move, pressuring Google or whatever. This is just ugly and if Firefox continues with that line, my loyalty will vanish in an instant.

  • Genius plan (Score:5, Funny)

    by microbee (682094) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:16PM (#38268652)

    Finally Microsoft found a way to kill Firefox: pay it to use Bing!

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:16PM (#38268666) Journal
    While Google, as Firefox's sugar daddy and major technical competitor, could put the hurt on FF, I just don't see the logic behind their doing so:

    FF still has a pretty significant chunk of marketshare, so being the default search engine is still valuable; plus they are likely a convenient PR antidote to Google's ongoing issues with venturing into being-accused-of-monopoly-abuse territory: they are an independent 3rd party, developing a competing product with competitive marketshare(Hey FCC, look at that, see that robust competition?); but(unlike say Microsoft) they have neither a search product worthy of note or a non HTML5/JS development environment worthy of note(I've seen a few XUL-based tech demos; but that ranks well behind Silverlight, much less Win32, as anything resembling a threat...)

    They just seem more valuable alive than dead, to Google. Unlike some of the other competitors, even a sudden surge of unmitigated dominance, with the Gecko slaughtering all before it, would pretty much just require Google to switch from webkit to Gecko and feel absolutely no pain in the areas where it actually makes money. As it is, they have the convenient property of being 'independent and competitive'; but also sharing basically all of Google's goals for web-based applications and the general advancement of web stuff not tied to a specific platform. Why mess with such a convenient 3rd party?
    • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:29PM (#38268868) Homepage

      I have to agree. Google's seen how many headaches antitrust investigations and actions can be, and there's obvious logic behind keeping a major competitor around to point to. Google still profits off all the search referrals, so Firefox isn't costing them a lot of revenue, and having that second implementation means you a) have to code your site to work with both and b) have to make your browser correctly handle HTML/CSS/JS/etc. that's designed for both. That cross-compatibility's a selling point with devs, just ask anybody who's trying to make an IE6-specific site work well with IE 8 and later.

  • by Xanny (2500844) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:21PM (#38268726)

    I mean the reason this is a problem at all is that Mozilla is a non profit but still needs to cover operating costs. Since everything they make is free, they need to either monetize customer support (and who has ever heard of that with a browser or email reader) or have ad revenue.

    The google deal was just a means to an end, that some fraction of the add revenue from google goes to mozilla because google was firefox default search. The reason its so dangerous for mozilla is because google has such monopolistic power over search they have no one else to turn to to get ad revenue from searching from, hence the inquiries at M$.

    But do consider this - Google is paying 100 million a year, but in 2010 they had revune of 29 billion. In exchange, they go from having influence in a quarter of the browser market (Chrome) to half the market (Chrome + FF) and then they have majority influence. I imagine its something they want when pushing WebM video and standards compliance in browsers.

    I use Firefox, and have tried Chrome, but as a developer, add on nerd, and moralist I can't give myself to the company whose adds are blocked by a plugin in their own browser. I have compared them, and run them against Sunspider, and the half a milisecond of delay in page loading doesn't make me want to ditch a fully open project for something Google has lordship over. Its the same thing with Android vs Ubuntu on tablets, I want to see Ubuntu succeed because it is an open development process, not just source wise. Google already close sourced Android 3 even though it was blatantly illegal to close source software built on Linux. So I'd rather stick with the open standard. Worst case scenario, I might find a few months to work on FF myself and try to fix some of the slowdowns if I really take issue with them. That's the benefit of open development.

  • by electroniceric (468976) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:26PM (#38268828)

    Does anyone know where the money they get from Google goes? Aren't they a non-profit that's freely distributing a community-developed piece of software? If so, why does this cost anything more than a couple million a year? That's what their financial statements from 2009 (latest available from their website) talk about: 10 people and ~ $1.5M in budget. That seems pretty reasonable to me to run a product with as broad a user base as Firefox.

    But $100M??? Assuming an average salary of $100K, that's 1000 people. Are there really 1000 people working at Mozilla? If so, what are they doing?

    Or are they really spending as much as Nike and Coke on marketing? Do they have a big pile of cash in bank? Can someone help me understand, cause right now I don't see how the math adds up...

    • by couchslug (175151)

      Just because a company is TECHNICALLY a non-profit doesn't mean the management doesn't get rich.

      Gobble the money in salaries and perks, and there is plenty of personal profit to be had.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:33PM (#38269950)

      Does anyone know where the money they get from Google goes?

      Anyone who can read, use the web, and cares probably does, since they publish their audited financial statement on their website.

      Aren't they a non-profit that's freely distributing a community-developed piece of software?

      From the information in the report cited below, they are a non-profit "that exists to provide organizational, legal, and financial support for the Mozilla open-source software project", and whose "purpose is to develop open source, standards compliant, free Internet applications that will be useable free of charge to tens of millions of users" and "to develop foundational technologies that will be used by content and software developers to develop standards compliant online content and open source internet software."

      That's what their financial statements from 2009 (latest available from their website) talk about: 10 people and ~ $1.5M in budget.

      The latest financial statement available on their website is the consoldiated report for 2010 on 2009 [mozilla.com]. And it has, for 2010 (2009 in parens) $123M ($104M) in revenue and $87M ($61M) in expenses, $63M ($40M) of which is software development, $12M ($13M) of which is general and administrative expense, $10M ($7M) of which is branding and marketing, and $2M ($1M) of which is program services (all figures rounded to the nearest million.)

      I have no idea where you got the $1.5M in 2009 budget from.

      But $100M??? Assuming an average salary of $100K, that's 1000 people.

      First, they don't have $100M in expenses, they have $123M in revenue and only $87M in expenses. Expenses include things besides just personnel costs, and personnel costs themselves include more than just salary (if you estimated personnel costs as twice salary, you'd be a lot closer than if you estimated, as you have, at the salary itself.)

      Or are they really spending as much as Nike and Coke on marketing?

      Unless Nike and Coke spend $10M or less per year on marketing, no.

    • by BZ (40346)

      There are certainly north of 500 people doing full-time work on Mozilla.

      They're writing browser code, doing audits of CAs, maintaining the various infrastructure involved (build and test farms, addons.mozilla.org, various other Mozilla websites, the bug database, update servers, and so forth), writing documentation (see MDN), helping draft and edit W3C specifications, contributing to the W3C test suites, doing marketing, dealing with payroll and administrative issues, dealing with the legal issues that aris

  • by jenningsthecat (1525947) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:42PM (#38269072)

    I hope Google doesn't pull the plug on Firefox - that would result in less choice, and fewer people would be happy with their browsing experiences. The more browsers the merrier, I say.

    I really like Firefox, and the last time I tried Chrome I couldn't find any way to customise it to suit my needs. Also, does Chrome, (or will it ever), have an add-on equivalent to Flashblock? (No, the recent addition of similar functionality to NoScript isn't a viable replacement). What about "Long URL please", "FontFinder", "Add 'n' Edit Cookies", "Tab Mix Plus", or "Video Download Helper"?

    I generally don't like bloat, but Chrome is way too spartan for my needs. With Firefox, I gladly suffer a little bloat to get the ultimate in customisability. I have no confidence that Chrome will ever be as flexible.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:52PM (#38269244)

    The summary states as a fact that the Mozilla-Google deal is ending, based on a blog post that inferred that the deal was apparently ending based on Mozilla continuing to make the same kind of vague statements about deals with search engine providers that they have for most of the last several years without any specific updates on the Google deal, which is a pretty flimsy basis for the inferrence, but at least that source (unlike TFS) only stated that the deal had "apparently" ended, not stating that it was ending as a fact.

    But, Google has since explicitly denied that their agreement with Mozilla has ended. (See, for instance, this CNET article [cnet.com].)

  • by naasking (94116) <naasking&gmail,com> on Monday December 05, 2011 @02:52PM (#38269248) Homepage

    Firefox's new versioning scheme wouldn't be a problem at all if they had a stable API that didn't break a user's extensions on each update. Chrome has managed this, and they follow the same fast-paced version upgrades that Firefox is now doing. Chrome is just doing it right.

    To be fair, I think Firefox has improved this quite a bit, because I've experience fewer breaks during upgrades recently.

  • by xororand (860319) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:03PM (#38269416)

    Firefox still has the advantage of a vast extension base. I wouldn't want to use a browser without the complete equivalents of:

    - Ghostery
    - NoScript
    - Cookie Monster (fine-grained cookie control)
    - DNS Flusher (useful for IP v4/v6 dual-stack testing)
    - FlashVideoReplacer
    - Greasemonkey
    - RefControl
    - Tree Style Tab
    - Firebug
    - Web Developer

    Nevertheless, Chromium still has its place on my system, mostly serving as an efficient and therefore battery saving browser for local HTML documentation.

  • by FunkyELF (609131) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:07PM (#38269472)

    I'm using Firefox now... its pretty good, but it doesn't feel like I'm using a product that gets over $100 million a year in funding. I wonder how much goes into development and how much goes into web hosting.

  • Well-deserved (Score:3, Interesting)

    by gnu-sucks (561404) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:20PM (#38269676) Journal

    What can I say, this is the result of the wrong focus. Software engineers made decisions about the direction this company went, and drove it into the ground.

    It began as a beautiful thing, something that was needed in a world of terrible browsers. Netscape was over-bloated, IE was, well, IE. Firefox took it by storm because it provided what wasn't available. It was fast, slick, and most of all, capable. I remember being one of the first to compile Mozilla on Mac OS X as a mach-o binary, so I've been there and I remember watching it as it grew up, matured, and then began complaining about the neighbors.

    These days, it's an enormous pig of an application. The folks running the show at FF continue to drive focus into stupid areas. There have been massive UI shifts that alienate users. The version number thing is just stupid, everyone knows that. Why did they do it? To compete with Chrome -- can you believe that? They thought Chrome's success was because of version numbers?! Oh wait, let's add bing as a default search engine. That ought to help. How about we get some more broken-UI themes while we're at it. Firefox, your browser, your way. How about we move the tabs over here, do this with the menu bar.. that should help us compete with Chrome. Right...

    So I hope it dies. And I hope it dies fast, rather than dragging everyone down, kicking and screaming. "Waaa, competitors, we want your money." Good luck with that. Get real, Chrome has shown innovation far above and beyond the old Mozilla codebase. Firefox is practically windows in this sense -- old code, old technology, new "looks", stupid versioning (NT, 98, 2000 ME, XP, V, 7, 8... excuse me if I got it out of order as I really don't use windows any more than is necessary, which is essentially zero). And stupid management.

    To the FF developers that wrote good awesome code, please find a project more deserving of your talent, and let this one die. Software has to evolve with the trends and overall fitness of the software to the environment. In this case, it's time to embrace the new species.

  • by Doc Ruby (173196) on Monday December 05, 2011 @03:24PM (#38269752) Homepage Journal

    Firefox isn't all that great (showing how not that great the competing and mostly inferior browsers are). What does Firefox do in a year that costs $100M? It seems that a company with $5M in revenue could have done what Firefox has done in the past year, and that includes 3 "major version numbers".

    If you gave me $100M I could pay a team that not only wrote an HTML4 browser (and HTTP/FTP/whatever protocol) from scratch, but also HTML5, and probably a JVM, too.

  • by morgauxo (974071) on Monday December 05, 2011 @05:31PM (#38272092)
    Does anybody else remember when Mozilla was an OSS project and not a company? When it was just a bunch of volunteers replacing all the source code that used to be Netscape Communicator? Look how many other projects survive just fine without corporate backing. What has happened?

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