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November 20th, 2014

Firefox to Default to Yahoo’s Microsoft Search

There have been rumblings for some time now about Google’s search contract with Mozilla coming to an end this year. For ten years, the search giant has been the default go-to when it comes to search on Firefox, a deal which has supplied more than 80 percent of the browser’s funding. There’s been talk that Google or Mozilla wasn’t interested in renewing the deal, either because Firefox competes directly with Google’s Chrome browser or because the folks at Mozilla are unhappy with Google’s open web policies, depending on who’s doing the talking.

Firefox brings "click to play" to browser plugins.A week ago, in an attempt to make up for this projected loss of revenue, Mozilla began displaying advertising tiles in new tab pages on Firefox in newer versions of the browser. The first two sponsors, according to a Mozilla blog post, are CVS Health and Booking.com. Then yesterday, in another blog post, the organization announced that it’s signed a five year deal with Yahoo to make the once uber popular, still somewhat popular web portal the default for searches in Firefox.

This should be good news, should it not? An important open source project avoids having to lock its doors or downsize to irrelevance due to a deal that’s probably worth something north of $100 million, if we use what we know about Mozilla’s deal with Google as a guide. According to a FAQ on the Mozilla Foundation’s website, in 2012 the organization took in $311 million and we’re told by TechCrunch and others that 88 percent of the foundation’s income comes from Google. According to my calculator, that’s over $273 million — a big stack of cash to continue the development of not only Firefox, but Thunderbird, Firefox OS and other projects as well.

There’s just one teeny-tiny little problem. For the last several years, Yahoo has been obtaining its search results from Bing, owned by Microsoft, with no indication this will change. I’m not exactly sure how the Microsoft/Yahoo deal works, but you can be sure that some money goes to Redmond each and every time a search is done via the web portal, something that many FOSS supporters might find unacceptable.

As always, Firefox users will be able to change settings and use another search engine. Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, eBay, Amazon, Twitter and Wikipedia will continue to be offered as search options. In Russia and China, where Yandex and Baidu will be the respective defaults, users will also be offered alternatives. It’s not known whether searches made using alternative search engines will result in revenue for the Mozilla Foundation.

Yahoo, which has seen its financial fortunes fall for much of the 21st century, evidently wants this deal badly, as it’s made some concessions to sweeten the deal. For one thing, the company has worked with Mozilla to design a special landing page for searches done through Firefox. In addition, it’s agreed to support Firefox’s “Do Not Track” feature.

That’s all well and good and this would be a win-win situation if not for the Microsoft connection. But I find the thought of doing anything that would result in money being sent to Redmond, to the company which for so many years did everything in its power to eliminate Linux and FOSS, distasteful.

I won’t be using Yahoo Search on Firefox. What about you?

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001, she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and started covering Linux and FOSS in 2002 after making the switch to GNU/Linux. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux

6 comments to Firefox to Default to Yahoo’s Microsoft Search

  • Eddie G.

    For me this is a no brainer, I will not be using any search engine on my Fedora or Ubuntu or Mint Linux systems that puts money in Microsoft’s pockets! So I guess DuckDuckGo will have to do, in Firefox and Epiphany….(and Midori…and Opera!) I can see no reason why my browsing habits or preferences should change just because various companies decide to “get in bed” with each other….oh well, if things REALLY get bad?…there always Kali and TAILS!…LoL!

  • Duncan

    As I replied on an article elsewhere (LWN IIRC), I’m glad mozilla’s getting some money for it, because firefox is my default browser, but it’s not like I use, or even really know /how/ to use, the built-in search, anyway. So the default could be baidu even here in the US for all it’d affect me, or even bing. I had read about the yahoo/bing deal some time ago, but had forgotten about it.

    Now you’re saying the “even bing” is what it is/was anyway. Heh, I guess MS will be (indirectly) funding my free software. Interesting turn around from over a decade ago when I used to fund them, eh. =:^)

    Meanwhile, when I want to search I’ll do what I normally do, do the gg: (google), wp: (wikipedia), wt: (wictionary), ddg: (should be obvious), g2b: (gentoo bug, that one’s custom), etc, “web shortcuts” triggered search from krunner. That’ll open up a new firefox window and load whatever “web shortcut” search I used directly.

    Or I open minitube and search in it, if I’d have been doing a youtube search, since I don’t do proprietary flash and apparently don’t have whatever codec or whatever for youtube HTML5 videos in firefox.

    Alternatively, if I already have the term available in whatever else I’m reading, I’ll select it and klipper will popup with choices for the above and more (for links or domain names or IP addresses for instance, I can go to them in firefox or an alternative browser or directly in my chosen text editor or image viewer, or do a traceroute/tcptraceroute/mtr/host-lookup/ns-lookup/etc, or open a mail client to mail the link to someone, or…).

    On the extremely rare occasion I want to search in an already open firefox tab/window (I’m done reading whatever was there and haven’t closed it yet), I actually type google.com or whatever directly in the address bar (I long since killed the search bar as superfluous), and enter the search terms directly on the search page. I don’t even know /how/ to use the build-in search, other than turning the search bar back on, which isn’t worth the trouble as most of the time it’d simply be taking space better used for displaying the actual web page.

    Tho I guess most firefox users are still using a slaveryware OS (MS or Apple based, for MS, just look at the hoops people /pay/ to jump thru to prove they have the right to run the software, if you’ve any doubt who the master is) anyway. They don’t seem to care about freedom or at least freedomware that much, or they’d not still be there. I guess if they’re still using the default search it either happens to be exactly what they want anyway, or more likely they simply don’t care much about that either. As long as it works they don’t care, so for them I guess it might as well be bing. [shrug]

    Duncan

  • tracyanne

    I’ve not worried a lot about what search engine Firefox offers by default, I’ve been replacing that with IXQuick for several years now.

  • Winston Smith

    Palemoon for Linux.

  • fred

    i like trains

  • Bernard Swiss

    So, I take it that every serious Linux fan and advocate will also abandon their Android-powered phones, tablets and other devices, to prevent money going to Microsoft. Should we switch to Apple, or Blackberry?

    I don’t like using Google, and I’ve been happy to rely largely on DuckDuckGo for a couple of years, now. But I suppose that hasn’t helped Mozilla any, either.

    I wonder whether Mozilla setting up a “support”/”donate” button on the Firefox site would make things better, or make them worse…

    (Yes, I know there are donation buttons for some add-on extensions. But I haven’t noticed such for the browser itself. I might even overcome my aversion to PayPal…)