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.
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?