Firefox Sheds Google for Yahoo

Mozilla on Wednesday announced that Yahoo would replace Google as its global default search option, in a move that has set the tech media abuzz.

Pointing out that Google has been the Firefox global search default since 2004, Mozilla painted the move as seizing the opportunity to review its competitive strategy and explore its options when the agreement came up for renewal this year.

“In evaluating our search partnerships, our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence, and positions us to innovate and advance our mission in ways that best serve our users and the Web,” said Mozilla CEO Chris Beard.

Although the various partnership options available “had strong, improved economic terms reflecting the significant value that Firefox brings to the ecosystem,” he noted, one strategy was head and shoulders above the others — the move from a single global default provider to having a more local and flexible approach.

Mozilla’s New Strategy

Yahoo will be the Firefox browser’s global default for search in the United States for the next five years.

In Russia, Yandex Search will be Firefox’s default search engine; in China, it will be Baidu.

However, the relationship with Google isn’t completely over: Google will be built into the Firefox browser as an alternative search option for the U.S., Russia and China.

Further, Firefox will retain Google’s Safe Browsing and geolocation features.

In all, Firefox will offer 61 search engines preinstalled across 88 different language versions. These engines will be local by country. They will include Bing, DuckDuckGo, Wikipedia and Twitter in the U.S.; DuckDuckGo, Wikipedia and in Russia; and Bing, Youdao, Taobao and other options in China.

Firefox search

“Our new search strategy doubles down on our commitment to make Firefox a browser for everyone,” Beard said. “This is why our independence matters. Being non-profit makes us make different choices. Choices that keep the Web open, everywhere and independent.”

Yahoo Gives a Little, Takes a Little

Yahoo will redesign its user interface. Starting in December, Firefox users will have a new, enhanced Yahoo Search experience with a clean, modern interface.

Yahoo also has agreed to support Do Not Track in Firefox, reversing its decision in May to end support for that feature in its browser.

“This was a good move that both enhances Yahoo’s position in the market and gives them a useful partner in Mozilla,” said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

It also will save Yahoo the expense of reviving its moribund search engine. It would cost too much, Enderle told the E-Commerce Times, noting that “even Microsoft is struggling” with search engine-related costs.

Why Yahoo?

Yahoo has 4 percent of the global desktop search engine market according to NetMarketShare.

That makes it a feeble No. 4 behind market leader Google, with 58 percent. Baidu owns 29 percent, and Bing has 8 percent — so why would Mozilla opt for Yahoo?

Money could be one reason.

Mozilla made US$311 million in 2012, according to its FAQ page.

However, 90 percent of that came from Google, noted Mukul Krishna, senior global director for digital media at Frost & Sullivan.

Mozilla was renegotiating its contract with Google earlier this month, and “it looks like Google cut funding sharply, and then Mozilla brought in Yahoo to recover some of the lost revenues,” Enderle speculated.

That might help Mozilla, because investors were concerned about its reliance on Google, whose Chrome browser competed with Firefox, Krishna told the E-Commerce Times.

Further, the partnership with Yahoo makes sense “because people are becoming increasingly concerned about privacy and Mozilla is working on it and Yahoo will implement Do Not Track for Firefox,” he observed.

What Might Lie Ahead

“Mozilla’s and Yahoo’s joint statement cryptically indicated that their new arrangement also provides a framework for exploring future product integrations and distribution opportunities in other markets,” Susan Schreiner, senior editor at C4 Trends, told the E-Commerce Times.

The teamup “could shift more interest to Bing through Yahoo and strengthen it at Google’s expense,” Enderle suggested. “If Yahoo now begins to promote Firefox heavily, the impact could become very significant to Google.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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