If you are a user of the web browser Firefox in the United States, your default search engine is about to change. Mozilla, the nonprofit that owns Firefox just announced plans to switch the default from Google to Yahoo.
Google was paying Mozilla $300 million a year for the privilege of being the default search engine. Those payments made up more than 80 percent of Mozilla’s income.
But Mozilla and Google are very different companies. For starters, Mozilla is a mission-driven nonprofit. It’s built on 10 principles, one of which is “individuals’ security and privacy on the Internet are fundamental and must not be treated as optional.”
Google take on privacy is slightly different. “Google is, of course, in the business of tracking users,” says USC computer science professor Ellis Horowitz, “and Firefox has taken a very strong line on giving users the ability to not be tracked.”
In its deal with Firefox, Yahoo has agreed to honor Mozilla’s “do not track” policy. In return, Yahoo gets all of Firefox’s default search traffic and some street cred with users who are concerned about their privacy.
Just how much Yahoo paying is for that traffic and street cred hasn’t been made public.
As for Google, it ultimately isn’t losing a whole lot. “Many people just have the Google home page as the default page, so they don’t really need the search engine to do their searching,” Horowitz says.
Plus Google has its own competing browser, Chrome, which has a much larger market share than Firefox’s. And as more and more web traffic shifts to mobile phones, Firefox has created its own mobile operating system.
With “the Firefox OS, which they call it, they are getting onto low cost phones around the world,” says Liz Gannes, a senior editor with the tech site Re/code.
“Mozilla in some sense, has already moved on from the Firefox battle in that they are trying to take on the next big closed platform,” she says, “which is mobile.”
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