According to recent most financial statement, the Mozilla Corporation, responsible for Firefox and Thunderbird development, makes 84% of its revenue from a search partnership with Google. All new installations of Firefox use Google as the default search engine and most of Mozilla’s revenue comes from that arrangement and similar deals with Microsoft and other search partners. Even as Google extends Mozilla’s funding for another three years, Firefox is losing market share.
With Firefox market share falling, will businesses find it relevant three years from now? And what if Google doesn’t extend the agreement at that point and the money runs out?
Firefox faces many challenges, the largest of which are based on its being in an extremely competitive browser market. Here are the top three:
Power users initially loved Firefox due to its extended features and customizability. Recently, Google’s Chrome browser has provided the same, and went further with better security and speed, causing many power users to switch over.
Mozilla is a nonprofit organization, and Firefox is an open-source project. Though neither of its top two competitors, Google’s Chrome or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, are direct money generators, both companies depend on browsers as a window to their online products. For Google, ads on Web pages generate most of its money, so it wants to get as many ad-filled Web pages in front of users as possible.
Though 93 percent of Web browsing is done through desktops and laptops, mobile browsing has nearly doubled in the last year to reach almost 8 percent. This is likely to grow exponentially in the next year, as tablets and e-readers hit the mainstream, and nearly every new mobile phone will have a Web browser. Apple and Google own the default browsers on the popular mobile devices, giving them a huge advantage.
Desktops aren’t dead yet, but eventually you can expect mobile usage to surpass desktop usage, perhaps within those three years for which Mozilla has secured Google’s funding. As users and businesses embrace new phones and tablets, they’ll be learning how best to browse the Web with them, and how to seamlessly share the browsing experience among their desktops and mobile devices. This is where Firefox could make a difference. Mozilla already has a mobile version of Firefox that uses Firefox Sync to sync browsing history, open tabs, bookmarks, and saved passwords. If it were to release an iOS version as well – as mobile browser Dolphin did – it would have a presence on the top smartphones and tablets.
Google has its thumb on Firefox, but is enabling it to live a bit longer. If Firefox wants to remain competitive several years from now, it has to make a difference, as it did in its early days. Finding a killer feature and working not only across the major operating systems, but between desktops and mobile devices as well could be Firefox’s saving grace.
Will Mozilla make it happen?