December 5, 2011, 12:30 PM
Google scored a major victory in the browser wars last week when Web tracking firm StatCounter reported that the company’s Chrome browser overtook Mozilla Firefox to become the second most popular desktop Web browser in the world.
At the time, we wondered just what impact the new configuration would have on non-profit Mozilla’s longstanding critical deal to receive search royalties from Google, in exchange for making Google the default search option in the upper-right hand corner of Firefox. The deal, worth an estimated $85 million, was due to expire in November.
But lucky for Mozilla, the deal appears to have been renewed, despite increasing competition between Mozilla and Google’s browsers. As a Google spokesperson told TPM: “We can confirm that we still have a deal with Mozilla, but have nothing new to share at this time.”
Google also declined to comment directly on the StatCounter news of Chrome’s rapid ascent, but added: “Three years ago, we built Chrome to help spur more innovation on the web and we’re excited that over 200 million people around the world are using it. We continue to remain focused on building a much better browsing experience and giving people even greater access to the web.”
Sources close to Google also acknowledged that Mozilla Firefox was responsible for pioneering many of the innovations in early Web browsing, including the introduction of tabs and built-in search, both of which have been adopted by Chrome.
Mozilla, for its part, was more cryptic, not addressing our direct inquiry about its deal with Google. A Mozilla spokesperson did provide TPM with the following statement pertaining to the StatCounter numbers:
“Firefox demonstrated just how important browsers are but it’s important to remember that the reasons for building Web browsers are significantly different from one company to the next. Mozilla is unique in that we build Firefox to provide a truly independent offering, focused solely on individual experience and the overall good of the Web. Firefox is holding its own in the face of increased competition, with hundreds of millions of users worldwide choosing a web browser that answers only to them.”
Google and Mozilla haven’t publicly disclosed many details of their deal, but based on Mozilla’s own vague statements, it was worth an estimated $85 million in revenue last year.
Specifically, Mozilla in October released its annual “State of Mozilla” report, acknowledging that it “has a contract with a search engine provider for royalties which expires November 2011. Approximately 84% and 86% of royalty revenue for 2010 and 2009, respectively, was derived from this contract.”
Tech writers weren’t optimistic about the deal being renewed this time around, especially in light of Mozilla’s move in September to partner with Google’s arch search-rival Microsoft for a special “Firefox with Bing,” in which Microsoft’s Bing replaces Google as the default search option in Firefox.
Of course, as important as the desktop browser wars are, the next frontier is mobile.
And when it comes to tablets and mobile phones, Apple’s Safari for iOS has a commanding lead with 54 percent of the market, followed by legacy mobile browser Java ME at 19.69 percent and then Android’s Webkit browser at 16.72 percent, according to tracking website NetMarketshare. Firefox for Android, to date Mozilla’s only true Firefox mobile offering, barely makes a blip, being grouped with the “other” category at just over 1 percent mobile market share.
Mozilla is aware of the titanic struggle it faces to compete in mobile browsing, and has expanded its mobile division from 20 to 250 people, according to BusinessWeek. But with mobile a much more proprietary platform, and with the rigid rules in place from Apple and Google, it remains to be seen how well Mozilla can compete in the arena.
Carl Franzen is TPM Idea Lab’s tech reporter. He used to work for The Daily, AOL and The Atlantic Wire (though not simultaneously, thankfully). He’s never met a button that didn’t need to be pressed. He can be reached at email@example.com.
And someone will file an anti-trust suit against Google in 3…2…1…
If you reduce Chrome users by the number who use it only for Angry Bird, what do you have? One less for sure. I’ll stay with Firefox and Opera.
FreedToChoose I seriously doubt the percentage of people who use chrome for only playing Angry Birds is especially high.
FreedToChoose I actually abandoned Firefox for Chrome and I will never go back. Chrome is much more efficient and eats much less of my memory when it is running.
“WebKit” is Apple’s open-source web browser project, originally derived from Konqueror.
Safari is based on WebKit. Chrome is based on WebKit. “Android’s WebKit” is eh, based on WebKit.
Better tech reporting, please?
all the browsers took something(s) from opera
I’m sure Statcounter is totally wrong about Chrome overtaking Firefox/Mozilla, especially on the desktop. The sites I run get just ~6% traffic from Chrome, and half of that is from Droid smartphones. Firefox is still at ~22% share. Even Safari is stronger than Chrome, at over 10%.
But yeah, the mobile platform is a terrible platform for open competition, because Apple and Google are the proprietary masters of their own universe. Say what you will about Microsoft, the Windows platform has always been a fairly open ground for hardware and software developers to build on. Apple and Google will strangle innovation in the mobile space, especially Apple.
Jgelling Windows also has the lion’s share of viruses, worms, trojans and botnets. There’s pluses and minuses to both models.
Jgelling “Apple and Google will strangle innovation in the mobile space, especially Apple.”
Yeah, that’s why Apple gives WebKit away for free, and has been a major backer behind HTML5.
@David Flood Apple is also a tyrant in its App Store and has declared war on Adobe over Flash. Android at least is an open platform and Google isn’t nearly as heavy handed as Apple on the hardware or software side. And despite participating in a few open standards (along with every other tech co.) Apple is the very definition of closed, proprietary systems.
“Mozilla is aware of the titanic struggle it faces to compete in mobile browsing,”
Indeed. Not since slaves were emancipated have we seen such a titanic struggle.