Mozilla isn't a charity case - and Google's $300m will do nicely

Paying for Google search in Firefox is just business


Open ... and Shut Some people seem to think Google gave Mozilla a sweetheart deal when it renewed its search agreement for Firefox. At roughly $300 million per year, it will fund quite a bit of open-source development at Mozilla, but this isn't a case of Google going soft during the Christmas season. It is, as Mozilla veteran Asa Dotzler argues, simply a case of Google paying the going market rate for traffic to its ads.

It's unclear why people don't grok this. Google, for all its "Don't do evil" sloganeering, is a business, not a charity. It simply isn't going to spend approximately $1 billion over the next three years subsidizing a rival to its browser, Chrome.

Not unless it expects a lot more than $1 billion to walk back in the door, in the form of advertising revenue.

MG Siegler speculates that the deal may be about heading off an antitrust inquiry. It's not, though that's a great side benefit. Kara Swisher posits that the size of the deal is reflective of price competition from Microsoft. Maybe.

But what's lost in such stretching to find a motive in the deal is the most obvious one of all: it makes financial sense for both parties.

Google engineer Peter Kasting insists that viewing Chrome and Firefox as bitter enemies is silly:

People never seem to understand why Google builds Chrome no matter how many times I try to pound it into their heads. It's very simple: the primary goal of Chrome is to make the web advance as much and as quickly as possible. It's completely irrelevant to this goal whether Chrome actually gains tons of users or whether instead the web advances because the other browser vendors step up their game and produce far better browsers. Either way the web gets better. Job done.

Chrome has certainly managed to force Mozilla to improve its Firefox game, not to mention Microsoft and Internet Explorer. But if Google were the only one building the browser on-ramp to its web services, and advertising revenues, it would be a Pyrrhic victory indeed.

Nor is Mozilla alone in making money by sending Google search-related advertising revenue. As Dotzler points out, Google is "no more donating to Mozilla than they are to Opera or Apple, both of which derive significant revenue by sending search traffic to Google".

Coming up with Sun T'zu The Art of War-type analysis of the deal may make for gripping reading, but it's not very accurate in this case. The Google/Mozilla deal is a boring case of two organizations partnering out of self-interest. ®

Matt Asay is senior vice president of business development at Nodeable, offering systems management for managing and analyzing cloud-based data. He was formerly SVP of biz dev at HTML5 start-up Strobe and chief operating officer of Ubuntu commercial operation Canonical. With more than a decade spent in open source, Asay served as Alfresco's general manager for the Americas and vice president of business development, and he helped put Novell on its open source track. Asay is an emeritus board member of the Open Source Initiative (OSI). His column, Open...and Shut, appears three times a week on The Register.


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