Mozilla has responded to news of the US government’s antitrust lawsuit against Google by saying it welcomes it … provided it doesn’t get hurt.
Mozilla has weighed in on two fronts, firstly as an organisation that likes an open web.
“Like millions of everyday internet users, we share concerns about how Big Tech’s growing power can deter innovation and reduce consumer choice,” wrote chief legal officer Amy Keating, before getting to the heart of the matter: Mozilla has a deal to funnel search traffic to Google and the resulting royalties represent over 90 percent of the Mozilla revenue.
Mozilla's second position is as an organisation that has a recently renewed deal to send search traffic to Google that is thought to see around $400m a year flow from the ad giant to the browser contender. That's around 90 percent of Mozilla's income.
Which is where things get complex, because as Keating noted: “In this new lawsuit, the DOJ referenced Google’s search agreement with Mozilla as one example of Google’s monopolization of the search engine market in the United States.”
So what’s a not-for-profit to do when it worries about Big Tech, but is also utterly dependent on it for revenue?
Keating has recommended the USA kick Google as hard as it wants, so long as Mozilla still gets paid by ... someone.
“Small and independent companies such as Mozilla thrive by innovating, disrupting and providing users with industry leading features and services in areas like search,” she wrote. “The ultimate outcomes of an antitrust lawsuit should not cause collateral damage to the very organizations – like Mozilla – best positioned to drive competition and protect the interests of consumers on the web.”
“Unintended harm to smaller innovators from enforcement actions will be detrimental to the system as a whole, without any meaningful benefit to consumers — and is not how anyone will fix Big Tech," she added, before concluding: “remedies must look at the ecosystem in its entirety, and allow the flourishing of competition and choice to benefit consumers.”
But the US action is against Google the ad giant, not Google the browser-maker. It is unclear exactly how Mozilla – which funnels plenty of ad-carrying search traffic to Google – represents a bulwark against Google's dominance. Indeed, Mozilla only survives by helping to sustain Google.
Advising lawmakers to beware the law of unintended consequences, and to preserve both public and private interests, is nothing out of the ordinary. Doing so while advocating a position that would preserve revenue is quite the contortion, and not a pretty one. ®