Mozilla have had a stellar run over the years, from coming up as a newbie in the desktop browser world against titan Internet Explorer to wresting 25% market share from the Microsoft browser. This rise was fuelled by amongst many other things the partnership Mozilla had with Google to provide Google search as the default search on the Firefox browser. But things seem to be getting muddied and especially due to the the very partner who has been feeding Mozilla almost $10 million a year in royalties and commissions, Google. Google’s Chrome browser has been rising steadily and eating into both Mozilla and IE market share with no discrimination.
The browser also happens to be a favourite with web developers owing to the developer tools that Chrome offers. This may or may not be a challenge for Mozilla as they have been known to rise up to almost any challenge but this time round, things may be a bit different. Consider that at the moment, Chrome is maybe two or three percentage points shy of beating Firefox to their number two market share position, if Google opted to pull the plug on the search agreement with Mozilla, the organization would find itself in a tricky situation owing to the double threat that Google pose; on one hand as the de facto search provider in the world and on the other side owning the second most popular browser in the market.
Many pundits however site the fact that because Mozilla commands such a tremendous following as well as community goodwill, this could be enough leverage for Mozilla to still call some shots. In one instance, if Google opt out of the search agreement, Mozilla may turn to other willing search providers and in this case, Bing would be the perfect fit. Of course Google would be wary of this owing to the fact that Mozilla accounts for 90 billion of its 1 trillion annual searches. Paying up $10 million for this number of searches actually seems like a bargain for the giant search provider.
In another instance, if Google bail out on Mozilla, the organization may opt to create wider reaching agreements with other software providers and create a rival app store to Google Chrome’s app store and we all know there is nothing the developer community loves more than an open source market player to work with (think Ubuntu). So in the midst of all these possibilities, Firefox makers Mozilla seem to be playing their cards close to their chest as they are still tentatively saying they are in talks with “search providers”, a statement that insinuates that Mozilla may be casting its net wider and considering partnerships with other search providers and not just Google.
The biggest dilemma for Firefox however is one; are they willing to cede the five or so percent market share to Chrome and be satisfied with being number 3 or are they going to dig in for a fight and challenge the very hand that feeds them? It will be interesting to see what moves Mozilla make in 2012 as the browser wars continue.