Mozilla on Wednesday announced that it had not renewed its lucrative contract with Google, but instead will use Yahoo as Firefox's default search engine in the U.S.
And rather than have a global designated search partner -- as it has had with Google in nearly all markets for a decade -- Mozilla will instead strike country-by-country deals.
Mozilla implied that the change from one to many search partners would result in better ideological alignments, but said nothing about revenue potential. "In evaluating our search partnerships, our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence, and positions us to innovate and advance our mission in ways that best serve our users and the Web," said Chris Beard, Mozilla's CEO since July.
Mozilla's self-professed mission -- now centered around the tag of "independence" -- has been to push for a more open Web, first with its Firefox browser, which dislodged Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) from its once-overwhelming dominance, then later morphed into a call for more open everything, including mobile ecosystems. It has also taken up broader issues, including user privacy, government surveillance and data encryption.
The move away from Google wasn't surprising given the hints Mozilla has dropped recently, including thinly-veiled criticism of both Google and Apple from Mozilla's chairwoman, Mitchell Baker, last week.
"A choice of device will determine much of your online experiences -- the software and content available to you, what payment systems you can use, where your data goes, which if any of your data you can manage, the way you identify yourself to the world," Baker wrote in a blog post on Nov. 10. "People and businesses are able to innovate within the frameworks determined by larger businesses. One can only act as you're given permission. Frankly, this direction for the Internet sucks."
At the same time, Mozilla rolled out a Firefox update that offered privacy-focused DuckDuckGo as a search engine choice, another clue that it would dispense with Google. "DuckDuckGo gives you search results without tracking who you are or what you search for," Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox, said last week. "Other engines may use tracking to enhance your search results, but we believe that's a choice you should get to make for yourself."
Nightingale did not mention Google by name as one of the engines that "use tracking," but the Mountain View, Calif. company has been hammered by privacy advocates for the tracking it does to present pertinent in-browser advertisements.
Some analysts believed that Mozilla's switcheroo to multiple partners -- it will restore Yandex Search in Russia, for instance, after dumping it in 2012 -- will bring in more money. "Mozilla realized they could make more money by splitting up defaults by region instead of signing a single global deal," opined Ben Thompson in his Thursday Daily Update to paying subscribers of Stratechery.com.
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