Tag Archives: Mozilla

The Browser Doesn’t Matter So Long As It Goes to Google

The whole Google/Firefox issue is an interesting one: Google is the default search engine in Firefox because it pays to be there. The three-year deal expired in November 2011. Would they renew? Some thought no. They were wrong.

Not only has Google renewed the deal whereby it effectively bankrolls Firefox, but it’s the first time that it’s continued the deal after launching its own browser, and the first time it’s done so after Chrome is actually has as many users, according to some measures, as Firefox.

On top of that, there are reports from AllThingsD that the deal is worth $300 million a year, more than three times what they were paying under the previous arrangement. What gives?

Several theories:

We’re Partners

The official version is that Google and Firefox are buddies, after the same thing: the betterment of the web [ReadWriteWeb].

Bidding War

One is that Microsoft and possibly Yahoo! were after the deal. Makes sense: Microsoft is desperate to gain market share for bing, while Yahoo! is, well, desperate.

Eyeballs

Another theory has it that Google is basically after eyeballs, and doesn’t care how it gets them. Paying for them by getting to be the default search brings oodles of traffic. This is definitely true. I reckon that Firefox had as many as 500 million users in 2010. If 90% of those users don’t switch their default search that’s worth a lot of money to Google, and as ExtremeTech has pointed out, makes Firefox the biggest single source of traffic to Google (I calculate they paid 20 cents per user, whether or not they actually use Google.)

Antitrust

There are other theories. One is that Google is worried about antitrust issues [David Ulevitch, Twitter feed, via paris lemon] and therefore wants there to be a competitor about. This argument has some merit: expect Google Chrome/Chrome OS and Android to converge more and more, which is bound to attract the attention of regulators.

There’s no question that Google benefits any which way this goes.

  • It’s clear that Microsoft has failed to dislodge Google as the search engine of choice: While its market share in the U.S. is around 15% [WinRumors, quoting comScore] globally it’s tiny: less than 4% on desktop browsers, 1% on mobile devices [both from NetMarketShare]. In other words, Google doesn’t need to worry that Internet Explorer shifting traffic to bing. While in decline IE is still the most popular browser at about 40% [StatCounter].
  • Google doesn’t really care what browser people use. It would prefer they use Chrome, but as long as the browser points to Google, who cares (as Deng Xiao Ping said, who cares what colour the cat is, as long as it catches mice?). Which is why Google are just as happy to do a deal with Apple (6%) and with Opera (2%). In fact, the only browser that doesn’t have Google as its default search engine is IE. (Apple talked about cutting a deal with Microsoft last year [Daring Fireball], but it was probably a negotiating tactic. DF says he reckons the Google/Safari deal was worth $2 million a month.

Finally, then, if the new figures are true–that Google is now paying $300 million a year for the Firefox traffic–is that money well spent? Well, it’s not easy to calculate. But let’s assume that Firefox traffic continues to fall at its present rate. So in 2012 it accounts for only 21% of the market. Likely number of Internet users in 2012? Anyone’s guess, but probably about 2.4 billion? (It was 2.1 billion in March 2011, according to Internet World Stats.)

So Firefox potentially should be able to bring at least 440 million users to the table. So that’s $0.68 per user. Quite a bit more than what it’s currently shelling out–but less than what it’s paying Opera, according to my very rough calculations. Opera said it received $41 in ‘Desktop revenue’, the bulk of which it says comes from ‘search and commerce’. Assuming all of that, for the sake of argument, is money from Google for search, then using their official figure of 51 million desktop users in 2010, Opera was getting $0.80 per user from Google. (I realise that might be inflated given the ‘commerce’ component.)

That would seem to suggest that actually Google was getting users from Firefox pretty cheaply. Even if my calculations for Opera are a tad high, the new deal with Google, valuing a user at about 65 cents, doesn’t seem overly expensive. We don’t know how much Google pays Apple, but the $2 million a month means they’re the cheapest on the block, costing $0.15 per user according to back of the envelope calculations.

Indeed, these are all just back of the envelope calculations, but I reckon they offer a bit of insight into the economics of this part of the game. Remember Google made $9.72 billion in the last quarter [Google corporate pages], and paid out $383 million to “certain distribution partners and others who direct traffic to our website” in that quarter. That’s close to $1.6 billion over a year, putting the $300 million it’s reputed to be committed to paying Firefox every year in perspective.)

A good account of the economics of all this can be found at ExtremeTech.

Downloading Causes Firefox to Hang

If opening the Downloads window in Firefox or downloading files are freezing the program, try deleting your download history. If this still causes a hang, try this fix from the MozillaZine Knowledge Base:

  • Find your profile folder. In Windows XP it’s here: C:Documents and Settings<Windows login/user name>Application DataMozillaProfiles<Profile name>********.slt%APPDATA%MozillaProfiles<Profile name>********.slt
  • Find and deete the file downloads.rdf.

Firefox should work fine now.

Computer-On-a-Stick

Here, for those of you still lapping up the whole USB programs off your thumb-drive thing, is FingerGear’s Computer-On-a-Stick:

The Computer-On-a-Stick (COS) is a USB Flash Drive featuring its own ultra fast Onboard Operating System with a full suite of Microsoft Office-compatible applications.

According to Tom’s Hardware Guide, the drive is 256 MB and has programs taking up 192 MB, and retails for about $150. Software includes “a Debian-based Linux OS, a version of the open-source productivity suite OpenOffice as well as Mozilla’s Firefox web browser, an Instant messenger and a PDF viewer.” (Thanks, TechSpot News.)

A 512 MB version is coming soon, as is one with biometric fingerprint scanner.

Google Firefox Extensions

I don’t know how new these are, but I hadn’t seen them before: Google Firefox Extensions

Welcome to the Google Extensions for Firefox page. Extensions are small applications that you download and install into your Firefox browser to add new functionality. We hope you enjoy these extensions!

They include an ordinary toolbar, a text message sender (U.S. only) and an auto-complete tool for the Firefox search bar.

A New Version Of Copernic’s Desktop Search Toolbar

Just in case you haven’t heard this elsewhere, Copernic has released a new version of their excellent Desktop Search toolbar that. among other things,

fully supports Mozilla Thunderbird, including indexing of Thunderbird emails, attachments, and contacts. Also announced was support for indexing Eudora emails and attachments and many exciting new features based on feedback from a wide variety of users.

More details here. I’ve always liked Copernic, and it’s good to see they’re really going for it in what is now a crowded marketplace. As their press release puts it,

once again, Copernic, a small business, is beating the big powerhouses – Google, Microsoft – to the punch with this newest version of CDS. There has been talk that Google has plans to announce support for Mozilla Thunderbird very soon, but this newest version of CDS makes Copernic the first vendor to support both Firefox and Thunderbird.

CDS works with Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP and Internet Explorer 5.0 or later. It’s probably churlish of me but I’d still like to see the interface make better use of empty space. When you’re searching thousands of documents the difference between seeing 20 matches and 30 is a sizeable one. But this is a minor quibble in a great program.

A Closer Look At The Microsoft Browser Message

Looking a bit more closely at this message on Microsoft’s new website, I can’t help wondering whether it’s not just a niggling little inconvenience but a conscious strategy.

Consider this: If one clicks on the link offering more help on supported browsers you get this message:

Note, the message reads: We are aware that some users are experiencing problems with Microsoft Office Online even when using supported browsers. If you are using a supported browser, you can still use many of the site features even though warning messages are displayed. We apologize for any inconvenience.

This Web site works best with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.01 or later or Netscape Navigator 6.0 or later. If you are not using the latest versions of these browsers, some parts of Microsoft Office Online may not be accessible and some content may not appear. Additionally, without the latest browser version you may not be able to access premium content on Microsoft Office Online even if you have Microsoft Office 2003 installed on your computer.

To download the latest versions of the supported browsers, visit the Microsoft Internet Explorer home page or Netscape.com.

The Microsoft link in the last sentence takes you to http://www.microsoft.com/windows/ie/default.mspx while the Netscape link takes you to http://www.netscape.com/ . In other words, the Microsoft link takes you straight to IE, the Netscape link takes you straight to, er, Netscape’s home page, which is actually a network, not a browser. Microsoft would argue they can’t be seen to be deep-linking, I guess. But it’s still a bit naff.

OK, forget that. But why include Netscape version 6? After all, hasn’t Netscape, for the past four years, been built on Mozilla code, which is what Firefox (and for that matter K-Meleon, among others) is built with? Why recommend only Netscape, and not Firefox? I know, I know, Microsoft is going to say that it hasn’t had time to test Firefox 1.0 because it’s only been out a couple of months. But if that’s the case, why say ‘Netscape Navigator 6.0 or later’? Have they tested everything ‘later’? (And if we’re going to get fussy, hasn’t it been called ‘Netscape’ or ‘Netscape browser’ since 2000? Wikipedia records it was last called Navigator in November 1998. That’s some time ago. In fact, strictly speaking, there is no such thing as Netscape Navigator 6.0, which might be the point that Microsoft is trying to make here. OK, now I’m getting petty too. I’ll stop.)

Still, some other serious points arise out of all this. Microsoft seem to be saying that a) Microsoft Office online won’t work for you if you don’t use IE 5.01 or Netscape ‘Navigator’, and b) neither will you be able to access use some of the premium features of Microsoft Office 2003. Apart from the obvious downer for Microsoft Office owners who might also be non-IE users, there’s another question: I haven’t been following all the anti-trust stuff closely, but haven’t we been here already? Or is Microsoft’s inclusion of ‘Netscape Navigator 6.0 or later’ just a clever (or not so clever) way of sidestepping the EC anti-trust suits? They know only half a dozen people use that browser, so the chances of folk prefering it to IE are remote, but they can also put their hand on their heart and say they haven’t broken any anti-trust laws because they offered the punters a choice. But is offering a browser that about 1% of users use a choice?

Hey, I’m sure I’m jumping to conclusions here, and missing out vital bits of information that would make all this guesswork way off and an innocent explanation just an email away. But even if one discards the ‘where is Firefox, with its (according to some) 20% market share’, what about Opera? Around for a good while, now, and while not up there with Firefox, it has, according to W3Schools, got nearly double the number of users as Netscape 7. (Firefox, according to the same statistics, has around 20%.) If you’re going to include a second browser for your users, Netscape doesn’t seem to make sense however way you slice it.

Of course, all this could just be a temporary state of affairs and the teething troubles of a new-look website, as implied by the first sentence in the above message. In which case, just forget what I’ve been saying.

Interview With Firefox’s Ben Goodger

I was fortunate to be able to fire off some questions to Ben Goodger, Lead Engineer of Mozilla Firefox by email, for this week’s column on browsers in the Asian Wall Street Journal/WSJ.com (subscription only). Here’s a full transcript of the interview.

1) How different has it been, getting Firefox into shape, than if the operation were run as a commercial operation?

It’s been an enormous challenge for a huge number of people. Over the years, hundreds of engineers have contributed code, hundreds and thousands more testing and other types of materials, probably millions of man-hours spent. The major difference and biggest benefit to the Open Source process is that we get the benefit of those thousands of people for whom an internet of free and open standards is important. That community includes some of the brightest minds in the business, committed to improving security and user experience. Some important contributions from the volunteer effort include our visual identity (iconography, theme design, website etc), much of our distributed quality assurance effort (thousands of people download “nightly builds” and use them as their browser – a great way to find and report bugs as they occur), and our massive localization effort.

2) What is your response to people’s fear about something free: That it’s less secure, less likely to survive, less professional, less, well, proper?

The industry backing of the Mozilla Foundation by companies like Sun, IBM, Novell etc coupled with an increased awareness among the web development community (Hewlett Packard released guidelines on its web site recently advising its content authors to test their materials in Firefox) as well as accelerating adoption among users and organizations alike show that Firefox is more than a flash in the pan. The results are shown in the marketshare which continues to climb month over month, in our download statistics which if anything show an increase following the holiday period. We’re just getting started.

I’m aware people will be skeptical of something that’s free. Well, all I can say to that is: buying the CD from www.mozillastore.com is a great way to satisfy your urge to spend money and it also supports the Mozilla Foundation 🙂

3) It seems to me that innovation in software has been mainly in browsers, the past few years. Not just Firefox, but K-Meleon, Opera, iRider, Deepnet, Netcaptor, etc. Would you agree with that, and if so, why is this? And then, following on from that, do you think Microsoft have missed a significant opportunity by not really working on IE in the meantime?

I wouldn’t say that innovation has been mainly in browsers – a great number of new pieces of software that I couldn’t live without have risen in the past half decade, look at iTunes, Google, and next generation internet apps like Skype that make use of higher bandwidth connections. But you’re right, there have been significant developments in Web browsers in the past few years – specifically in the areas of making it easier to find and manage content (see Firefox’s Google bar, Find Toolbar, Tabbed Browsing and RSS integration – all ways in which we make it easier for people to get at stuff).

I think it’s very difficult to be in Microsoft’s position – they have a lot of customers who have written applications to work with their system and a precedent for not having changed their formula much, which makes movement in a particular direction a more involved proposition as they need to carefully determine the impact of their changes on the people who have written solutions specifically tailored to their system. I do think they will move however, it’s not a matter of if, but when. They see what’s going on, and they will react.

4) What of the role of plugins? It seems to me there’s been a fascinating movement of innovators just working on individual little features? How important has that been? How hard was it to make the software so people could do that? Is this the future of software?

This was one of the benefits of the architecture chosen by the original implementors of much of the UI architecture we use now, I have to single out Dave Hyatt and Chris Waterson here for mention – they among others back in the Netscape days had the foresight to see the value of an extensible system, one which after years of refinement has led us to where we are today.

Plugins are an important part of the ecosystem of Mozilla applications. They allow people to customize their software in nearly infinite ways, adding new innovations that we may not have thought of yet, or tailoring the experience to suit very specific audiences in ways that we cannot in the main line distribution. Plugins in web pages allow for a richer content experience. In short – these application extensions are part of the applications’ DNA which allow every user to have the software that makes sense for them.

5) Where do you see Firefox going? Will it continue to innovate? Will you continue to be a part of it?

We’re still working on our 2.0 plans, we have a lot of ideas, no final schedule yet. It will absolutely continue to be a beacon for Open Source Software innovation and usability. At this time, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else, and the talented people I work with all feel the same.

6) Where do you see the browser going? Will it replace other programs, as it seems to be replacing the RSS reader?

We will integrate services as and when they make sense, not for any other reason. At all costs we must resist the urge to go down the path of unnecessary feature creep – that’s what we have developed our extension architecture for. As for other applications, some have moved to the web such as email and photo management, and we will obviously continue to be a portal to those.

7) You’re pretty young. How easy/hard has this been for you? Did you expect Firefox to make such a big splash?

The work I’ve done on this project is the most interesting/challenging I’ve done to date, and I know I’m not alone in that feeling. By extending ourselves and setting the bar not just at the level of the competition but higher we make a statement not only in the quality of the software we create, but about the value of the Open Source model of software development. I think we expected Firefox to be more successful than the Mozilla Application Suite (currently in 1.7.x) that preceded it, but I don’t think we expected it to be quite this big. Every release for the past year things seemed to get exponentially bigger in terms of popularity and buzz. We’ve now had over 21 million downloads – that’s amazing for any piece of software.

Thanks, Ben, and good luck in your new job. (More by Ben and his new job here.)

Clusty’s New Firefox Toolbar

Clusty, the new search engine from Vivisimo, has launched a new toolbar for Mozilla’s Firefox.

What I like about it is the ClustyClip feature that allows you to right-click on a word and open a matching dictionary or Wikipedia entry in a small pop-up window. Doesn’t always seem to work but it’s neat anyway.

An Internet Explorer version of the Clusty toolbar already exists. Firefox of course also offers a range of toolbar extensions that do quite similar things, including the Googlebar (not developed by Google).

Is Firefox Really Gaining Ground?

Is there any truth to the buzz that Mozilla Firefox is gaining ground on Internet Explorer?

EWeek seems to think so, earlier this month quoting WebSideStory and OneStat.com as saying they have seen about a 1% drop in IE usage. The Ziff Davis logs appear to confirm this. But whichever figures you like of those, it still means IE accounts for between 94% and 95% of traffic.

Here are some figures of my own I’ve found: W3Schools indicates that Mozilla has been gaining steady ground since January 2003, from 4% of visitors then to 13.7% in July. (Some folk have pointed out that this statistic is not useful since the website is geared towards developers.) July also marks the first decline in both versions of IE (5 and 6). Individual sites report similar statistics: Information Research, an electronic journal, reports Mozilla visitors at about 9.3%. Then there’s the non-show of hands at BlogOn2004 last week, when no one (some say a few) put up their hands when Microsoft’s Channel 9 guys asked the audience how many of them used IE.

As eWeek concludes, this may be hundreds of thousands of users switching to Firefox or Opera or Safari, but it’s not going to budge Microsoft. It may, however, mean an opportunity for smaller browser makers. And it doesn’t mean an end to security problems, which will doubtless just shift to the more popular (and hence lucrative) usage: Hence the fears that by trying to make itself popular, Firefox may end up making itself vulnerable.

I hope, however, the rise of an alternative will force lazy or incompetent programmers to ensure their websites work on all browsers. It’s no longer acceptable for websites to look good, or just function, in IE. We should start drawing up a hall of shame of websites that do this. Sadly, in my experience, banks are the worst culprits. Ironic, really, given that it is mainly security flaws in IE that are sending people to new browsers.