An interesting meme has popped up over whether Mozilla’s Firefox browser is sustainable given the fact that Google’s Chrome browser is rapidly gaining on its rival and that Google accounted for 84 percent of revenue last year.
That licensing deal, in which Firefox shuttles users to Google’s search engine, supposedly ran out in November, Ed Bott noted first Dec. 2.
One might ask why Google would continue to pay Mozilla money to keep Firefox alive when it stands in the way of Chrome. But it’s not much of a puzzle.
Firefox is used and beloved by millions of faithful users, who also happen to like Google. So pairing Google search with Firefox browser is a great deal for both parties.
But Chrome is also a great pairing with Google search, which brings me to my next point. Two of my favorite bloggers have suggested Microsoft could sneak in their with Bing and replace Google on Firefox.
Instapaper CEO Marco Arment noted:
“It might be worthwhile for Google just to keep Microsoft from buying that promotion for Bing. Because if anyone’s willing to throw massive piles of money at gaining marketshare that isn’t worth anywhere near what they spent to gain it, it’s Microsoft. Given the history between Firefox and Internet Explorer, though, it would be pretty entertaining if Microsoft made such a deal, effectively sponsoring Firefox’s continued development.“
I think the browser battle between Firefox and IE has cooled, thanks to Firefox’ growth stall and the rise of Chrome. Microsoft in October launched Firefox with Bing, a version of the Web browser that includes default search settings for Bing. Would Microsoft do this if it perceived Firefox as a huge threat? You don’t see Bing for Chrome, do you?
Perhaps that sets the table for a more lucrative arrangement between Microsoft and Mozilla. MG Siegler thinks this would be a case of Microsoft funding IE’s demise, but I don’t think so. Microsoft is still so strong in the market by people who don’t judge browsers severely. It’s the whole bundling thing on Windows PCs.
Now to address why Firefox is failing. Arment says it’s feature bloat and the lack of a service and platform ecosystem, which opened the door for the shiny new Chrome to swoop in in 2008 and grab share because it’s faster.
Siegler says Chrome, too, is becoming bloated. Yes, there have been a lot of features and extensions, but Google has the massive content ecosystem and ties between Chrome and its other Web services.
Whether Chrome bogs down or not, I suspect people stuck in Google’s broad service and content ecosystem will keep using it. I know I will, until something comes along that blows it out of the water.
And I’ll be watching. I’m one of those guys who moved from IE to Opera to Firefox to RockMelt to Chrome with little loyalty to anything but browsing speed.
But the way Google is tethering and optimizing Chrome for every Google service will make it harder for me to leave.