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Dublin: 10 °C Saturday 25 October, 2014

Mozilla CEO says Google is a “frenemy”

Gary Kovacs says that while Mozilla, which created Firefox, gets most of its revenue from Google, the two companies are still eyeing each other carefully.

Gary Kovacs at the Dublin Web Summit yesterday.
Gary Kovacs at the Dublin Web Summit yesterday.
Image: WebSummits via Flickr/Creative Commons

THE CEO OF Mozilla, which runs not-for-profit internet browser Firefox, has said that his company and Google are ‘frenemies’.

Gary Kovacs confirmed that a major part of Mozilla’s revenue comes from a deal with Google, whose browser is Chrome. Google pays to have ‘Google search’ the default search engine in the Firefox search bar. Kovacs wouldn’t specify how much the deal was worth but didn’t protest when the figure of $300m a year was put to him at the Dublin Web Summit yesterday.

He said that every time Google achieves a financial transaction through a referral from Firefox, Mozilla gets a commission. Google, however, along with Internet Explorer, are the major rival to Firefox in the browser business. Kovacs conceded:

We are in a frenemy situation with Google.

He denied that it was dangerous to rely on an economic model where their rival was supplying much of their income.

“It would be dangerous if there wasn’t a value in what we are doing,” he said.

The Mozilla Manifesto declares that it aims to promote “openness, innovation and opportunity” to make the internet a community project working for the public good.

Kovacs said that the organisation was now investing in new projects that reflect people’s use of the internet moving from desktop devices to mobile. “The web is under threat,” he says as certain companies begin to lock down the operating systems (OS) people use on their phones.

We are being asked where we want to live our online lives.

Mozilla is launching its own OS, first in South America and some Eastern European countries, with a view to keeping the web “unlocked” on mobile phones. It will be launched first in Brazil in the first half of next year but won’t be in Western Europe for some time. Mozilla is also partnering with some hardware companies and says that their aim is to continue to promote a “pure HTML environment so anyone can participate”.

HTML, said Kovacs, is the open-source “language of the web” and he feels that Mozilla’s push for HTML5 compliance has forced the hand of their competitors. He also said he didn’t believe that either Chrome or Firefox was “winning” the competition in browser choice but that they were neck-and-neck.

“Chrome doesn’t have to lose for us to win, as long as we retain share enough of the market to continue to have influence,” he said.

Kovacs also revealed that Mozilla will build a social brower – “we see integration with what we call the social API” – and claimed they will be “leading the way with another big company”, launching in beta form in the next two days.

Read more news from the 2012 Dublin Web Summit here>

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