Still dependent on Google, Firefox is testing another search engine by default

While an agreement with Google is in progress until 2023, the Mozilla Foundation is looking to see if it can look elsewhere. This is what suggests a test in Firefox concerning the choice of the default search engine.

It is not tomorrow the day before that Mozilla will manage to extricate itself from the financial dependence it has with Google: since 2017, the Mountain View firm has a deal with the foundation behind Firefox to make its search engine the default gateway to the web on the browser. And for that, the web giant pays hundreds of millions of dollars to Mozilla.

The deal was renewed in 2020 for three years, ZDNet reported last year, according to people familiar with the matter. According to them, Google spends approximately 400 to 450 million dollars each year to Mozilla to favor its solution over other solutions on the market, starting with Bing, Qwant or DuckDuckGo. These sums are considerable for Mozilla: in 2017, they represented 90% of its revenues.

Firefox // Source: Mozilla

They may also appear excessive to Google, but they are a sound investment for the company. The Mountain View firm pays what it takes to maintain its dominance, even if it can reach billions of dollars in the case of iOS, in order to maintain its traffic and, through it, its advertising revenues which are distributed in particular in the search engine.

Under these conditions, it is very difficult for Mozilla to distance itself, except at the risk of ending up with a gigantic hole in its budget. Because what Google is willing to pay to have a place of choice in Firefox is certainly not the amount that Qwant or DuckDuckGo could align. Only Bing, which belongs to Microsoft, could perhaps come close.

It should be noted that Google is not the default search engine for Firefox in all countries of the world. In 2017, the foundation said it was Yandex in Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Kazakhstan, and Baidu in China. Everywhere else, it’s Google. It used to be Yahoo, but the deal was denounced. This has also caused frying on the line between Mozilla and Yahoo.

A test to go on the web without Google

But in 2023, everything could change. Mozilla could seek an agreement with another partner. What if it was Bing, exactly? In any case, it turns out that the foundation is currently exploring the prospect of switching to Microsoft’s search engine by default. As noted by GHacks in its September 17 edition, small-scale experimentation is underway in Firefox.

Concretely, the test consists in replacing for approximately 1% of its user base the default search engine, by going from Google to Bing. The study began at the beginning of September and should run until the first weeks of 2022. Obviously, Mozilla intends to see if Internet users are okay with a web whose front door is not plus the one they are used to.

Google spends a lot to remain the gateway to the web by default for Internet users.

Two reasons can be given to understand Mozilla’s gesture: first, due to a regular erosion of Firefox’s market share, nothing says that Google will wish to extend the deal beyond 2023, at least to this. amount. Then, Mozilla is in a delicate position, because the foundation finds itself financed by a company whose advertising activities do not stick with its ideals.

It’s not the Mozilla Foundation’s fault for trying to change things: in 2018, it welcomed Qwant as an alternative search engine, in addition to DuckDuckGo. Since 2019, it has also embarked on paid services through sponsored content in Pocket and the launch of a VPN. But that’s still too little to change Mozilla’s current financial balance.

In fact, Mozilla seems to be preparing to have to change partners if things go wrong. 2023 will come quickly and it is not surprising to see arrangements being made now. But by then, maybe other more serious concerns will arise, starting with the very survival of Firefox. indeed, it seems more and more complicated for the browser to survive in a world dominated by Google.

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