Mozilla's search partnership with Google expired at the end of November, but neither company has indicated a renewal. The Firefox search deal with Google historically accounted for more than 80 percent of Mozilla's revenue.
Google and Mozilla Declining Comment on Partnership's Future
When Computerworld representatives approached Mozilla for word on a partnership renewal, they were dismissed with a prepared statement (the standard FAQ answer that "We currently have partnerships with a number of search providers...." remark).
Similarly, when Ed Bott of ZDNet pushed for more information, he was told only that, "We currently do not have an update to share."
A Mozilla spokesperson stated that Google and Mozilla "are in active negotiations [but] have nothing further to announce at this time," according to PCMag. All reports thus far indicate that those attempted negotiations are either slow to go or a complete dead end.
There are reasons why Google might want to shuffle off their Mozilla affiliations; Google's Chrome browser has been in competition with Mozilla since day one, and Google has passed Mozilla in market share for the first time, though Google still trails Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Mozilla's Reliance on Google
But while Mozilla is in a position where they can go without Google if they needed to; Mozilla has other search partners and $105 million in cash resources. However, Google has historically been the majority contributor to Mozilla's income.
Mozilla indicated that 88 percent of its 2008, 86 percent of its 2009, and 84 percent of their 2010 revenue came directly from Google. Even if the trend of stepping away from reliance continues, it's likely that Google accounts for more than 80 percent of Mozilla's 2011 earnings thus far.
Mozilla may be turning to Bing as an attempted escape route; Mozilla just released a customized version of Firefox with Bing. Mozilla has also vouched for Bing in the past. As of this time, however, Google remains the default search on Firefox.
Mozilla has had a rough year, with a 3 percent market share loss, complaints from enterprise companies, and one of Mozilla's key managers (Mike Shaver) leaving for different pastures. It's certain that Mozilla – even as an nonprofit – will need to find alternatives to Google's cash if Google steps out.
Where should Mozilla go next? And does Firefox even have a future in a world where it's being cannibalized by Chrome and beaten back by a lack of resources?