Tag Archives | Web browsers

Mozilla and Google Renew Firefox Advertising Pact

From Mozilla, news that makes me say “whew”:

We’re pleased to announce that we have negotiated a significant and mutually beneficial revenue agreement with Google. This new agreement extends our long term search relationship with Google for at least three additional years.

“Under this multi-year agreement, Google Search will continue to be the default search provider for hundreds of millions of Firefox users around the world,” said Gary Kovacs, CEO, Mozilla.

The money that funds Firefox comes principally from all the clicks by Firefox users who use Google in the browser. Until this renewal deal was signed, people wondered about a disastrous scenario in which the Firefox product was essentially defunded. Now we know that won’t happen.

In its 2010 fiscal year, by the way, Mozilla made $123 million, mostly from search revenues from Google and other partners. That makes it a rather well-funded non-profit. Fodder for further discussion: How well is it translating that money into a better Firefox (and other products), better Web technologies, and a better Web, period?



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Is the Firefox Era About to End?

Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer reports that Web analytics company StatCounter thinks that Google’s Chrome will pass Firefox to become the world’s second most popular browser by December. (Internet Explorer remains the top dog, but its share, which once surpassed ninety percent, continues to drop.)

If the trends established thus far this year continue, Chrome will come close to matching Firefox’s usage share in November, then pass its rival in December, when Chrome will account for approximately 26.6% of all browsers and Firefox will have a 25.3% share.

Those numbers are eerily close to the stats at Technologizer for the past month: 26.05 percent of you have used Chrome to visit us, and 25.06 percent have used Firefox. Chrome is already the top browser amongst youse guys: Safari is #3 at 20.31 percent, and IE is #4 at 19.07 percent. (We’re small enough that there’s plenty of flux in the rankings; things could be different next month.)

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The Google Toolbar: Superfluous? Probably. Beloved? Definitely!

Stephen Shankland of Cnet is reporting that Google has ceased development of the Google Toolbar for Firefox. It works on versions of the browser up to 4, but won’t ever run with the new version 5 and beyond. Google’s official rationale? Firefox has added features which render the toolbar irrelevant. On a purely rational level, it may be right about that. But I suspect the absence of a Google Toolbar for the world’s second most-used browser will send a lot of people into a tizzy.

Three years ago, when Google’s Chrome browser was brand new, I wrote about the fact that there was no Google Toolbar for it. Then as now, you could have made the case that the toolbar was superflous, but that didn’t stop people from really, really wanting a Google Toolbar for Chrome. The post got a ton of readers, and I followed up with one on my not-very-serious project to build a Google Fakebar.

People like doing things the way they’re comfortable doing them. (That’s the only plausible explanation for why it’s still possible to pay for AOL service.) And Google Toolbar was so useful for so long that here are probably millions of people out there who use it every single day on Firefox.

Shankland says that Google isn’t saying anything about the future of the toolbar for Internet Explorer. I wonder if there are people so wedded to the toolbar that they’d switch from Firefox to IE to keep it?


Dolphin Browser Beefs Up for Mobile Battle

Here’s a pretty good indication that competition among mobile browsers is heating up: MoboTap, the company that makes Dolphin Browser HD for Android phones and tablets, just got a $10 million in funding led by Sequoia Capital. MoboTap will use the money to hire more people, make partnerships (to get pre-loaded on Android devices, most likely) and expand to new platforms including the iPhone, TechCrunch’s Jason Kincaid reports.

Those seem like worthy pursuits to me. First-party smartphone browsers tend to be stagnant, touting speed gains and little else with each new operating system version. It’s taken Apple two OS updates to add tabbed browsing to the iPad, and neither Apple nor Google have figured out faster ways to switch browser windows on smartphones. Extensions? Gesture commands? Custom home screens? Forget about it.

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Mozilla Gives Web Apps Some Purpose

Slowly but surely, Mozilla’s laid back approach to web apps is blossoming into something with a lot of potential.

The latest web apps update from Mozilla Labs, available as an add-on for Firefox, gives the experimental project a new look and helps individual apps communicate with one another.

Web apps now appear in a tray at the bottom of the browser window. Once opened, they become pinned tabs with no URL bar, giving them a more app-like feel. Mozilla also wants to aid app discovery by letting web developers notify visitors when an app is available — kind of like the App Store link that appears when you visit Yelp’s mobile website.

The bigger improvement in this release is “Web Activities.” This is basically a calling service for web apps to pass data back and forth. So for instance, if you’re using an online photo editor such as Pixlr and want to import an image from Dropbox, neither service would have to support the other specifically. The Web Activities calling service would handle the file transfer.

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Firefox Releases Are Now Less of a Big Deal

As planned, Mozilla has launched Firefox 5, which considering the browser’s six-year history would seem to be big news.

Except, it’s not. Firefox 5 is actually the first update in a new, faster development cycle for Mozilla. From now on, new versions of Firefox will arrive every six weeks, meaning that 2011 will bring more Firefox updates than the entire six years prior.

In some ways, I like this approach, which is roughly the same way Google handles updates to Chrome. If a feature isn’t ready, Mozilla can simply hold it until the next version, which means less waiting for the features that are ready.

But the rapid release cycle introduces its own issues. It can result in some pretty dull updates, as evidenced by Firefox 5, in which CSS animation support and performance enhancements are among the biggest new features.

More importantly, I’m worried that these rapid updates will discourage dramatic user interface changes, like the difference between Firefox 3 and 4, or Internet Explorer 8 and 9. I don’t know for sure that this will happen, but I do know that after more than two years of rapid releases, Google Chrome pretty much looks the same as it always has.

So while rapid releases may allow Firefox to get better at a faster clip, it could make bold new changes harder to implement. Let’s hope the new development cycle doesn’t confine Mozilla to mere incremental improvements.


Google Doubles Down on “Ten Blue Links”

Google's Johanna Wright shows off the new Search by Image feature.

“I don’t need ten blue links — just give me the answer!”–Bing Search Blog post, October 2010

“Yahoo Vows Death to the ’10 Blue Links'”–IDG News article, May 2009

It’s funny: Google’s competitors spend a lot of time explaining that “ten blue links”–the traditional search results that we’ve known since the dawn of search engines–are annoying and/or obsolete. But I haven’t noticed any consumer uprising over them, or a mass exodus from search engines that use them. Actually, I suspect that any company that rails against “ten blue links” would cheerfully swap places with Google if it had the chance, dependent on blue links though Google may be.

And at Google’s Inside Search event today, thee was lots of news–but the company didn’t seem to be on a mission to deemphasize traditional results pages. Instead, most of the news was about making the blue links more useful–getting you to them more quickly, in more ways, then letting you get past them and onto a Web page that provides the information (Google would probably say “knowledge” rather than “information” which you’re looking for.

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