Posted March 12, 2009 6:14 pm by with 15 comments

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Mozilla and its popular Firefox browser are familiar to most of the tech / internet marketing / geek world andfirefox-logo for good reason. While 67% of the world uses Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser mainly because they don’t know there are other options, Mozilla continues to carve out a strong position in the market. The trouble with that position is that 88% of the revenue the Mozilla Foundation generates is from Google. Meanwhile, Google’s Chrome browser, while only having a 1% market share, is waiting in the wings for Google’s current arrangement with Mozilla to expire in 2011.

So what do you do if you are looking at a future where most of your $75 million in revenue could go away? That’s the question that Mitchell Baker, the chairman of the Mozilla Foundation, is faced with on a daily basis. When Chrome came into being in September of last year things changed for sure. Google is the default search engine on the Firefox browser but despite the growing market share it’s obvious that Firefox needs Google much more than the other way around as covered in a BusinessWeek article.

The prospect that Google may not re-up the three-year contract set to expire in 2011 has Mozilla considering other search partnerships and ways to generate revenue, Baker said during a recent visit to BusinessWeek’s offices in New York. “They could breach the contract or they could decide not to renew,” Baker says. While she says she doesn’t expect Google to take either approach, she’s nonetheless considering alternatives.

So what to do if you are Mozilla? There’s always the option of moving that default position to another search engine. With all that is going on at Yahoo don’t you think they might want a boost like that?

Losing Google would carry risks. “It’s possible that Firefox’s adoption rate could decline if Firefox users felt they were getting Microsoft or Yahoo shoved down their throat,” says John Battelle, an Internet entrepreneur, author, and operator of John Battelle’s Searchblog.

Other options include:

  • The first Mozilla browser optimized for mobile platforms, Fennec, will begin to appear on some Nokia models in the late spring
  • Third party plug in distribution is another option for revenue as these plug in creators will pay for the opportunity to be exposed to such a powerful market through the browser

If Mozilla had its way it was just like to see business as usual after 2011. It may make sense for both to keep the status quo. Both speak highly of each other and seem to play nice together. Between now and 2011 though is about 4 or 5 lifetimes in the Internet space so there is plenty that remains to be seen.