Firefox, Search Engines, and the Truth About Corporations


A few days ago TechMeme picked up a story at Search Engine Land about how Firefox doesn’t make you choose a search engine. Firefox 3 was recently released, and as always Google is still the default search engine. Sure there are some other search engines you can select but why doesn’t Mozilla give you choice? The answer…after the jump.

Money and Self-Preservation

Of course the reason Mozilla doesn’t make you choose a search engine (like Internet Explorer does) is because if they did, they’d lose almost all of their revenues. Mozilla’s number one (and nearly only) source of revenue is an advertising revenue sharing program it has with Google. Of course Internet Explorer used to default to MSN Search, but they were forced to ask users after companies like Google started suing them over it.

Corporations are just like people; they are extremely interested in their own self-preservation (read: money, for corporations). It is easy for Google and Mozilla to talk about building an “open web platform” when that is in their best interests. You can see that they aren’t always for openness and choice, though.

Case in point, Google sued Microsoft because Windows Vista’s search can only use Microsoft’s own built-in search (Service Pack 1 changed that because of the lawsuit), but does Gmail let you use a different search? Nope. Does Google Talk natively support any other IM networks? Nope. Does Google Earth allow third-party search results? Nope. But I thought they were all about choice and openness?

Mozilla doesn’t even list Live Search (which I recently switched to and actually prefer now) as an option. If they were truly for openness then surely the number three web search would be included above “Creative Commons” (who knows why that is there) right? Firefox also makes itself the default web browser when you install it; again Internet Explorer makes you choose.

I’m not saying Google and Mozilla are the devil, just that their motives are the same as Microsoft. In truth, it could be argued that Microsoft’s products are now more open to choice than either of these other companies. Google is at the stage where they are following all of the big bad anti-competitive things (exclusive OEM deals, suing companies to damage their products, etc) that Microsoft used to do.

When companies are still new and small(ish) it is easy to say you are truly for openness and the consumer. But as soon as they are established at all, the game changes. Firefox came out nearly four years ago, and no matter how plucky Mozilla tries to act, there are a lot of people who only truly care about protecting their jobs and the core product of the company they work for. If that means ensuring a Google (their #1 customer) search engine monopoly, then so be it.

Honestly, I wish everyone would stop suing and just compete on the quality of their software. One of the main weaknesses of Vista versus Mac OS X is that it would be illegal for Vista to have that level of integration. Everywhere you turn in Vista it has to ask you which search engine you’d like to use, what music store, or if you want Windows Media Player to be your default music program. Do you ever see that in OS X? Nope.

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