back to article Mozilla signs fresh Google search deal worth mega-millions as 25% staff cut hits Servo, MDN, security teams

Mozilla has renewed its lucrative nine-figure deal with Google to ensure its search engine is the default in Firefox in the US and other parts of the world. Within hours of the browser maker laying off a quarter of its staff this week, a well-placed source told The Register Moz had signed a three-year agreement with Google. On …

  1. YetAnotherJoeBlow

    Whew - at least Mozilla is keeping Pocket! What a money maker that is! Next they axe development. Now you have shot your last foot! Next bullet is for your head. How does it feel Mozilla to be a kept concubine? Bend over...

    I think I will give Waterfox a look - at least they are not screwing with the extensions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The Heads get shot last, only after they've sacked all the other remaining employees.

    2. James_H

      Not sure I'd use Waterfox anymore. It was sold to advertising company System1.

      https://www.ghacks.net/2020/02/14/waterfox-web-browser-sold-to-system1/

      I switched back to FF shortly after based on recommendations from this site:

      https://restoreprivacy.com/secure-browser/

      1. FeepingCreature

        If they add anything problematic, I can patch it out. I can't patch XUL back into FF.

      2. Blackjack Silver badge

        Try Icecat for Windows, unlike every other version, is getting regular updates.

        https://github.com/muslayev/icecat-win64

        You can run it on Linux using Wine as long is 64 bits Windows mode.

    3. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge
    4. nagi

      Try Palemoon. Still has extension support, and it's not going away.

  2. revenant

    Just another Corporate Scam

    This from the article sums it up: Mozilla used the pandemic as cover while it rejigs its workforce to reduce its reliance on Firefox

    Reading comments on various sites, it was striking how many people fell for the ruse, believing that Firefox was in danger of losing its only income, necessitating the restructure. People were even moved to donate to Mozilla to help out (ignoring those who tried to tell them that donating to Mozilla funds the Foundation, not the browser).

    All-in-all a successful outcome for the CEO, and I'm sure any reduction in her loot will be recouped manyfold in subsequent years.

    A final thought : in many people's minds, Mozilla has always been synonymous with Firefox and its previous incarnations, the last bastion against the big Corps devouring the Internet. If Firefox is no longer important to it, then perhaps Mozilla should do the honourable thing and fold. Or at least rebrand and give the Mozilla name up to an organisation which still believes resistance isn't futile.

    1. StrangerHereMyself

      Re: Just another Corporate Scam

      Mozilla's management is incompetent, investing hundred of millions in me-too projects like FirefoxOS which went nowhere.

      Instead of investing in its core-business, its web browser, they're keen on spending money on useless contrivances..

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just another Corporate Scam

        And if they want a second project to put money in to, they should put it into Thunderbird rather than letting it rot.

        1. s2bu

          Re: Just another Corporate Scam

          TBird is one of the reasons I preferred sticking with the old Seamonkey "suite". Why load 2 copies of the engine into memory (FF+TB) when I can only load one and get everything?

    2. Blackjack Silver badge

      Re: Just another Corporate Scam

      To be fair, Firefox market share is really really really small.

      I remember using Mozilla when that was the name of a web browser, then using Firefox when it was cool, then moving to Icecat once Firefox got very naggy about Pocket.

      Nowadays Icecat is my main web browser is my computer and I no longer use Chrome or Chromium.

      If Firefox dies it means no more Icecat, sadly.

      1. revenant

        Re: Just another Corporate Scam

        I don't think Firefox will die, but I do think it will likely follow Edge and become Chromium-based. How that would affect Icecat and similar browsers, I don't know.

        Palemoon is a fork and generally only depends on Firefox for security patches, from what I understand. It would probably mean more work for them, but I don't think they're too worried about that.

        According to Wikipedia, Seamonkey uses infrastructure provided by Mozilla: I wonder if that will be affected?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Just another Corporate Scam

        Is Firefox's market share really small, or is it just that most Firefox users probably have at least one privacy tool active (not least, the built-in tracker blocker), and therefore it just doesn't show up in most of the lame third-party stats sites who shout about these things, whose trackers therefore just won't even be loaded by Firefox?

        I can understand Chrome getting more share than it used to, thanks to relentless pushing of it by Google, and the "default browser" effect on Android, but I still don't understand why people voluntarily use it, it's a ghastly browser.

        1. glococo

          Re: Just another Corporate Scam

          I'm still waiting for bluetooth support, and many other apis still unavailable in FF.

          They still don't have a working bavk-drop filter.

          FF is dead.

          The best they can do is to clone chromium and start helping the community improving the current apis than spending that money trying to recode what is already be made in chromium

    3. FFuser

      Re: Just another Corporate Scam, Playbook

      Monopoly Play book in action, "Disaster Capitalism" Google's poison seed money has already killed the CEO's ability to run the company, and that was the Goal. Not unlike the killing of all US protection agencies EPA, FDA, ...and the Post Office by replacing the "Heads" of these agencies with Lobbyists and defunding the organizations and the new "Heads" destroying from within agencies, However it's hard to replace CEOs, But they can be bought easily. Google's poison pill to kill the Firfox browsers via first infiltration of Google's engine, next $450 million, to buy the CEO, have her kill key departments from within to stop the Privacy and Security protection lead Heald by Firefox browsers over Google, Chrome. It's a simple takeover, with distractions included C19...

  3. Potemkine! Silver badge

    Total gain in 2018: $451m with a staff of 1,000

    Secured for 3 years: $400m to $450m a year

    People axed in 2020: 250.

    So, unless 250 people were hired in 2019, there's something rotten in the state of Mozilla! $2.5m for its CEO is another indication there's something wrong.

    1. StrangerHereMyself

      I too keep wondering where the money is going. Are the execs filling some sort of slush-fund somewhere?

    2. George Spiggott

      So, unless 250 people were hired in 2019, there's something rotten in the state of Mozilla! $2.5m for its CEO is another indication there's something wrong.

      Agreed, when LibreOffice gets by on $1m a year to maintain a vastly more complex codebase you have to wonder just what all that money is being spent on, gold leaf toilet paper for the executive wash room ?

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

  4. keithpeter
    Windows

    Servo?

    Quote from OA...

    "Mozilla's Servo team, which was working away on a new browser engine for Firefox in Rust, was closed down by the cuts."

    Does this mean the transition stops with the mix of rust based code and other stuff there is now or does it mean that the rust stuff is going to be backed out?

    1. StrangerHereMyself

      Re: Servo?

      I was wondering about that myself. If that's the case they may as well close the joint.

      Next decision will be to increase profits even further by basing Firefox on Chromium, no doubt. And rewarding the C-level execs with a quadrupling of salary.

      Even these so called, no profit companies, are merely fronts for CEO pillaging the place

    2. rg287 Silver badge

      Re: Servo?

      Doesn't seem clear. Technically Servo was considered a research project with stuff carried over to Gecko as appropriate (only Servo-CSS so far AFAIK).

      Presumably the Gecko dev team have the option to continue developing from the Servo codebase and integrate that into Gecko. I guess whether they can/will depends on whether they have much Rust-dev experience in the team and whether Servo's goals are a priority for them (compared with the baseline of keeping up with evolving web standards in the first place, never mind developing an all-new engine).

  5. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    I'd be more impressed

    if they were taking that money from DuckDuckGo.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'd be more impressed

      Yeah, but I'm sure that DDG doesn't exactly have that kind of spare cash to throw around...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I'd be more impressed

        They do seem to have a lot of cash for advertising though.

  6. StrangerHereMyself

    Baffling

    It just goes to show that Mozilla management is completely clueless and only interested in pillaging the company's checkbook. More money and less expenses means more profit which they can feast on, whilst Mozilla's long term relevancy is destroyed.

    Servo and Rust were the pillars of Mozilla's long term strategy to keep the Firefox browser competitive against the financial might of Google.

    If anything Mozilla should've accelerated its investment in Servo and Rust, just to keep up. Now they're doomed.

    1. Snake Silver badge

      Re: Baffling

      I've been making posts for years questioning Mozilla's decision making abilities, just last week the last one, but get downvotes by Mozilla fans. I'm an exclusive Mozilla user but it's obvious that decisions are being made with blinders on rather than in the best interests of the users.

    2. fuzzie

      Re: Baffling

      Agreed, Servo and all the related browser engine projects is, to me, the crown jewels.

      You can always pin your hopes on other people taking that and adding a browser around it, but that cut appears very short sighted. You can argue that if Microsoft with its deep pockets could not afford to develop and maintain a browser engine, Mozilla was always going to paddle upstream.

      1. StrangerHereMyself

        Re: Baffling

        Believe me, for $400 million a year, you can support your own browser engine.

  7. rg287 Silver badge
    FAIL

    Having a periodic thin out is inevitable at orgs like Mozilla which have such broad and varied interests that mission-creep is encapsulated almost by design. Sooner or later you'll find that certain projects are no longer earning their keep, or there are simply more impactful projects that could be funded in their place and deserve a day in the sun.

    It's also not a bad idea to try and diversify your income. It's never good to be reliant on one customer.

    But dropping the entire Servo team who are building your next-gen engine? That sounds like a solid long-term strategy for your browser.

    Dumping the Security team at the same time as you're trying to sell a VPN product? Yes, very reassuring...

    1. Jon 37

      The bosses assume that the existing customers will stay, just because, so the bosses prioritise "new shiny".

      1. rg287 Silver badge

        Yes... thing is, that's usually when the bosses are newly-minted MBAs with lots of case studies and big ideas but limited knowledge of your industry vertical (or the company is tanking and the boss does whatever their new business-guru tells them).

        Mitchell Baker has been with Mozilla since Netscape. She wrote the Mozilla Public Licence. She should know better.

        Worse yet, Servo is the new shiny. A Servo-powered Gecko engine should be the selling point of the org, and aspire to underpin other browsers. If it had come along a bit earlier or been more mature then MS might have jumped on Servo/Gecko for Edge instead of Chromium.

        1. ragnar

          She's still just a lawyer with a chinese degree though. Hardly someone with the engineering chops to be making decisions on Firefox's direction.

    2. Len Silver badge

      What I understand is that the Mozilla security team is axed but that the Firefox security remains unchanged. It sounds like some sort of reorganisation, not abandoning security altogether.

      1. doublelayer Silver badge

        That doesn't help. Firefox security is critical, and it's the main security team that I care about, but Mozilla's recent product is a VPN, which is one of the ways they are planning to make money. That isn't Firefox, meaning the Firefox security team probably doesn't work on it. Who does? I probably wouldn't be that confident investing in a VPN if the main organization security team had been completely eliminated, and Mozilla is facing a market that already has established competitors while their effort is only a couple months old. I would have thought that it would be in their interest to put as much behind this project as they can to ensure customer confidence and hence customers.

        In addition, they must know that firing workers without a clear indication of funding problems is going to cause concern among those of us who pay the most attention. Those people who pay a lot of attention are also the ones most likely to understand the benefits of and need for a VPN. So they are going to risk harming their image amongst what is probably the largest demographic of VPN customers. I don't understand that decision.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I have no problem with CEO's of private companies making very large salaries, but £2.5m at Mozilla just seems obscene.

    1. StrangerHereMyself

      Mozilla has a misty structure with a private corporate arm, Mozilla Corporation, and a non-profit arm, Mozilla Foundation.

      I'm becoming more and more skeptical on the workings of this. The C-level execs on the Mozilla Foundation imagine themselves heading a wildly profitable company and rewarding themselves accordingly.

  9. Elledan Bronze badge

    Diversified to death?

    Back when Netscape still was a thing, I tried out this Phoenix Milestone 16 preview build of what would eventually become Firefox after a few kerfuffles about who used which project name first. With the Netscape browser becoming less and less attractive after using it since its 4.x days, Firefox seemed like a breath of fresh air.

    So what went wrong? I think that ironically one of the things that did Mozilla in was similar to what took out Netscape and Yahoo!: over-diversification, a lack of focus and a loss of marketshare on all fronts.

    For those of us who used Firefox because it was not IE or Chrome, the 'Quantum' release of Firefox was a sad day, as it saw Mozilla aligning itself with Chrome in all but name. No more XUL, or the old-style extensions. Instead we got Chrome extensions and a browser that might as well have had the Chromium engine inside already. Maybe it's because Google is holding a lot of strings when it comes to Mozilla's existence that drove this. Maybe it was something else.

    So now we have Phoenix^WFirebird^WFirefox, Thunderbird (-ish), Firefox OS, MDN, a new programming language, a whole new engine being written in said new language, a whole host of services (e.g. Pocket) trying to capitalise on the main projects, and now a Mozilla VPN service that rebrands an existing VPN service. What is Mozilla about again?

    1. fuzzie

      Re: Diversified to death?

      Unfortunately, barring a rich benefactor like Mark Shuttleworth started out with for Canonical, I'm at a loss how to fund crucial internet infrastructure and utilities. Canonical also suffered several diversification detours. At least they have service, support and other income streams.

      There's just no money in a browser engine. We all understand that it's for the public and general good to have multiple engines, but it's impossible to compete with "free".

      I'm a happy Firefox, through the dreadful years of Netscape 6 and the increased middle age spread before Quantum righted the ship some more. They produce great technology. The world will surely thank them for Rust for many more years.

      I really want to see them keep being successful, but, as an industry, we really should be looking at how to ensure diversity in critical infrastructure and standards without stumbling from pay cheque to pay cheque. Some things are too important to be left to the "market"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Diversified to death?

        The money for web browsers comes from deals with search engines. Google fund Mozilla.

        1. fuzzie

          Re: Diversified to death?

          Sure, that just underscores the issue.

          Google really only has two incentives to giving them money: Firstly, Firefox has enough market share that Google earns back the "investment" in ad revenue. Secondly, they support Firefox to maintain a semblance of competition in the market. Without that, it's just Safari/WebKit and Chrome/Edge/Opera/Chromium. Electron apps and Qt's WebView/engine adds even more weight on the Chromium side.

          I suspect the first case is marginal and they could pull the plug and only suffer a rounding error on ad income. On the second case, I'm not convinced a lop-sided three horse race is any more convincing than a two horse race. Both Apple and Google dominate their markets, because they own the (mobile) platforms. Desktop are becoming ever more niche.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Diversified to death?

            "All" search engines ( what's left? Google and Bing? ) offer money to web browsers to be the default search engine.

            It's an estimation of, if we give them £xM, we'll get searches from Ym customers and earn £Zm in ad revenue. If Z > X, it's a good deal for Google/Bing/Jeeves.

            In the case of non-Google browsers, it has the advantage of making people use their product that they might voluntarily switch to in the future.

            Google don't need the additional ad revenue, but it would be stupid to turn down what is effectively free money.

      2. StrangerHereMyself

        Re: Diversified to death?

        There's no money in a browser engine?!! Come again? They're raking in $400 million (!) a YEAR.

        For that kind of money I can certainly hire people to write and support a browser engine, no problem.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Diversified to death?

          "There's no money in a browser engine?!! Come again? They're raking in $400 million (!) a YEAR."

          But not for the browser engine, for the market share. The engine itself isn't making them the profit. Should Google succeed in getting Chrome to 98% market share, they wouldn't have any reason to keep paying Firefox to send users to their pages and earning them ad revenue. The engine is the thing that is most reassuring about Mozilla, because they haven't abandoned it and it continues to allow some competition, especially important as Google keeps putting things into Chromium that rely on Google-run services. Basically, the thing that makes Mozilla money is their history of having a great browser, and they are currently using at least some of that money in maintaining a good browser engine.

  10. Missing Semicolon

    Sad to see the end of Firefox

    For sure, that's where we are going.

    Once they stop investing in making it better, it will just rot. And it's already near the stage where sites can simply block access to firefox to ensure that the tracking and ads work. I've seen one news site do this already.

    1. mark l 2 Silver badge

      Re: Sad to see the end of Firefox

      Any 'news' site that blocks certain browser from accessing it, is not really a news site. Its an ad site with click bait articles and therefore they can go fsck themselves.

      I hope Firefox is able to survive and perhaps gain ground again as people start to realise that giving all your personal details to Google by using Chrome is not a good idea. But without browsers like Firefox, Brave (and for Apple users Safari) we won't have any choice if you want to protect our privacy online.

      1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

        Re: Sad to see the end of Firefox

        I'm OK giving chrome my "details" because I make them up every time I create an account and I don't expect that anything on the Internet is not tracking everything I do, So I do different things with different accounts.

        1. doublelayer Silver badge

          Re: Sad to see the end of Firefox

          And how often do you make new accounts? How often do you completely erase Chrome, including those secret tokens it stores somewhere (or maybe it doesn't, but try proving that). Because unless the answers are "every twenty minutes" and "every five minutes", your efforts are likely not as useful as you think they are. If you create new accounts but use the same Chrome installation, then it could just link those created accounts together. Eventually, it will create not only a profile of actual information you've entered (for example, any time you made a payment it has a reasonable chance that you entered trustworthy information), but also a comprehensive list of pseudonyms and dummy accounts to which you have access.

  11. albopf

    Firefox privacy

    It continues to amaze me that Firefox, which prides itself and brags so much about privacy, continues to choose Google as its default search engine. (Same for Safari, of course: off-topic.) It seems to me that duckduckgo would be the obvious choice. Of course, Firefox, the several times I’ve downloaded it, comes with other privacy-invasive search engines pre-enabled, notably Amazon. I guess money talks.

    1. Sandtitz Silver badge

      Re: Firefox privacy

      Of course money talks. The earlier layoff article stated that Firefox gets 95% of its revenue from Google, Yandex and Baidu.

      Duckduckgo is small potatoes with its 100 (or so) employees and their revenue comes from Microsoft's ad network and affiliated links. DDG could perhaps offer 1/1000 of that $400M pot and after all the hosting and other expenses, Mozilla could maybe pay a single coder...

  12. Randy Hudson

    Why is Google paying for this? Even if Firefox came with some other search providers, everyone would change it to Google anyway.

    The intersection of Firefox users and people who don't know how to change their browser's search provider must be like 10 people.

    1. Alumoi

      Every time I install FF for someone and set their privacy settings as they should be, the first thing they ask is to set their start page back to Google and restore the search function to the URL bar.

      You were saying?

  13. CrackedNoggin

    Now I'm wondering if my monthly donation to Moz org is actually going to anything useful. The VPN is of no use to me so I didn't subscribe to that. I donate because FF by default actually verifies every URL - whereas Chrome relies ONLY on a white list, and skipping verification if the URL is not on that white list. Chrome doesn't even offer an option to do otherwise. A hugely unfair policy towards smaller websites. Chrome keeps the whitelist secret.

    The problem with FF is that some sites don't work any more - e.g., Citibank, and Strava. Strava used to work until a couple of years ago. Without active development support that situation will only get worse.

    Instead of just FF and MDN why not offer a paid premium subscription with a reduced freemium features - e.g., make the every-URL check a premium feature, make unlimited MDN access a premium feature. I'm not impressed with the very expensive CEO's strategy to abandon the most worthwhile parts of Mozilla.

  14. P.B. Lecavalier
    FAIL

    Yawn. I'll keep using duckduckgo.

    "As a non-profit open-source operation, Mozilla spends as much as it receives; its 2018 staffing bill was $286m with a headcount of about 1,000, or about $286,000 per person, on average."

    I see what you did here, El Reg, elegantly echoing what has been abundantly said in comments about Mozilla. As a stubborn Firefox user, that hurts even more.

    If you don't have enough resources for Servo project (future tech) or MDN (vendor-neutral documentation), WHAT are you doing with the rest of your staff???

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