Will Firefox say Bing it On!


google-firefox-internet-explorerThe Marriage between web browsers and search engines is several years old now. Internet Explorer has been pushing Bing (formerly msn.com) as the default search engine to its users for years.

On the other corner before the birth of Google’s Chrome browser, Firefox and Google were best buds. Firefox offered Google as the default search engine in their browsers search bar.

Google reciprocated and showed their love by having a link on their home page for users to download Firefox. It has been a mutual success. Google emerged as the leading search engine and though Firefox still has not replaced Internet Explorer they did manage to claim 450 million users.

The Search engine war between Google and Microsoft’s Bing has been raging for a while and despite being on the losing end for years, Bing has made some significant advances recently.

First it was the merger with (read takeover of) Yahoo! search. Then it became the default search and map application on Blackberry devices and followed that by joining hands with Facebook to offer social search results. And the war drums keep beatin’!

Let’s go back in time when Internet Explorer was pretty much the only web browser available – that is after the sad death of Netscape. This changed in 2004 when Mozilla launched the Firefox browser. This was the first time IE felt real competition in the browser market. Fast forward seven years later and Firefox boasts almost half a billion users.

Google launched the Chrome web browser in 2008, since then they’ve been aggressively pushing their own product over Firefox for obvious reasons. So does it mean they do not need Firefox anymore? On the contrary they need Firefox far more than they are willing to admit and far more than Firefox needs Google. Here’s why.

Currently Firefox’s search box is set to send all the traffic to Google by default. This is comes at a price. Just last year Google paid Mozilla/Firefox royalties in the neighbourhood of $85 million.
It sounds like a lot but this is an amazing deal for Google. One, they get a ton of search traffic from Firefox, two they get to be the top search engine in the world and most importantly make a few hundred bags; really big ones in the process. So an 85mil price tag is a killer deal.

On the other hand Bing has been aggressively trying to boost their market share but in the last year they have only eked out a 2% bump in market share. This is after they have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in various advertising campaigns, product improvement and cross promotions. They have an opportunity to boost their share by 20% and it will come at a discount over their ad campaigns.

The Firefox and Google deal is up for renewal in November 2011. Things haven’t been too cool between the two since the launch of Chrome.

One of Firefox’s directors Asa Dotzler has openly expressed concerns over Google’s privacy policies and had even announced his personal switch to Bing!

With their relationship on the rocks who can Firefox turn to if they choose not to renew their search deal with Google? BINGo…none other than the un-cool kids at Microsoft. This deal would bump Bing’s share up 20% – bringing their overall market share equal to Google’s.

Now that’s what I call levelling the playing field.