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Mozilla The Internet Businesses Google The Almighty Buck

Google's Shadow Over Firefox 385

Posted by kdawson
from the first-hit-is-free dept.
eldavojohn writes "The Mozilla Foundation's chief executive now earns roughly half a million in pay and benefits. With $70 million in assets, the Foundation gave out less than $300,000 in grants to open source projects in 2006. And in 2006 85% of their $66 million in revenue came from Google. When these figures first came to light, people worried whether Firefox was becoming a pawn in Google's cold war with Microsoft. The Foundation addressed these fears and largely laid them to rest; but now the worry is that, even though it's clear that the community's code is what makes Firefox successful, Mozilla may be becoming dangerously reliant on Google's cash."
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Google's Shadow Over Firefox

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:51PM (#21316809)
    If they took Microsoft's cash instead? I'm sure MS would love to have more traffic pointed at their search, regardless of the source.
    • by Tim C (15259) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:39PM (#21317203)
      Actually it would make me feel better if they took Microsoft's cash as well. The more sources of income a company has, the more secure it is. With only one or two big sources, if they lose one they may well be screwed.

      Not saying that the Mozilla Foundation is likely to lose Google's cash any time soon, but that's a general principle - don't put all your eggs in one basket, and all that.
    • That is why I donate to various software projects -- not much, but about as much as I would pay for an OS if I had to buy one -- that gives me more right to have an opinion on what they are doing.

      If you (and I mean the general slashdot reader, not the GP) want to have more input on the decision-making process when necessary, participate in the funidng. Any software project will treat you better if you show more commitment than just downloading and using the software, and many sources of funding make the pow
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by caferace (442)
        I've given to the Mozilla project since 2002 through Paypal at $10 per month up until a few months ago, when I knew they finally were well-funded. In the past, they *really* needed small contributors like myself. Now, what they need is what they have needed all along, just like every other OSS project. Good contributors to the codebase.
    • The latest release (October one) of Live Search doesn't suck nearly as much as it used to. For all intents and purposes it's equivalent to Google now and has a substantially larger index to boot. I like the looks, too. It's about time Google saw more competition, be it through Yahoo, Microsoft or Ask. When search engines compete everyone wins. Believe me, you don't want to end up with entrenched Microsoft-style search monopoly on your hands.
  • by TFGeditor (737839) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:53PM (#21316815) Homepage
    Okay, I admit ignorance. I have never understood how Mozilla, a purveyor of free-as-in-beer software, makes money, even if only operating capital (as opposed to profit).

    What sources other than Google fund Mozilla? And why?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Shikaku (1129753)
      Hit the (default) home button. Or look at the search bar next to the address bar.
    • by bunratty (545641) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:58PM (#21316865)
      Search engines.
      For placement of their search engines.
      Read more here [mozillazine.org].
    • Clearly, if Google is giving all this money to Mozilla and there is danger of Google getting all the say, Microsoft ought to chuck Mozilla a billion or two to stay in the race...
  • by Hemogoblin (982564) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:54PM (#21316827)
    Better to be reliant on Google's cash, than not having any cash at all.
    • by Quadraginta (902985) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:21PM (#21317099)
      Actually, maybe the problem is the theory that top-notch computing work can be done for free, without paying the people who do it, because they just love the fame. This was a reasonable proposition once upon a time, when programming up a Web browser was an amazing trick and could get you widely recognized, leading perhaps to an interesting (and well-paying) job. But is that true any more? Are top-quality programmers willing to work on Mozilla -- and by "work" I don't mean just program, but also manage the beast, do market research to see what the users want, fix bugs, yadda yadda -- for free, just for the glory of it? I'm thinking maybe not so much any more.

      Which means Mozilla could consider a third evil and join the nasty capitalist system by figuring out exactly what value they are providing to their customers, and charging for it. Instead of trying to figure out for which rich aristrocrat (e.g. Google or MS) they want to be the bought mistress.
      • by tomhudson (43916)

        > "Which means Mozilla could consider a third evil and join the nasty capitalist system by figuring out exactly what value they are providing to their customers, and charging for it. Instead of trying to figure out for which rich aristrocrat (e.g. Google or MS) they want to be the bought mistress."

        When the competition is giving their browser away for free, and its the default in the near-monopoly OS, charging for it isn't a realistic option.

        Besides, better to be "owned" for $50 million a year, than

        • by daeg (828071)
          No, but having a supported browser is a model that I would love to have. If I could pay $30/seat/year for Mozilla and have technical support available, I'd pay it in a heartbeat. Our entire systems rely on quality browsers (internal use), which is currently limited to Firefox. . Sure, we can donate cash to the foundation, but that doesn't give us anything directly in return, and doesn't satisfy questions like "Why not use Internet Explorer? At least it has a huge corporation behind it...".

          (Opera works, but
      • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF (813746) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @08:35PM (#21317641)

        Actually, maybe the problem is the theory that top-notch computing work can be done for free, without paying the people who do it, because they just love the fame.

        Top notch programming can be done for free, but for large products that is the exception rather than the rule, even for open source applications. Most of the people who think large open source projects are done primarily by unpaid developers as a hobby, simply don't have any real experience in OSS development.

        Which means Mozilla could consider a third evil and join the nasty capitalist system by figuring out exactly what value they are providing to their customers, and charging for it.

        Most open source projects that work really well are capitalist endeavors. The difference is that the users of the software are also the developers, instead of having developers sell the software to users after marking up the price. Mozilla provides a functional and useful Web browser, with better security than IE. The company I work for has done a very small amount of work on Firefox, because we use Firefox and wanted a feature for our own use. We're users and developers. Other companies that have standardized on it hire developers to program and contribute some feature to the project. We do this because it makes our business money by improving our tools. I guess my main point is that most OSS projects are driven by capitalism, just with the "programming as a service" instead of "code as a product" model of capitalism.

    • The real question is if having your hands tied by revenue concerns makes the product technically worse.

      Mozilla is highly successful, but this success seems to have more to do with paying for advertising in places such as the NY Times than actual technical excellence.

      Anybody who's looked into the guts of XPCOM and XUL knows that the code base is way messed up. It's so messed up that it took about five years of (paid) work from the time Netscape provided the initial open source code to the time that Mozil

  • by unity100 (970058) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:57PM (#21316855) Homepage Journal
    im no zealot, but, if any misconduct happens to come in the way of firefox from google, no amount of publicity stunt, good deeds can make it up. heed the words of a developer.
  • More money... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by alexborges (313924) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:58PM (#21316869)
    MoFo publishes everything, they have to. Im not sure im worried about what they do with all the cash. Its their cash. What is GOOD is that they are prooving how can opensource software interact with the new advertising-financed platforms like google.

    There is a growing market for google-talking apps out ther, not just the browser. Integrating stuff from google to your collaboration infrastructure comes to mind, to your intranet portals... i dunno, a bunch of stuff could be developed for the google "platform".

    I think differently from those that look at SAAS as a potential danger to software/data freedom. Sure, theyll be able to offer a great deal of services that will force you to upload data and then you will only be able to do what they expose in their apis, but thats okay, if you dont want it, then dont use it.

    The fact that google has been able to mostly provide open apis so that one can work with them opens a wealth of posibilities like the one mozilla is exploiting. How about gnome integrating google stuff as a first option for several things like the remote gmail drive perhaps-- which we do have, just not "on gnome" as it is, and letting google plaster some advertising somewhere in exchange (and youd be able to opt-in for that if you want it, granma could opt-out if SHE wanted. And then some google money could flow into gnome, or kde, or both.

    Good, good thing for the future.
  • Money spent on R&D (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unixmaster (573907) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @06:58PM (#21316877) Homepage Journal
    Shouldn't a technology company spend more than $300,000 on Research & Development? There many bugs in Firefox, even some security bugs stay unfixed for years. And equally important memory leak bugs. I think more money could be spend on better timely responses to security bugs and also fix speed/memory problems plaguing Firefox.
    • They do! Their chief executive just spent a whole month "researching" new yachts. And believe me, it's going to be fast!
    • by bunratty (545641)

      They're spending far, far more than $300,000 on their software developers. Do you really think they have just three developers?

      BTW, what "important memory leak bugs" do you think need fixing? I'm seeing almost no signs of memory leaks. I'd rather they focus on bugs that I actually see, such as not remembering the scroll position [mozilla.org] or not importing IE favorites in the correct order [mozilla.org].

      • by vidarh (309115)
        You can keep hiding your head in the sand if you like, and ignore the fact that for lots of people Firefox gets unusable within hours of browsing due to memory usage. It won't make the bugs go away though. Firefox behavior is so bad that I currently have my Mac's system activity monitor permanently open so I can regularly see how much memory Firefox uses to know whether it's getting close to the level where I need to restart before my system will start trashing. Currently it's thankfully taking "only" 660MB
        • by bunratty (545641)
          I'm not hiding my head in the sand. I'm asking which important memory leak bugs you think need fixing. Why don't you simply say which ones specifically you think need fixing rather than try to start an argument? How would a Mac user reproduce the memory problems you see? If you can explain, someone can file a bug report and the problem can be fixed. On the other hand, if you keep trying to fight about it nothing productive will result.
    • by jesser (77961) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:42PM (#21317233) Homepage Journal
      According to the financial statement [mozilla.org], Mozilla spent $11,775,516 on "software development" in 2006. I'm guessing that mostly means salaries and benefits for employees who work on Gecko and Firefox. So the bulk of Mozilla's spending is on developing (specific) open-source software.

      I don't know what the "less than $300,000" thing refers to. Maybe it refers to monetary grants to other open-source projects, or maybe it refers to things like buying laptops for volunteers so they can contribute more effectively.
  • Beyond FUD (Score:5, Informative)

    by savala (874118) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:02PM (#21316903)

    Mitchell (Mozilla's "chief lizard wrangler") wrote a fairly large blog post [mozillazine.org], not only about the numbers as published, but also saying some things on the directions Mozilla is moving.

    Far more interesting reading than the fluff news.com article, let alone the random FUD spouting by the submitter.

  • by WindBourne (631190) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:04PM (#21316913) Journal
    is that they only gave out 300K to opensource? It is FAR less than what they are paying their CEO? Something is WAY wrong. As it is, most of Firefox WAS done as OSS, and the foundation would not exist with it. They should be spending a LOAD of money on OSS.
    • Every dime they are spending on employees and infrastructure goes to OSS. Or do they produce or distribute any software that isn't open source?
    • to work on open source.. that's pretty damn good.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Check out their financial FAQ [mozilla.org] as well. They specifically talk about how they'll be increasing money spent on grants in the next year.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I don't see how you can complain about that. They can do what they want with their money. They're giving away a free browser that thousands of people use, and now they can to do what they want with their success. They even gave 300K back - could have been worse, could have been nothing. I'm not saying it's fair. I think CEOs and other top dogs get paid way too much (sure they ought to be paid more but not _that_ much more).

      Our university president gets a quarter of a million a year - how is that fair? It's
  • Damn you, FF... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Aminion (896851) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:09PM (#21316969)
    ... why don't you grow your own monies like everyone else!!

    Seriously, people: capital is good, that's how you pay for stuff and people, and fund projects. And it's not like Google is bribing the Firefox Foundation, the money comes from search engine integration in Firefox. Also, I can't recall Firefox being involved in any shady business where they have sided with Google against Microsoft. Furthermore, The Firefox Foundation did negotiate with Yahoo before sealing the deal with Google, so they clearly have other options than just Google. Who knows, when the contract with Google expires in 2008, maybe even MS will try to make a deal with The Firefox Foundation.

    From the summary:

    but now the worry is that, even though it's clear that the community's code is what makes Firefox successful, Mozilla may be becoming dangerously reliant on Google's cash.
    Nowhere is this fear expresses besides in the summary. Less editorializing, please.
    • by Aminion (896851) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:17PM (#21317047)
      Who knows, when the contract with Google expires in 2008, maybe even MS will try to make a deal with The Firefox Foundation.
      Only thing preventing this deal would be if, say, Microsoft developed its own BROWSER CALLED INTERNET EXPLORER!
      /me is getting senile
    • by trawg (308495)

      And it's not like Google is bribing the Firefox Foundation, the money comes from search engine integration in Firefox.
      I seem to recall many people considering this 'adware' or 'spyware' when other companies attempted to bundle their advertising products with free/shareware :)
  • The Bigger Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kaos07 (1113443) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:19PM (#21317069)
    I don't think the main issue is Google supporting Firefox, as people have already commented it's generally a plus to have a steady stream of income. The real issue here is in regards to the CEO's pay. Half a million dollars compared to $300,000 for R&D? Something's skewed there.
    • Re:The Bigger Point (Score:5, Informative)

      by maxume (22995) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @08:11PM (#21317469)
      They spent around $19 million in 2006. Some big chunk of that was paying people to work on Firefox. The $300,000 was money given to *outside* projects.

      It's really hard to say if the CEOs pay was worth it. Really, really hard. If the foundation knew it wasn't, I bet they would find a different CEO. Apparently, they have less than perfect information yet still find the arrangement acceptable.
  • by RobBebop (947356) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:43PM (#21317243) Homepage Journal

    With operating revenues in the billions, Google is getting a huge benefit for a very small outlay with the money flowing into the Mozilla Foundation. These days, it is less common to have a hotlink lingering around for your search engine of choice because they are so ubiquitous that they are expected to just "be there".

    And if you run Firefox, the default search engine at the top corner of the screen is none-other-than Google. It is a beautiful interface that has been embraced by users (me and you), the vendor (Google), and the merchant (Mozilla). A rare win-win-win for all. You and I get easy access to search online for anything with the click of a button. Google gets a way to funnel us into their site so they can show us their advertisements. Mozilla gets money to pay their engineers to improve a world class software application.

    Given this information, it is silly to think that Google would terminate their beneficial relationship with Mozilla because it would significantly hurt them where it matters most (getting users to their site).

  • Bullshit! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MCSEBear (907831) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @07:54PM (#21317337)
    There is no way that the head of an open source project should be taking half a mil in compensation. Donate the freaking money to other open source projects that have done important work for the open source community.

    I'm sure the Samba and Apache crews can use a little of the love. Hell, the people who created Adblock are the reason I use Firefox... Give them some of the damn cash! Which other open source projects do you think have done the community a lot of good and deserve some of the bank?
    • Re:Bullshit! (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Rakishi (759894) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @10:00PM (#21318195)

      There is no way that the head of an open source project should be taking half a mil in compensation.
      No, it's the CEO (and I think other posts?) of a non-profit corporation (and a for-profit one I think as well) that is making half a million. The company that person works for happens to work on a number of open source projects but that it irrelevant really. It is in the end just that, a company, one that has $60 million in revenue to deal with.

      A good CEO for a for-profit company can easily make millions or tens of millions. Those for non-profits can easily make hundreds of thousands and Mozilla isn't exactly a tiny non-profit.

      They're paying the CEO what is essentially a fair wage for the position and even then the person being paid it is sacrificing massive amount of potential money just by working for Mozilla (instead of a for-profit).
    • Re:Bullshit! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by acm (107375) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @10:12PM (#21318291) Homepage
      There is no way that the head of an open source project should be taking half a mil in compensation.

      It kinda pisses me off that a couple years ago as a starving college student I donated money to the Mozilla Foundation. If I knew their CEO would one day be raking in that kind of cash I would have donated to a more worthy cause. Not that there aren't other non-profit directors raking it in (I'm looking at you, Red Cross [bbb.org]).

  • ...the answer is simple, if push comes to shove you can always fork it. For the foreseeable future, there's no reason google would want anything else but for Firefox to succeed. Firefox are the standardizers, the commoditizers forcing Internet Explorer to follow that lets google provide services without dealing with ActiveX, MSHTML and crippled old IE browsers. It's the only market share for a default search engine they can buy (except Macs), since Microsoft would never sell IE's default engine spot. And I
    • by afidel (530433)
      Firefox are the standardizers, the commoditizers forcing Internet Explorer to follow that lets google provide services without dealing with ActiveX, MSHTML and crippled old IE browsers.

      Funny but this AJAX thing that powers many of Googles sites was originally powered by an ActiveX control.
  • lwn.net had a story about this a while back. Worth reading at http://lwn.net/Articles/256904/ [lwn.net]. One of the comments in particular:

    Actually, I really think he has a point. Not only does Google have enough employees working on Firefox to ram through whatever change they desire, they also control enough members of the self-appointed WHAT-WG "HTML 5" group to do whatever they want there as well. So an idea can be "standardized" instantly solely by Google employees, then implemented, reviewed, super-reviewed, and committed entirely by Google employees.

    This is not theoretical, it already happened with the "ping" attribute in HTML 5, which benefits nobody except advertising companies (read: Google).

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by roca (43122)
      If you don't like what WHATWG is doing, join in and fix it.

      The "ping" feature is a poor example. Sites can already do what "ping" does, just slower and in a way that's more difficult for users to disable.
  • by MTO_B. (814477) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @08:21PM (#21317533) Homepage
    I think people should read this article, by Asa Dotzler, a coordinator for several Mozilla projects.
    http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/asa/archives/2007/10/firefox_finance.html [mozillazine.org]
  • by mveloso (325617) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @08:39PM (#21317677)
    Revenues: $66,840,850
    Expenses: $19,776,193

    Expenses breakdown:

    Program Services: $ 540,384
    Software Development: $11,775,516
    Sales and Marketing: $ 4,836,238
    General & Admin: $ 2,624,055

    "Profit" (or, change in net assets, since it's a non-profit): $27,893,735

    Damn, it's good to be free. You'd think that the foundation would donate its money to fund other OSS projects, but as software people have discovered, the first priority of a foundation is to ensure the existence (and a lucrative existence at that) of its staff.
  • by SSpade (549608) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @09:02PM (#21317821) Homepage
    It's ironic that Firefox (and the rest of Mozilla) is supported primarily by dollars derived from advertising-supported content, while most of the discussions of the features Firefox has revolve around it's functionality for depriving dollars from much of the other advertising-supported content their users want to look at.
  • by Vexorian (959249) on Sunday November 11, 2007 @11:48PM (#21319117)

    So, I guess the danger is that google could force firefox into all of us and begin to charge us... wait. firefox is open source and not even "MS-open source", so we can always fork it even if we got dependant on it! (For a browser which does not try to add propietary extensions that sure sounded hard...

    Ok, so that wasn't the problem so what the problem really is? I SEE! We should give the money to other open source projects! Yes, why should all money go to mozilla? It is unfair! ... Now that I think of it, this was money earned by firefox, then I see absolutely no reason to give this money to apache or mysql... sorry guys but that just doesn't make sense...

    Ok, I can't think of any other creative reason to think there is actually any problem with this, I guess just in case we could go to opera! ... Err, wait! It is closed source, so opera is a browser that can actually lock us in! Not only that, but it is probably meant for that, and that's the reason they get money from the WII deal! Oh no, then using opera just in case is not an answer...

    Then go Safari! ... err, it comes from apple which is just the second biggest Linux hater...

    Then go any other open source browser! I'll just stick to firefox because: a) I like the plugins I use, b) I see absolutely no problem with this.

    We could just calm down, an true-FLOSS project getting money absolutely from donations and zero charges to users, or would you prefer mozilla not to get any money? And just let firefox die?

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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