Mozilla CEO Confirms "Complicated" Relationship with Google, Since Chrome

by Ostatic Staff - Dec. 22, 2008

Last week, I did a post called "Google and Chrome: How Much Does the Company Really Care About Firefox?" in which I noted that Google removed Firefox as the default browser from its Google Pack collection of applications, replacing it with its own Chrome open source browser. As many people have noted, Mozilla gets most of its revenues--about 60 million dollars last year--from Google, in exchange for making Google the default search engine in Firefox and click-throughs on advertisements. Although that arrangement is protected through 2011, Mozilla's CEO John Lilly has now confirmed that his company's ties with Google are "complicated" with the arrival of Chrome.

Lilly said this to Computerworld this past weekend:

"We have a fine and reasonable relationship. But I'd be lying if I said that things weren't more complicated than they used to be."

In response to my post about whether Google intends to preserve its commitment to Firefox and Mozilla over the long term, a reader pointed out Asa Dotzler's contention that Mozilla "isn't dependent on Google search revenue," but on the search marketplace overall. In fact, some have said that it's irresponsible to suggest that Mozilla's relationship with Google is a heavily dependent one.

The way I see it, if you're getting a huge part of your revenues from one gift horse, then there is a level of dependency there. Lilly's comments to Computerworld confirm that there is at least some cause for concern.

That said, rarely, if ever, have I seen an open source company do as good a job of pulling rabbits out of hats as Mozilla has. Their relationship with Google is unthreatened for several years, and they have promising applications in the works, such as the Fennec mobile browser, which Lilly cites in the Computerworld interview. I think there is every reason to ask questions about the relationship between Google and Mozilla at this point, but I'm still a believer in Mozilla and its tradition of innovation and success.