Mozilla's "What If..." Situation
The Mozilla Foundation's Mitchell Baker reported yesterday that Mozilla's revenues were up approximately 12% in 2007 over 2006. She also mentions a few matters that are worrisome. Though eWeek's Joe Wilcox's predictions of Firefox's demise are premature and without a doubt require a sizeable grain of salt, he makes a good point concerning revenues coming from Google versus Google's commitment to the Chrome browser.
If you happened to view the Wilcox link prior to Baker's revenue reports, it's not that dire. It's not that dire now, nor is it likely to be in the very near future, but he is correct that it is something Mozilla needs to concern itself with now, so that it never becomes the secenario he's describing.
Baker says Mozilla gets a significant amount of revenue from Google from searches performed through the Firefox/Google start page. Wilcox states it is 88% of the annual revenue. Without seeing the spreadsheet and doing the math, I can't verify that figure, but it seems within reason. He poses the very valid question: Why would Google continue to pay for promoting itself through an application for which it offers a competing product?
The obvious answer is that Chrome right now is no Firefox. It's not offered for Linux or Mac. It's not got a lot of the plugins and extensions that Firefox has. Google is certainly able to throw weight and cash into intensive development and promotion, and if and when it sees fit, no doubt it will.
It is selling the Mozilla team short to toll the bell for Firefox now. The Google search/start page agreement, for starters, was recently extended until 2011. A lot can happen between here and there for both parties, and Mozilla didn't get where it is today without thinking and planning ahead.
Is Firefox a dead browser walking? I don't see it. It sounds more like Browser War II might be declared as 2011 approaches.