Firefox makes Google default search again
With the launch of Firefox Quantum, Mozilla released what’s probably the most important update to its browser in recent years. It’s faster, lighter and you should give it a try. And as you do so, you’ll notice another change: Google is now the default search engine again — at least if you live in the U.S., Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In 2014, Mozilla struck a deal with Yahoo to make it the default search engine provider for users in the U.S., with Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo and others as options. While it was a small change, it was part of a number of moves that turned users against Firefox because it didn’t always feel as if Mozilla had the user’s best interests in mind. Firefox Quantum (aka, Firefox 57), is the company’s effort to correct its mistakes and it’s good to see that Google is back in the default slot (Disclaimer: TechCrunch is part of Oath, Verizon’s roll-up of AOL and Yahoo, though nobody at TechCrunch that I know has ever willingly used Yahoo Search).
When Mozilla announced the Yahoo deal in 2014, it said that this was a five-year deal. Those five years are obviously not up yet. We asked Mozilla for a bit more information about what happened here.
“We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo! based on a number of factors including doing what’s best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users. We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside of search,” Mozilla Chief Business and Legal Officer Denelle Dixon said in a statement. “As part of our focus on user experience and performance in Firefox Quantum, Google will also become our new default search provider in the United States, Canada, Hong Kong and Taiwan. With over 60 search providers pre-installed as defaults or secondary options across more than 90 language versions, Firefox has more choice in search providers than any other browser.”
As Recode reported last year, there was a clause in the Mozilla deal that would have the potential Yahoo acquirer pay $375 million per year through 2019 if Mozilla didn’t want to work with the buyer. This clause also allowed Mozilla to walk away at its sole discretion. We don’t know if Mozilla invoked this clause to terminate the agreement, but it seems likely.
This move makes Google Mozilla’s default search engine in most of the world, with the exception of China, where the default is Baidu, and Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Kazakhstan, where Yandex is the default.
Historically, search engine royalties have been the main revenue driver for Mozilla. Back in 2014, the last year of the Google deal, that agreement brought in $323 million of the foundation’s $330 million in total revenue. Neither Google nor Mozilla discussed the financial details of this new deal, though once Mozilla releases its annual financial statement, we’ll get a better idea of what that looks like.