Six months after usage of Google Chrome surpassed that of its own web browser, Mozilla has replaced Google with Yahoo as the default search experience in Firefox in the United States. The move was a long time coming—the two long-time partners have been at odds since Google launched Chrome back six years ago—but was waiting on the expiration of a 10-year search agreement between the two firms.
"Search is a core part of the online experience for everyone [and] Firefox users alone search the web more than 100 billion times per year," Mozilla's Chris Beard wrote in a post to The Mozilla Blog. "Firefox popularized the integration of search in the browser. We instituted a default search option ... and we have always provided pre-installed alternatives, and easy ways for our users to change, add or remove search engines."
Google has been competing with Mozilla's core product by releasing and then rapidly updating its own Chrome web browser as a way of controlling the online experience for millions of users. As of May 2014, usage of Chrome has surpassed that of Firefox. And today, they are the number two and three web browsers, respectively, by usage. (Chrome has 21 percent usage share compared to 14 percent for Firefox; Microsoft Internet Explorer is number one with 58.5 percent usage.)
Chrome's rapid rise has triggered a number of changes at Mozilla, including a change in the way that the firm develops its web browser: It now releases rapid updates to Firefox, much as Google does for Chrome. But removing Google Search as the default choice in Firefox in such a key market is of course risky.
"Our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence, and positions us to innovate and advance our mission in ways that best serve our users and the web," Beard added. "Under a new five-year strategic partnership announced today, Yahoo Search will become the default search experience for Firefox in the US."
This may seem like a big win for Yahoo—which says that it expects to see a usage share spike thanks to the partnership—but Mozilla's move is a little more nuanced than just swapping out Google for Yahoo. It will continue to include Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, eBay, Amazon, Twitter and Wikipedia as alternate search options built-into Firefox. And it will use other search engines as the default in other countries. For example, Baidu will continue to be the default search experience for Firefox in China, and Yandex Search will become the default search experience for Firefox in Russia. And presumably Google will still be the default choice elsewhere.
And even those Firefox users who opt out of Google Search won't be able to completely replace the search giant in their favorite browser. Mozilla notes that Google will also continue to power the Safe Browsing and Geolocation features in Firefox.
Google currently dominates the US search market, with about 67 percent usage share. That compares to about 20 percent for Microsoft Bing and about 10 percent for Yahoo.