Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

Summary: Mozilla, you’ve just been dumped. Google Chrome is taking share away from Mozilla Firefox at an alarming rate, and today Google announced it's stopped developing its toolbar for Firefox. Without Google's cash, can Mozilla survive?

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TOPICS: Browser, Google
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See update at end of post. Mozilla comments that "a large amount of users" are refusing updates to Firefox because of Google's decision; meeting notes call this a "top support issue."

Update 2: See Mozilla comment at end of post.

Mozilla, you’ve just been dumped.

In a short blog post, Google has announced that it will no longer continue development of the Google Toolbar for Firefox. Here’s the entire text of that post:

An update on Google Toolbar for Firefox

First of all, we'd like to thank all of our loyal users of Google Toolbar for Firefox. We deeply appreciate all of the feedback over the years that helped to make the product so useful. As we all know, over the past few years, there has been a tremendous amount of innovation in the browser space. For Firefox users, many features that were once offered by Google Toolbar for Firefox are now already built right into the browswer.  [sic] Therefore, while Google Toolbar for Firefox works on versions up to and including Firefox 4 only, it will not be supported on Firefox 5 and future versions. Please see our Help Center for additional details.

Firefox 5, of course, is the current version, with Firefox 6 due in mid-August and Firefox 7 due a mere six weeks after that.

The kicker, though, is this line at the end of the post, which I have reprinted verbatim:

WRITTEN BY BRITTNEY

When Google announced yesterday that it was shutting down Google Labs, the blog post came from a Google senior vice president, Bill Coughran. The bearer of bad tidings for Firefox has no last name and no title--for all we know, Brittney is a Google intern.

Commenters are taking Brittney to task for her assurances that many of these features “are now already built right into the browser.”  One offered up this list: “Spelling, custom buttons, Google bookmarks, translate, need I go on?”

The absence of a Google toolbar probably hurts Firefox even more in the pocketbook, given that the Mozilla Foundation (which leads the Mozilla project that in turn results in Firefox) through the years has received hefty commissions from Google for search referrals. The most recent Mozilla Foundation Annual Report (for 2009, last modified in November 2010) notes that the agreement with Google ends this year:

We have had a productive relationship with Google since 2004 and that relationship remains healthy. To date, we have renewed our contract three times, in 2005, 2006 and 2008. The current version extends through 2011. We believe that search providers will remain a solid generator of revenue for Mozilla for the foreseeable future.

It's worth remembering that just a few years ago, before the rise of Chrome, Firefox actually distributed its browser third parties distributed Firefox as a bundle with the Google toolbar, and Google paid a commission for every toolbar installed.

The Firefox team has already told enterprise customers (who in a parallel universe would  be a source of revenue) that Firefox isn’t for them. They’ve tried a bit of damage control, including this vague announcement from earlier this week:

Mozilla is fundamentally about people and we care about our users wherever they are. To this end, we are re-establishing a Mozilla Enterprise User Working Group as a place for enterprise developers, IT staff and Firefox developers to discuss the challenges, ideas and best practices for deploying Firefox in the enterprise.

Meetings scheduled, talks to be held, but no commitment for any actions. Color me skeptical about this initiative.

Meanwhile, Firefox is continuing to lose market share, mostly to Google’s Chrome (see Google Chrome continues its rapid rise, IE and Firefox fall). Earlier this year, I predicted that Internet Explorer will survive but Firefox won’t. If the cash spigot from Google is turned off, Mozilla’s future becomes uncertain at best.

Update 7-22 10:30AM PDT: Several commenters have suggested this is a non-issue, that no one uses toolbars. That's not what Mozilla says. CNET's Stephen Shankland discovered otherwise, digging up notes from Mozilla that suggest the issue is affecting a significant number of customers:

"We know that a large amount of users are not taking update offers to 5+ due to Google Toolbar incompatibility," said Firefox release manager Christian Legnitto in meeting notes. "Many users likely expect a new version of Google toolbar to be released and marked compatible." [Emphasis added]

He said Mozilla has two problems: telling people the toolbar won't arrive and helping them extract whatever data they have stored with it. But there's not much time to respond if Mozilla wants to act fast.

In those same notes, Mozilla also says "Google Toolbar incompatibility is a top support issue," adding:

One major issue is that people saved bookmarks with the toolbar. They should be available on www.google.com/bookmarks, but people may not be aware of this?!

In small print at the end of those notes, Mozilla acknowledges the need to "tell [Firefox users] the toolbar is gone and not coming back."

Update 29-July: via e-mail a Mozilla spokesperson responds:

The Google Toolbar for Firefox is not in any way connected to the search arrangement between Mozilla and Google which continues to be a strong and mutually beneficial partnership. This toolbar was developed by Google as their own independent product, distributed and marketed by them. As the most customizable browser, Firefox has thousands of free add-ons available through addons.mozilla.org, including many that provide similar functionality to the now defunct Google Toolbar.

Mozilla declined to respond to follow-up questions about whether the search deal with Google, which ends in 2011, will be renewed.

Topics: Browser, Google

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  • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

    People still use toolbars? What?<br><br>In all honesty though, I think Mozilla lost track of their primary goal of making a suitable IE alternative. Firefox has become this pig of a browser, and now the company itself is sending mixed signals about what they're doing with it (a la businesses). Playing a numbers game doesn't help any either.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

      @Cylon Centurion

      I'm always amused that people don't use the best browser that actually comes with their system (well 90% anyway). If you must get a Mac, then do what the majority do and install Windows - once again you get the best browser.

      Unfortunately, I have to develop for mutiple browsers and the little quirks the various browsers have are really a pain.

      Do yourselves a favour and use IE9 rather than reinvented wheels from a garage, a marketing and packaging company or an advertising company.

      This always reminds me of the Linux lovers, so much concentration on the distro and the UI, rather than what you can actually do. As for toolbars, never used them and with IE9 I don't even bother with a search input field, just use the address bar. The browser is essentially a window frame, it should be as minimalist as possible.
      tonymcs1
      • IE .. last time I used at home was over 5 years ago

        I have no need for it, its slow, virus prown (as long as activex is enabled) and its MS (OS TAX).

        Chrome and Firefox suit my needs. IE... should go along with Win98 / VisiCalc / Vista, etc... just another hog that ropes you into MS.
        Uralbas
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @tonymcs@... The main issue with IE9 is the fact that it looks and acts like a Windows program. Yuck. It's like trying to convince everyone to stop listening to mp3s and to start buying vinyl records again by talking about how the original studio recording is better preserved and reproduced on vinyl.

        No matter how many times this same mantra can keep being repeated, the numbers continue to show that people want a digital future (mp3s not vinyl records) and people have been itching to ditch IE, no matter what Microsoft does to try to polish the turd. Those who didn't already ditch IE for Firefox are making the leap to Chrome.
        BIGELLOW
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        [i]That's end of story, right there. There simply is no need for Google Toolbar in Firefox anymore, because Firefox already has the functionality built in. Period.[/i]

        I agree. This is just another excuse by Microsoft proprietary tools to dump on anything that isn't Microsoft.

        tonymcs@...'s post is nothing more than pure shill for going back to the old days when we only had one browser to use due to monopolistic bundling.
        ScorpioBlue
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @tonymcs@...
        So far IE9 is for a minority only; ie: Win Vista and 7.
        All the others HAS to use something else.
        I do not think Vista / 7 is going to STAY a minority, but as for now that is the case.
        hkommedal
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @tonymcs
        I disagree, IE9 was only the best internet explorer because most of the other browsers pushed it to that point.
        Chrome works good as a minimal browser, because everything is portioned well, and there isn't any toolbar support at all. Just buttons that only take up one bar and can be ignored. IE9's lack of extension support is a dealbreaker, especially considering both opera and safari support extensions as well. Toolbars are annoying, but I use several extensions based on whatever's convenient.
        Internet explorer has some support, but I don't want to have to open a exe file, and install something, just to extend Internet explorer to do things that are helpful.
        Atomic1fire
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @tonymcs@... Why Google did that? I mean firefox is a good browser and its been used by a huge number of masses plus fore fox is more easy and convenient.
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        lorisinclair
    • More importantly, this toolbar thing has **nothing** to do with Mozilla's

      @Cylon Centurion: ... revenues. Almost no one installs toolbars, and Mozilla receives the money <b>not for that</b>, but for offering Google as default search browser in the search field.
      DDERSSS
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @DeRSSS ... Very few people I know of are without a toolbar or two. I have two of them I use and turn on whichever I feel like using at the time. One is good for general use and the other great for technical use. If you have an aversion to toolbars, then you shouldn't use them. But what YOU do has nothing to do wth what others do, and IME most others, actually all of the machines I see coming in for repair, have a toolbar installed.
        OTOH I very much dislike having to search closely to be sure I don't get a new toolbar installed: If I want one, I'll research and download it myself, thank you.
        tomaaaaaa1
      • It Seems That Most Have a Toolbar Accidentally

        @tom@
        I see quite a few home computers for some kind of maintenance and it seems to me that most people who have toolbars got them bundled without really being conscious of the possibility of avoiding or uninstalling the toolbar. Many people have three or four toolbars in their browser without deciding on a single one. I ask people if they want to keep them. Usually they say, 'no,' but sometimes a person wants to keep one of them (very occasionally two) and just get rid of the others.
        CFWhitman
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @tom
        Toolbars can be handy to some people, but I find them annoying.
        If I can manually add the search engine myself, Keep it saved in the browser and bookmark whatever is actually useful, or find another extension that does the same thing, I will.
        Toolbars are just advertisements with search capabillity.
        Sure they sometimes do useful things, but they take up monitor space which could be just as well done in a menu button or done via several smaller extensions.
        A search plugin in firefox or IE covers adding the search engine, so why do 50 toolbars need to do the same thing.
        If you really like the site that much, bookmark/favorite the relevent parts.
        Atomic1fire
      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        @DeRSSS As a digital marketing person, I would want to have a browser that supports everytool baar, Isn't it a good idea that companies should come up with a browser that supports all the toolbars?
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      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

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      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

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      • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

        I'm not surprised. Google has been on this path for several years. Their days of acting like some benevolent foundation are long gone.<a href="http://www.dissertationserviceuk.com/">Dissertation Service UK</a>
        user202
    • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

      @Cylon Centurion "People still use toolbars?" was my exact same reaction.
      Aerowind
    • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

      "For Firefox users, many features that were once offered by Google Toolbar for Firefox are now already built right into the browser. "

      That's end of story, right there. There simply is no need for Google Toolbar in Firefox anymore, because Firefox already has the functionality built in. Period.

      Stop blowing it up into something it's not.
      jasdude
      • See update' Mozilla calls it &quot;top support issue&quot;

        @jasdude

        Mozilla's release manager says a "large amount of people" are refusing upgrades to Firefox 5 because of this, and he calls it "a top support issue."

        Now who's blowing this issue up?
        Ed Bott
    • RE: Google dumps Firefox toolbar; is a split with Mozilla next?

      @Cylon Centurion

      I haven't used toolbars in years. I totally agree.
      davidhaymond