Could Mozilla become a branch of Google?

Could Mozilla become a branch of Google?

Summary: Mozilla, the open-source Web browser group behind Firefox, doesn't appear to have much to do with Google until you look at the bottom line. There, you'll find that 90 percent of Mozilla's revenue comes from Google.


When you think of Google and Mozilla you probably think of them as Web browser rivals. On the one side, you have Google with Chrome; on the other, Mozilla with Firefox. Or, looking ahead, you might see them as mobile operating system competitors with Google's Android vs. Mozilla's Firefox OS. But, have you looked at Mozilla's financials? You should.

2013 Firefox Logos
For today Mozilla is independent, but with over 90 percent of its revenue coming from Google how much longer can that last?

If you do, you'll find that more than 90 percent of Mozilla's revenue comes from Google. Yow!

I wasn't sure my math was right so I checked with Mozilla. I was right.

A Mozilla spokesperson told me, "Mozilla's search agreement with Google accounted for approximately 90 percent of our 2012 royalty revenue, as disclosed in our annual financial statement."

True, Mozilla also made some money from its Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Amazon and eBay partnerships. Mozilla won't say specifically how much it made from these partners. The Mozilla representative said, "The specific terms of our commercial agreements with search providers are subject to traditional confidentiality requirements, and we’re not at liberty to disclose them." Still, no matter how much it is, even pooled together, Google's revenue dwarfs it. 

In addition, Mozilla stated that "A growing percentage of our revenue also comes from support from the public, including grants and individual donors like you." Actually, that's not quite right. In 2012, Mozilla's total revenue was $311-million(PDF Link), but only $855,000 came from  unrestricted contributions. So, far less than 1 percent of Mozilla's revenue comes directly from grants and supporters.

Add it all up and Mozilla is doing quite well. In 2011 its revenue was $163 million. So, in 2012, Mozilla's revenue went up more than 90 percent. At the same time, while Mozilla's expenses have also grown, from $145 million in 2011 to $208 million in 2012, but its income has far outpaced its expenses.

There's only one little problem with all this. Mozilla has almost all its financial eggs in Google's basket.

True, it's almost billion-dollar Google search search advertising contract won't expire until 2014, but over the years Mozilla has grown to depend more and more on Google. In 2010, 84 percent of its revenue came from Google; in 2011, it was 85 percent, and in 2012 it came to just over 90 percent. That's not healthy.

Yes, Mozilla goes its own way. Unlike Opera, which has adopted Google's Blink for its Web browser engine, Mozilla isn't giving up on its Gecko engine. In addition, Mozilla is working hard on making Firefox OS a serious contender for the third spot in the mobile operating system race. Eventuallly, Firefox OS may even be an Android rival. 

Still, if you care about Mozilla, you really have to worry about its future. As Mozilla grows ever more dependent on its Google cash-flow, you have to worry about just independent Mozilla can be in the long run.

Is Mozilla a branch of Google today? No. Could they become one? Well, let's see what Mozilla can do about finding other revenue streams between now and when its Google contract runs out and we'll see what we see.

Related Stories:

Topics: Networking, Android, Google, Linux, Mobile OS, Mobility, Open Source, Web development

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • No surprise...

    Mozilla, Google, Apple, Free Software Foundation. IBM, Oracle and HP have also funded the work, but they remained separate. They have always been the same company, being separate is a ploy to keep the Department of Justice monopoly guys at bay while they work at destroying Microsoft. Avenge Netscape!
    Tony Burzio
    • You need a new tinfoil hat, Tony

      that was the best bit of imaginative writing I've seen in a while.

      You just make it up as you go along...
      • Google co-operatives with open source communities...

        ...while Microsoft has much more imperialistic behavior - trying to destroy Linux and open source software ecosystem, their greatest treat.

        Of course there are lots of things i don't like about Google. However it's obvious to have aim to support not just exploit Linux/FLOSS. Google got a sharp vision over 10 years ago that FLOSS is gonna be the main platform for future IT. They were right. Microsoft has already lost its war. It's like Nazi Germany in summer 1944. Strong but withdrawing. Or perhaps we should compare it to the Neanderthal.
        Napoleon XIV
        • Microsoft cooperates with the open source community, too

          But please, don't think for a moment that Google's behavior isn't imperialistic. Google funded Mozilla quite a bit until they developed Chrome, at which point much of the funding they gave Mozilla was cut off. Their only tie to Mozilla is their search contract that Google is forced to honor.

          And don't think that Google isn't out to destroy their competitors - They would rather have 100% of the computers in the world running ChromeOs as opposed to Windows, OS X, and various Linux distros.

          Next year when their contract with Google expires, Google will have little need for Mozilla, and I doubt that the contract will be renewed.

          As for Microsoft, it's lost no war as were seeing that FLOSS isn't going to be the main platform for future IT. If that was the case, why is Apple and Microsoft both making billions selling IT, while Google is making it billions in advertising?

          To counter, I see Google starting to lose the war now as companies like Microsoft and Apple are encroaching rather quickly into areas once dominated by Google in reference to search deals and online services like Azure, Office, Mapping, ect.

          And Microsoft now has it's own hardware division as does Apple and Google, and out of those three, how many are FOSS based software?

          So I see Google starting to go on the defensive, and I doubt that leaves any room for Mozilla in the mix.
          • I agree wiht everything you said William Ferrel except

            apple does not make billions selling to IT. There are companies that use apple products but apple servers suck and they are not compatible if you use anything Microsoft. Companies mainly go with either Windows servers or Linux servers. A client of a friend of mine wanted an apple server because his office used mostly apple products (needed some Windows products). He tried to set it up to work but he couldn't get everything to work together so he had to take back all the apple server and get a Windows server.

            Other than that I agree that Microsoft is still in the running. Google has its place with mobile. Unless people adopt Windows Phone, Firefox OS or some other mobile OS...or unless apple finds away to get rid of Android...Google with Android will have a good hold in mobile. They probably will never make a dent in desktop computers...unless Google does something drastic and makes a Android version to compete in the desktop and server category...and if that's to make Chrome OS run more like a real OS and not just an OS with a browser skin running extensions then who knows, but then they have to get backing of software developers to make major programs for Chrome OS. Who knows if that will ever happen.
      • not even close to you

        and other microsoft troll.
        every your post is nothing but heavy hallucination
  • The real story...

    The real story here, to me, is that the deal between Google and Mozilla expires in 2014. I don't believe the 90% figure is anything new...matter of fact I think it's been something like that for the last 8-9 years. I don't look at their financials but it seems like people have been saying this for that long.
    • the deal is a constantly renewing one

      that's nothing new- I believe they renew every 1 to 2 years. as long as mozilla leaves in a google search bar in firefox, I don't see Google pulling out.
      • Don't forget Samsung

        Samsung has a multi-million dollar contract with Mozilla, to rewrite Firefox.

        At the same time, Google is rewriting Chrome to move away from its current WebKit foundation. So it's possible Google may make Chrome closed-source. We don't yet know.

        But Samsung wants a faster mobile Firefox, and is prepared to pay for it.
        • blink (what google is making out of webkit)

          is already open source.
          I didn't hear about samsung though- what's the low down on that?
          • Servo

            I believe Vbitrate is referring the news that broke a while back about Samsung contributing to Mozilla's Servo project, which aims to create a new browser engine written in Mozilla's memory-safe and multi-process-optimized Rust language.

            However, that project has nothing to do with Firefox. Mozilla has confirmed repeatedly that Servo development will continue entirely in parallel (read: not coinciding) with Firefox, which is still its main project. I also didn't hear anything about money changing hands, and I strongly suspect that Vbitrate made that up. Otherwise I'd ask him to cite a source.
  • Could Mozilla become a branch of Google?

    You act surprised about the revenue Mozilla is getting from Google when its been covered by ZDNet several times such as this $300 million deal at

    I do not think Mozilla would become a branch of Google as long as they can keep deals like going on. Funny you didn't call Google the evil empire in this story even though they provide 84% of the revenue. Double standards much?

    If Mozilla ever became a part of Google then I'd have to go IE exclusively because I will not allow Google on my machines.
    • Mr. Davidson: "I will not allow Google on my machines"

      No? How, exactly, do you deal with Google Analytics which used by many web sites? Host file? Firewall rule? JavaScript whitelist? Other?
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • How do you deal with Google Analytics?

        One simple (compounded) word: NoScript
        • Great answer, if one uses Firefox as their primary web browser

          Firefox users can download, install and configure the NoScript add-on. Once done, just make sure to remove from NoScript's default whitelist.

          However, Mr. Davidson also uses Internet Explorer (in addition to Firefox). Thus, I remain interested in how he deals with Google Analytics ...
          Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Three words

            Tracking Protection Lists
            Michael Alan Goff
          • Thanks for posting this

            My understanding is that the Tracking Protection Lists feature debuted with IE 9 and is neither enabled by default nor populated with a default list. Thus, somewhat similar to the NoScript add-on for Firefox, one must enable the feature and populate the Tracking Protection Lists.

            Which one of the lists at the following link protect against Google Analytics?


            For example, does the "Stop Google Tracking" list do the trick?

            @Mr. Davidson, I assume that you employ both NoScript on Firefox and Tracking Protection Lists on IE to disallow Google on your machines. If so,would your please share your list for Google?
            Rabid Howler Monkey
          • Stop Google Tracking does the trick

            At least to my knowledge.

            According to the site, the one where you get the list itself, here are the things that it specifically stops:


            I think that means it stops Analytics completely.
            Michael Alan Goff
      • block lists

        There are lots of block lists available including analytics specific and google specific. Just last night I sent email to a local a company I buy from. I told them that I wanted to send some folks to their web site but was shown 5 trackers on the first page and so cannot recommend their site to my customers.
    • It's likely because (much like the theme of this article)

      Microsoft doesn't pay SJVN as much as Google does. ;)