Could (and should) Firefox and Chrome converge into a single browser?

In a changing landscape, could we see a time when Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome come together to form a single browser?
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor

In a changing landscape, could we see a time when Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome come together to form a single browser?

A lot's been happening with regards to Firefox lately. Version 3.6 has been delayed, although we have seen release candidate 2 hit the download servers in the past few days. Also, version 3.7 has been dropped in favor of concentrating on version 4.0. The browser has come from nothing to a point where some 25% of the world's browsing in carried out through the browser. But the next five years could see greater challenges for Mozilla than the previous five years has offered. After all, Firefox has had an effect on the other players in the browser arena, and not only have browser become better(*cough* IE *cough*), there are more browser fighting it out. In little more than a year, Google's Chrome browser has become the third most widely used browser, behind IE and Firefox.

Another issue facing Mozilla is funding. It currently enjoys a deal where in exchange for the default search engine being Google, Mozilla in return get cash ... lots of cash. In 2007 this was worth $66 million, or to put it another way, 88% of Mozilla's revenue. This deal runs until 2011. What happens then is open to speculation. Since Google now has its own browser, it's easy to think that the search giant no longer needs Mozilla, but remember that Google's business is search, not browsers, and its goals is make Google the default in as many places as possible. If Google isn't the default in Firefox, then someone else will be. And given Firefox's 25% usage share, that's a big platform to walk away from.

But it does make you wonder what might happen to Mozilla in the long run, an whether Google will place the same value on Firefox placement that it currently does.  How much leverage does Chrome give Google to chisel down the cost of the deal? Quite a bit, I imagine. Also, if Google can convince OEMs to pre-load Chrome onto new PCs, that could see it gain a lot of extra traction.

But what does the future hold for Mozilla? Some believe that eventually, Chrome and Firefox will merge. Ovum’s open-source research director, Laurent Lachal, is one such person who thinks this is likely.

"Eventually, Chrome and Firefox could converge, but currently two strong companies have more chance against Microsoft than one."

I'm not so sure I can see this happening. My guess would be that even if Google showed sufficient interest in Mozilla, we'd see the project fork at that point. While Mozilla seem to need millions of dollars in revenue, not all open source project (even large open source projects) do. As we become more open to and accepting of open source browsers, there will be room for more browsers, not fewer. Also, while I like both Firefox and Chrome (I like Chrome more), I'm glad that they are separate browsers.

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