The search company is newly featured, center-stage, on the default home page of Firefox 1.0, a Web browser based on the Mozilla Foundation's open-source development work and which was made available for free download Tuesday morning. In only two days, an estimated 2.5 million people have downloaded the Web browser, according to Mitchell Baker, president of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation.
Google's prominence on the browser underscores the foundation's desire to grow Firefox from its early roots in the Web developer community to an audience of Joe and Jane Surfers, who are likely to use search.
"Our entire start page is new, and that reflects our ongoing goal of appealing to the general consumer market," Baker said.
In addition, Google is hosting the Firefox start page because, according to Baker, the company's technical infrastructure is more capable of supporting high volumes of traffic.
Rumors have circulated for months that Google is developing a Web browser, potentially in partnership with Mozilla. And while both sides have denied it, ties still seem to be cinching between the two outfits. In another symbiosis, Mozilla outlined plans this week to work closer with desktop search providers to develop similar capabilities for upcoming versions of Firefox. That could play nicely into Google's recent push into desktop search.
More imminently, their relationship could greatly benefit Google if the Firefox browser were to take off with consumers like some people expect, given the growing discontent with Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser. Google makes the lion's share of its revenue from advertising placements next to search results, and Firefox could help fuel demand for its search engine and advertising.
Still, people can easily change their default home page.
In earlier versions of Firefox, Google has been a resident on the upper right-hand box of the browser--and it is the same in version 1.0. Firefox users can use a pull-down menu from the search box to navigate the Web with Yahoo, Amazon.com and others. And they can change the default from Google to other search engines such as Ask Jeeves.
Baker said Mozilla has assembled a "set of different search partners" including Yahoo. She would not say whether there is a financial relationship between Mozilla and Google. But typically, Google pays its partners a share of revenue from search-related advertising.