Video: Firefox Quantum will give you a faster browser but there's a price to pay
Almost three years ago to the day, Mozilla switched a decade-long search strategy that placed Google as Firefox's global default search provider and began carving up territories.
It signed a deal for Yahoo to be the default for US Firefox users and left Google as the default for the rest of the world, except Russian and China. Now, Mozilla has given Yahoo the shove and reinstated Google as the default for users in the US.
The change in the default US search provider came as Mozilla launched Firefox Quantum, version 57, a faster and lighter browser thanks to a major overhaul of the rendering engine, new multi-core support, and more efficient handling of tabs.
Mozilla, a non-profit corporation, historically has earned most of its revenue from search. As CNET reported at the time Mozilla switched to Yahoo in the US, its 2012 revenues were $311m. Newer regional search deals with Google, Baidu, Yahoo, and Yandex helped bump Mozilla revenues to $421m by 2015.
Mozilla representatives said it was easier to strike a deal with Yahoo because Google's Chrome browser was competing with Firefox.
Besides serving US users, Google will now also be the default search provider for Firefox users in Canada, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, according to its blogpost.
It's also made slight changes to its Yandex partnership. Formerly just the default in Russia, Yandex will now be the default for Firefox users in Russia, Turkey, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Baidu also remains the default provider in China while Google remains the default for the rest of the world.
"This is part of our ongoing search strategy, announced in 2014 to evaluate and select the best search experience in each region as opposed to having a single global default," Mozilla said.
The search deal with Yahoo was meant to be a five-year affair but it appears Mozilla had an option to exit the contract early, telling TechCrunch it was within its legal rights.
"We exercised our contractual right to terminate our agreement with Yahoo based on a number of factors including doing what's best for our brand, our effort to provide quality web search, and the broader content experience for our users," Mozilla chief business and legal officer Denelle Dixon said in a statement.
"We believe there are opportunities to work with Oath and Verizon outside search."
As TechCrunch points out, Recode reported last year that the contract with Yahoo allowed Mozilla to walk away from the deal in the event Yahoo was acquired and objected to the new owner. And if Mozilla did that, the new owner would be liable for $375m a year until 2019. It's not known whether Mozilla used this clause.