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Mozilla strikes Firefox search deal with Yahoo, ending long partnership with Google

A long-standing partnership between Google and Mozilla Corporation, makers of the Firefox browser, ends this month. Today, Mozilla announced it has signed a new five-year deal with Yahoo.

Mozilla Corporation and Yahoo announced a "strategic five-year partnership" agreement today. The deal makes Yahoo the default search experience for Firefox on mobile devices and PCs.

The new deal replaces a longstanding partnership between Mozilla and Google which concludes at the end of this month after 10 years. The most recent three-year renewal of that agreement paid Mozilla $300 million a year, an amount equal to more than 90 percent of the pioneering browser maker's annual revenue.

As part of the pact, the joint announcement says, "Yahoo will introduce an enhanced search experience for U.S. Firefox users which is scheduled to launch in December 2014. It features a clean, modern and immersive design that reflects input from the Mozilla team."

Mozilla published these screenshots of what Firefox users will see if they use the new default search experience:

yahoo-search-firefox-1
yahoo-search-firefox-2a

The announcement also mentions, in vague terms, "a framework for exploring future product integrations and distribution opportunities to other markets."

The decision to make the Yahoo search deal U.S.-only represents a change in strategy for Mozilla, according to CEO Chris Beard: 

Today we are announcing a change to our strategy for Firefox search partnerships.  We are ending our practice of having a single global default search provider. We are adopting a more local and flexible approach to increase choice and innovation on the Web, with new and expanded search partnerships by country...

The only new international search partner announced today is Yandex Search in Russia. Baidu will continue to be the default search partner for China, with Google, Bing, Youdao, Taobao and "other local options" available in China. For now at least, Google will continue to be the default search choice in the rest of the world, and it will continue to power the Safe Browsing and Geolocation features in Firefox.

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The split between Mozilla and Google isn't unexpected. In recent years, Mozilla has moved away from its original mission as a leading desktop browser developer. Firefox, introduced in 2004, represented much-needed competition for Internet Explorer but has stagnated in recent years as Google's own browser, Chrome, has taken market share.

The latest major development effort from Mozilla has been to aggressively pursue work on a mobile operating system that will compete directly with Google's Android.

In a foreshadowing of the split, Mozilla last week published a manifesto: "Celebrating Choice, Control and Independence On the Web." The post and its accompanying "Who owns the Internet?" graphic didn't mention Google by name, but the intent was unmistakeable, with pointed references to "new approaches to enhance privacy controls online" and bringing "balance to advertising and content recommendations — by building in user respect and control from the start."

The Yahoo deal is potentially good news for Microsoft, which is halfway through its own ten-year partnership with Yahoo . As a result of that deal, ZDNet's Mary Jo Foley noted in February of this year, Yahoo has outsourced much of its search to Microsoft with Bing, but it retained the rights to its own core search technologies when it signed the original pacst in 2009.

Financial terms of the Yahoo deal were not announced.