Friday Factday: Mozilla
Friday Factday

Friday Factday: Mozilla

Ben Thornton
Ben Thornton

Greetings and salutations, dear friends, and welcome to another episode of everyone's favorite "not bad"-rated blog series: Friday Factday!

This episode is a bit of a sneaky sequel to one we ran a few weeks ago on Google, except now we're taking a look at Mozilla, the company behind Firefox, widely seen as the face of independent internet browsers. Why is this a sequel? Read on and find out.

Phoenix Rises From the Ashes of the Mozilla Application Suite

Regular readers of this series will know that I often like to begin at, well, the beginning, which for Mozilla means looking at the Mozilla Application Suite, and the Phoenix internet browser that came from it.

The Mozilla Application Suite, created in 1998 and supported until 2005, was a cross-platform integrated internet suite. Developed from the open-source code for the Netscape Communicator, it eventually included core programs like Navigator, Communicator, Mozilla Composer, and ChatZilla.

In 2002, members of the Mozilla community seeking a standalone browser developed "Phoenix" and it quickly proved popular. This browser eventually became Firefox.

Firefox Struggles for Market Share

When it comes to web browsers, Firefox has a very well-established name over more than two decades of internet history. When asked to name web browsers, many would include Firefox alongside Chrome, Safari, and Edge.

Unfortunately for Mozilla, that name no longer translates into a dominant market share. Chrome has an absolute stranglehold on the market, with only Safari really showing any pushback (thanks to Apple and iPhones, rather than being, you know, good). The most surprising part, though, is that even Edge beats it out in popularity. Edge. A bit embarrassing, that one.

Mozilla Likes to Bloviate About Their Status

Mozilla has a solid reputation as an independent company fighting for the little guy in a world full of sharks, and they don't tend to miss an opportunity to remind you of it. You can find them talking on their website about how they "toppled the browser monopoly," which not only ignores the contributions of other browsers in the previous couple of decades but is laughably outdated given what we know from the previous point.

They also like to play on their non-profit status and the idea that they're a crowd-funded company that relies on public donations to fight for the little man. Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organization, that's true; the caveat, however, is that it runs two for-profit organizations, Mozilla Corporation, and MZLA Technologies Corporation.

What's more, when you dig into their finances, you find that the roughly $7 million they receive in donations has no real impact on their operations, and is only slightly above the nearly $5 million bonus that the (now former) CEO, Mitchell Baker, received in 2021. So much for the little man.

Mozilla Survives by the Grace of Google

Perhaps most egregiously, however, is the fact that, if it weren't for the funds it receives from Google, Mozilla would cease to exist. The following quote from Mozilla Foundation's 2021 report talks about the revenue that Mozilla receives from Google, due to their deal for Firefox to use Google as the default search engine:

Approximately 83% and 86% of Mozilla’s revenues from customers with contracts were derived from one customer for the years ended December 31, 2021 and 2020, respectively. Receivables from that one customer represented 69% and 73% of the December 31, 2021 and 2020 outstanding receivables, respectively.

That's right. The public face of a free and independent internet has made a proverbial deal with the Devil and is now entirely dependent on the boogeyman himself.

Mitchell Baker is Shifting to a Focus on AI and Public Relations

The final fact comes fresh off the press, being announced just yesterday: co-founder and long-term CEO, Mitchell Baker, is stepping down from the CEO role to focus on AI and Public Relations.

While Mozilla has always been a progressive company with a focus on internet activism, this latest step seems to continue the trend of Mozilla dropping any pretense of being a tech company; at this point, Firefox seems almost like a necessary burden for Mozilla to fund their anti-corporate activism with that very corporate Google money.

Whilst the above facts paint a much darker picture of Mozilla as a company than its public image gives, Firefox is still a solid browser, and for those (increasingly small number of) people using it, you can get a Windscribe browser extension for it to make it extra secure!

Ben Thornton
Ben Thornton