Mozilla and Yahoo announced Wednesday that they’ve inked a deal that swaps Google for Yahoo as Firefox’s default search engine in the U.S. for the next five years. The move will apply to both the desktop and mobile browsers.
Yahoo’s search result pages are designed by that company, but the results themselves actually come from Microsoft Bing. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was once Firefox’s mortal enemy. But now it’s Google Chrome, not IE, that’s eating into Firefox usage.
The search switch is just one of the changes in store for Firefox users. Next month, a new version of the browser will launch with a “clean, modern interface” for search and a new “Do Not Track” setting, so privacy-minded users don’t have to worry about advertisers watching their every move.
Firefox, which just celebrated its 10-year anniversary earlier this month, has used Google as its default search engine in most of the world for its entire existence. As such, its switch to Yahoo marks a major turning point—even if the organization is presenting the switch as a mundane matter.
“Our agreement came up for renewal this year,” Mozilla CEO Chris Beard wrote on the organization’s blog, “and we took this as an opportunity to review our competitive strategy and explore our options.”
Those options led him to Yahoo, whose CEO, Marissa Mayer, holds search traffic as a top priority.
“At Yahoo, we believe deeply in search,” The Verge quotes her as saying. “It’s an area of investment, opportunity and growth for us.”
Browsing The Numbers
For Yahoo, the arrangement may hold the most benefit on computers and laptops, as Firefox holds 12% of the desktop browser market. On mobile, its share only comes to 0.32%. The disparity stems from one simple reason: availability. Apart from its own Firefox OS, Mozilla is only available on Android, where it competes with Google’s built-in Chrome and other browsers installed by carriers and phone makers. Mozilla ended support for its Windows Phone version last year, and it never made a full Web browser for iPhones or iPads.
Even Firefox’s desktop share has eroded significantly in recent years. In June 2013, for instance, Firefox accounted for 19% of the market. That’s a drop of 7 percentage points in a little over a year.
That still accounts for a prodigious amount of search traffic, though. According to Mozilla’s Beard, Firefox users conduct Web searches more than 100 billion times each year. In 2012, Google conducted 1.2 trillion searches, so it’s hardly going to cut into Google’s control of the search market, but for Yahoo, which has consistently lost search traffic for most of the past decade, it could add up to significant growth.
Yahoo needs all the help it can get. According to comScore, it trails both Google (with 67.3 percent market share) and Microsoft’s Bing (with 19.4 percent), coming in third with 10 percent.
Users willing to embrace change can check out the new Yahoo default search next month, when a new browser update rolls out. If you don’t cotton to Yahoo, don’t worry: Firefox hasn’t removed Google as an option. The old default will remain—along with Bing, DuckDuckGo, eBay, Amazon, Twitter and Wikipedia—as alternatives.
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