Mozilla Folks Attack Google On Privacy; Will Bing Finally Be Admitted Into The Firefox Club?

Wow. Asa Dotzler, community coordinator for Firefox marketing projects, is urging the world to add Bing to Firefox and dump Google, over comments Google CEO Eric Schmidt made about privacy. Does this mean Bing will finally be allowed into Firefox as a default choice for users?

Hey Firefox – Let Us Pick Our Own Search Engine! from me last year covers how Firefox has consistently excluded Microsoft’s search engine as a built-in option for their users. The most current version that I run doesn’t include Bing. Heck, even Google’s competitor to Firefox — Chrome — includes Bing as a built-in option.

As a result, those who want to take Dotzler’s advice to “easily” switch to Bing have to not-so-easily manual find and install a Bing add-on for Firefox.

Personally, I hope Dotzler will make it a crusade within Firefox to add Bing as a built-in choice. That would really support his call for a Bing switch far more than pushing an add-on ever will. It will also correct an absurd exclusion that Firefox has merrily made, seemingly because it gets paid so much from Google for Google to be the default choice in most country versions of its browser.

Sure, keep Google as the default, if that’s what the deal requires. But make Bing a built-in alternative choice.

Meanwhile, CNET notes another Mozilla person firing at Google. Christopher Blizzard, director of developer relations at Mozilla tweeted:

Everyone knows that every site you visit and all address bar searches in Chrome go to Google, right?

Actually, that’s not the case, to my understanding. If you search from Chrome, yes, that goes to Google. It sort of has to send the search to get back results. That’s exactly what happens when you search from within Firefox, of course — whether you use the built-in search box or one of the preconfigured search keywords for the address bar (for example, type “google” followed by your search words in Firefox, and that will generate a Google search).

As for each site you visit going back to Google, no. Google was pretty specific when Chrome was released that it doesn’t send what you visit back to the mothership. Searching With Google Chrome & Omnibox has more about this. See also Preventing paranoia: when does Google Chrome talk to Google.com? from Google’s Matt Cutts for a more detailed look. Since those were written, I’ve seen nothing about this suddenly changing.

And how about those comments from Schmidt that started this all off. Yeah, not too terrific. He told CNBC in a documentary that aired last week:

If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place. But if you really need that kind of privacy, the reality is that search engines, including Google, do retain this information for some time and it’s important, for example, that we are all subject in the United States to the Patriot Act, and it is possible that all that information could be made available to the authorities.

I’ve bolded the key part which has many people upset. I think most people would agree that there’s an expectation that privacy isn’t an on/off switch. You may want to search for things that aren’t necessarily wrong but which still wish to remain private. Searches on medical conditions are a great example of this. You might not want people to know about a medical condition you have, and wish to research on Google, but that sure doesn’t make it something you shouldn’t do in the first place.

For more, see related discussion on Techmeme.

Postscript: Turns out, Dotzler mounted quite a defense of keeping Microsoft out of Firefox last year, when I called for the browser to include Bing (called Live Search at the time, and when the relevancy wasn’t that substantially different than it is now). Some of his comments about my post when it hit Digg:

Firefox users have their choice of several built-in and popular search services including Google’s number 1 competitor and the second most popular, Yahoo!. Google is the default for most Firefox locales because it’s the best search service available for the largest number of Firefox users (and was years before there was any revenue associated with default status).

Live search is still pretty awful. Last time I searched it for “firefox” the first result was a Microsoft Silverlight page. Seriously.

“Regular” users aren’t clamoring for Live search and those who are can get it from the “Manage Search Engines…” option right in the search services list. And if that’s not enough, head over to http://mycroft.mozdev.org where there are over 15,000 available alternative search services.

Mozilla was the first browser maker to incorporate multiple search services right into the browser and has been doing a pretty good job of exposing various search services to users for the better part of a decade. Mozilla’s decisions around defaults are driven by what’s best for the largest number of users and not what’s best for revenue.

And:

Google doesn’t control the Firefox search box. Firefox search is 100% controlled by Mozilla and the decisions about the feature are made with zero input from Google. Suggesting otherwise with innuendo rather than facts to back up your argument is just horse *****.

And:

It’s the 5th most popular optional search service for Firefox is your argument that regular users are clammoring for it? Most of the very most popular Firefox add-ons don’t satisfy enough users to warrant inclusion in Firefox but the 5th most popular of a not very popular sub-set of add-ons should be included by default?

Let’s just add all ~15,000 searches to the dropdown. That way “Regular users” will all be satisfied. We should go ahead and add all of the ~5,000 Firefox add-ons as default features too because “Regular users” who downloaded them must have them as part of the default install!

And:

“But then again, why is Yahoo the top choice in some countries? Did Mozilla undertake relevancy studies to know it should out Google? I highly doubt it.”

Actually, yes. Well, sort of. As Mozilla grew and built an actual organization in Japan and China, we came to realize that Google was dominant globally BUT not dominant in every single locale, and we started to adjust.

Our first experiment was to move CJKT to Yahoo (because, yes, we believed Yahoo was more popular in CJKT than Google.) We also moved to add other domestic search services into the menu of choices where it made sense. Yandex in Russia, Baidu in China, Naver in Korea, etc. For some of those changes, we entered into new financial arrangements. For others we didn’t.

After that experiment, users in CJKT made it pretty clear that regardless of Yahoo’s market share in the region, they didn’t prefer Yahoo and so we changed yet again.

It’s not about the money, Danny. You just don’t seem to want to accept that. It’s about what’s best for users. After that, sure we look for revenue relationships and many companies are amenable to entering into those relationships.

Another example is Ebay. Ebay is the dominant auction site globally but not in every locale. In Latin America, it’s Mercado Libre and we didn’t know that when we shipped Firefox 1. We learned that when JT and I took a trip to South America and talked with our community there and they explained a lot to us about the locales.

Another service in the browser example is the BBC news feed. Originally that was the default for all Firefox locales. It’s not any more because we’ve worked with our locale communities to adopt more locale-specific news feeds for the default feed in Firefox.

Did you know that Mercado Libre was rocking South America? Did you know that Yandex kicks everyone’s ass in Russia? We didn’t when Firefox 1 shipped but we do now. We change when we learn :-)

And:

So they’ve improved somewhat in the last few months. Good for them. It’s still far behind Google and Yahoo in popularity and usage.

And:

“Google is the default search choice in Firefox because it has a paid deal to be this way. For the same reason, Yahoo is the default in some Asian markets. The story had references to both these facts. But to make it easier for you:”

Danny, you’re quoting someone else that’s getting it wrong doesn’t make you right.

I’ll try to make this real simple for you:

Google is the default search choice in Firefox because Mozilla decided it is the best choice for Firefox users. AND (not because!) Mozilla derives revenue from it’s search relationship with Google.

The key that you seem to be missing that may help you understand this is that if search engine “Foopy” was the best search engine in the world, it would be the default EVEN IF THEY OFFERED MOZILLA NO REVENUE INCENTIVES. Likewise, if search engine “Noopy” was a poor search service, It would not be included in Firefox EVEN IF THEY OFFERED MOZILLA MASSIVE REVENUE INCENTIVES.

It’s not about the money. The money’s there and Mozilla isn’t going to turn it down, but it’s not about the money. It’s about providing users with the best possible experience.

And:

That’s just *****. Both Google and Yahoo were in Mozilla’s search feature years before there was any revenue associated with browser search. Maybe you should actually learn a bit about the subject before making those kinds of assertions.

The editorial decision for which search services to include come before the revenue. Which ever search engines we might include would happily pay us for that and we’re happy turning that down when we don’t believe it provides our users the best possible experience.

You can bet your little website that MS would pay whatever it took to get into the search box in Firefox but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Mozilla provides the best possible experience for the largest number of users.

You don’t know what you’re talking about.

And:

“In Firefox, while Mozilla isn’t forcing you to use Google, it is deciding on your behalf to make it the default because Google pays it to do this.”

You’re just full of *****, Danny. Mozilla doesn’t pick its defaults based on money. If it did, you’d have seen a leapfrogging in that box with every release as the various companies with search outbid each other.

Mozilla picked Google as the default search engine long before there was any money associated with search in browsers and we continue to have Google as the default engine because it continues to be the best choice for our users — completely independent of revenue.

Suggesting otherwise without some evidence is total horse ***** and you should cut it out.

I’m not sure if I’m still full of ***** according to Dotzler or not. But he was pretty adamant, as you can see, that Firefox isn’t listing Google as a default in most of its installations because of a financial deal and that it would make the best choices for its users.

So skip the entire thing about adding Bing as a default option. That should happen, of course. But if Dotzler now believes that Google is so bad for users on the privacy front, shouldn’t he lobby for it to be the default in Firefox. And can’t Firefox make that happen?

Related Topics: Channel: Content | Features: Analysis | Firefox | Google: Chrome | Google: Critics | Top News

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About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • efreed

    Something obviously hit a note…

    I imagine this quotation being taken from Asa Dotzler, red faced, fists clenched jumping up and down, “we continue to have Google as the default engine because it continues to be the best choice for our users — completely independent of revenue. Suggesting otherwise without some evidence is total horse ***** ”

    Laugh out loud funny.

    Thank you: for both your insight and your early morning laughs.

  • http://asadotzler asadotzler

    Danny, Bing is my current default search. It wasn’t quite as good as Google (in my opinion.) My math is pretty simple, I get the results I’m looking for with my first search on the first page of results (above the fold) 29 out of 30 searches with Google (I’ve been paying attention, yes.) At Bing I get the results I’m looking for with my first search on the first page of results only about 3 out of 4 times. I don’t think it’s that I haven’t adapted to the slightly different algorithm yet because I’ve been using Bing a lot for the last few months. I think it’s just not quite as good.

    On to Firefox defaults. I’ll repeat, Google does not dictate what search services we include in Firefox. We do have a contract with them for the default spot that we’ve evaluated and renewed several times over the last five years. But Google in no way controls what additional searches we include.

    Here’s how we’ve traditionally thought about search. First, it’s localized. Not every country or region will have the same defaults because not every search service has the same user benefit in every country or language. For example, Yandex is the default in Russia and Baidu is the default in China. That’s because both are superior to Google and preferred by our users in those countries. Second, search isn’t monolithic. We see several kinds of search and want to include those various types in Firefox. So, we’ve traditionally had the most popular general search as the default, then the second most popular in the number two spot. After that, we include the most popular ecommerce search for the region (not always Amazon, for example, Mercado Libre is more popular in Latin America so it owns that spot) followed by the most popular bidding search like Ebay in the US. Then we have Wikipedia which has great global coverage as the encyclopedia type search. We build this list of search services with our locale communities telling us what’s most important. Once that’s established, we reach out to the companies that provide those search services and establish revenue relationships where appropriate (we don’t charge Wikipedia for our traffic like we do Google, for example.)

    Now, a year ago, Yahoo was preferred by a lot more users as the number 2 search to Google (where Google was the default.) Today that may not be the case and we are constantly re-evaluating our search list for possible improvements. I think, for example, that we’re considering a new search category — people or social.

    My _personal_ opinion is that we should drop Yahoo from the number 2 spot and replace it with Bing. Yahoo gave up on search and outsourced it to Bing anyway. That’s just my personal opinion, though, and I don’t trump the wishes of our users. Also, Yahoo still has a better privacy policy than Bing. That’s also worth considering.

    Any commercial search service would gladly pay Mozilla for the tens of billions of searches that Firefox users perform each month. That gives us the freedom to do what we think is right and to not worry about the revenue. We’ve turned down many very lucrative offers to add to or replace our existing defaults. It’s just not about the money and that’s an awesome luxury we have.

    Then there’s the long-term future of search in the browser and whether or not our UI is ideal for exposing choice and variety to our users. I hope we improve that too just as I hope we continue to react to what the search providers are doing and what our users are demanding.

  • http://www.texasenergyrates.blogspot.com Shadab Malik

    Danny,
    I think I know what you want to see and get done with that post of urs. : )

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Kesterson/100000485976285 David Kesterson

    Dude, get a spell checker. I have a general rule that the first typo I encounter tells me to stop reading and move on to another article,due to the writer obviously being incompetent, lazy or just plain dumb. I mean seriously, who the hell hired you?

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