OMG WTF?! Google bought Firefox!

Every so often, you just have to read Slashdot, to keep in touch with the least clueful, most knee-jerk bunch of techies you could ever hope not to find.

Today, Firefox Lead Engineer Ben Goodger announced that his paychecks are now being signed by Google, rather than by the Mozilla Foundation. The Slashdot comments predictably show little understanding of how Mozilla works, little understanding of how many of the heaviest contributors are already working fulltime on Mozilla while being paid by other companies, and also, surprisingly, little understanding of how little more room there is for Firefox to sell out to Google: we already have a keyworded bookmark for Google, it’s number one in the toolbar search box, and if you mistype a URL or just type random keywords or select some text and right-click to search, you go through Google.

But what I find funniest, in 378 comments so far, mostly talking about how evil it is for Google to buy Firefox like that, is the fact that searching the page for “Apache” only finds the section link in the sidebar, and searching for “Greg Stein” finds nothing. Hey, Tinfoil Hatters: Google already owns the soul of the Chairman of the Apache Software Foundation! And yet, oddly enough, Apache’s httpd still serves up pages with links to without rewriting them into links to Google, almost like they really aren’t particularly evil.

I am a little disappointed that this seems to shoot my prediction for 2005, though. Before it became so innundated with spam comments containing hundreds of links without any spaces that it will actually stall Firefox trying to load it (it’s the classic ASP “everything’s nested in a table inside a form”, not our strongest suit), I was going to link to Don Box’s first prediction for 2005:

Firefox’s browser share will be surpassed by new non-MSFT HTML browser for Windows.

Yes, Firefox is nice, and more importantly, isn’t yet a target for malware. And yes, a lot of people who work near the corner of 156th St. NE and NE 40th Ave. expect Google to release a browser any day now. Despite all of this, my money is on Apple taking Safari to Windows and quickly becoming the browser to beat.

I don’t find Safari for Windows very persuasive, because it doesn’t seem to meet any need that Apple has. If it’s the best browser on earth, then who needs a Mac? If it isn’t, then Apple’s programmers suck, and who wants a Mac? iTunes for Windows, tying into the iPod and the iTunes Store, makes perfect sense, but a browser just doesn’t seem useful for them.

The rumors back around the time that future Google employee Ben must have been starting to set up the Firefox default home page hosted by Google, that Google was going to release a GBrowser based on Firefox, also didn’t seem at all reasonable: all it could be is a branded and slightly behind version of Firefox itself, with more ads and desperate pleas for attention. Netscape has already shown (and is now showing again) just how poorly that works.

But what made sense to me was what works for Google: find something that’s a great idea, does good things for the web, and can be lightly tied into other Google properties without being too horrible, something that could be greatly improved if it just wasn’t quite so desperate for cash. Blogger and Picasa make sense to me, and having seen just how great the latest beta would be if it wasn’t quite so desperate for a buck, I was ready to see Opera become GBrowser. Now? I don’t have any predictions at all.


Comment by Arve #
2005-01-25 02:15:36

I’m reading your last paragraph over and over. In context and out of context, and I just can’t get it to make sense.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-25 07:37:50

Not too surprising that most of the sense leached out of it: the last couple of times I tried to write this post, that was five or six paragraphs.

Roughly: a good Google purchase doesn’t have to be something that ties straight into search or advertising, it can also be something that’s good for the web (or good for keeping Microsoft in check), that isn’t too expensive, and that would be much improved if it wasn’t so worried about where the next dollar will come from.

The Opera 8 beta, minus the ads in the middle of the toolbars, and minus the affiliate links to Dealtime in the middle of the search engines, with no product placement other than searches at Google (and not MSN) and a toolbar button for Blogger, would probably be the best browser on earth for Windows.

But I can’t quite make sense of hiring Ben to work on Firefox shortly before buying Opera: they didn’t hire whoever the lead on The GIMP is before buying Picasa, or hire Matt to work on WordPress shortly before buying Blogger. If they hired Ben to then work on their new purchase of Opera, that would be evil (and stupid), if they hired Ben to work on the competition for their browser, that seems stupid, and so I don’t see a reasonable way for them to be planning on buying Opera.

Comment by Arve #
2005-01-25 10:08:21

Do we really know that Ben is hired to work on Firefox, or are we just assuming?

Apple hired Dave Hyatt. Opera hired Ian Hickson. Both with their feet well planted within the Mozilla community. After they were hired as well.

Comment by Arve #
2005-01-25 10:11:05

Hit me with a Cluestick, please. I need to reread TFA.

However, a problem with Firefox remains, that makes me think it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see GFirefox: Google can’t own it

Comment by Michael #
2005-01-25 04:42:56

Whether Apple takes Safari to Windows or not, I will always be greatful that by choosing KHTML, they gave the Mozilla developers the wake-up call they needed to start developing a browser instead of that bloated disaster they were working on. Plus: The code they released back to KHTML fixed a particularly annoying bug that Konqueror had on one of my sites.

Comment by Arve #
2005-01-25 05:31:42

In other news, broker company Enskilda Securities are reporting that Opera Software is one of the Norwegian companies most likely to be bought by a major (foreign) player in 2005.

Comment by Kroc Camen #
2005-01-25 06:02:44

I absolutely agree that ”[If] Google was going to release a GBrowser based on Firefox, […] all it could be is a branded and slightly behind version of Firefox itself, with more ads and desperate pleas for attention.”

Doing so would be a waste of time, indeed Firefox is already haevily friendly with Google, and I like that because just as firefox does what it’s supposed to and doesn’t mess you around (*cough* Netscape *ahem*), Google too does what it’s supposed to and doesn’t piss you off (ala MSN, Yahoo, A9, Jeeves… ad infinatum. ”Saved Search” is not the future morons.)

If google can use thier popularity to drive firefox to end users, Google’s search share is going to increase, and with that revenue too. Googles biggest threat is not lame wanna be engines, it’s IE using MSN as default.

Comment by Kafkaesquí #
2005-01-25 09:06:31

Does it matter who a person works for, or what a person works for? That was never too clear in ethics class.

Comment by Phil Ringnalda #
2005-01-25 19:55:48

And another one bites the arugula fig salad and lemon scented fusilli pasta. They keep this up, it’s going to be hard to maintain Mozilla’s reputation for being powered by Pepsi and pizza.


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