Firefox switches default search from Google to Yahoo

In some ways, it's the inevitable outcome of Google's increased focus on Chrome and Yahoo's increased focus on getting anyone, anywhere to care about it before it runs out of money.

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer called it "the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years," which may be true, since so much of Yahoo's business over the years has been derived from being the default homepage on the browsers that ISPs shipped with their welcome packages.

But there's a big difference between this deal and the deals Yahoo did in the 2000s — ISPs have never been in the business of empowering Internet users, while that is exactly Mozilla's core mission (though it's one the organization struggles with).

Yahoo has a well-deserved reputation for buying smart tech companies and making them dumb, burying them in the company's inertia, infighting, and bureaucracy. Perhaps having an intimate, arm's-length arrangement with an innovative, user-focused, mission-driven tech nonprofit will let the company dig its way out irrelevance and a poisonous culture.

Mozilla wanted to move away from a global search contract to one that offered more regional flexibility, but the Yahoo deal also was motivated by Mozilla's desire to improve the search experience for Firefox users, said Mozilla Chairwoman Mitchell Baker. "They're open to innovations," she said.

That includes work on how Firefox's "awesomebar" — its combined address and search box — retrieves data both from people's own content and from what's available online. "Search of external providers and search of our own stuff is closely related," Baker said. "There are lot of potential improvements there."

Negotiating with Yahoo was simpler than with Google, Baker said. Google competes directly to try to lure users to its own Chrome browser.

"When you have a partnership that has competitive aspect to it, it does require a lot of time and attention and focus," Baker said.

Mozilla was in a good bargaining position: search engines have been placing a higher value on its search traffic, Baker said.

"Both arrangements we were looking at had very good economics," Baker said. "We're utterly confident in our stability and viability going forward."

Firefox dumps Google for search, signs on with Yahoo [Stephen Shankland/Cnet]