How Does Mozilla Make A Profit?

Mozilla Firefox, arguably the most know product of the Mozilla Foundation, is a free and open-source web browser. So how then does it make its profit?

There are many models to commercialize off of open-source softwares, as Frank Hecker has listed some [1]:

  • “Support Sellers,” in which revenue comes from media distribution, branding, training, consulting, custom development, and post-sales support instead of traditional software licensing fees
  • “Loss Leader,” where a no-charge open-source product is used as a loss leader for traditional commercial software
  • “Accessorizing,” for companies which distribute books, computer hardware and other physical items associated with and supportive of open-source software
  • “Service Enabler,” where open-source software is created and distributed primarily to support access to revenue-generating on-line services
  • “Brand Licensing,” in which a company charges other companies for the right to use its brand names and trademarks in creating derivative products

Out of those, Mozilla is using the “Service Enabler” model [2]. This model has experienced huge revenues and challenges since Firefox first rolled out, but let’s take a look at this trajectory.

In 2008, Mozilla set out to:

  1. Create a superior web browser to Internet Explorer
  2. Sign a search deal making Google their default search engine
  3. Receive a cut of these search revenues
  4. Invest said revenues in improving its browser

Here Firefox became the “service enabler” for the Google search engine. Firefox remains an open-source software, but it enables the wider use of Google. Apparently this model was successful, mostly due to the popularity of Firefox. At the end of 2009, its market share rose to 32%, making its 3.5 version the most popular web browser. The deal with Google was slated to end in 2006, but was extended until 2014 through three rounds of extensions. TechCrunch reported in 2008 that the revenue from Google accounted for 85% of the company’s total revenue [3].

However, once Google Chrome’s market share eclipsed that of Firefox — standing at almost 65% of the market share at the present [4] — Firefox switched over to supporting other search engines like Yahoo, Yandex (in Russia) and Baidu (in China). Its regional search engines deals apparently increased its revenue from 2012 to 2015 [5].

With ever-declining market share, Firefox is striving to rejuvenate its profit-making engine to sustain its other cause-championing and network-building activities. It has just renewed its contract with Google to make this Firefox’s default search engine again [6]. It has also released Firefox 57, which it calls Firefox Quantum due to the browser’s lighting-fast speed, as a serious attempt to gain more market share.







[6] Ibid