Where is Firefox’s Future without Google?

Firefox has been a longstanding symbol of an open source triumph, but open source means support by volunteers [time, code or testing] or financial backing. For many years Google has made Firefox it’s surgical point from which to stab at Microsoft; and it’s been an embarrassing and infectious wound.

Competition is the catalyst that sparks innovation and improvement. When Netscape was the dominate browser; that didn’t please Microsoft too much. So Microsoft released [gave away for free] Internet Explorer, but that wasn’t good enough; they had to meet or beat Netscape to dominate the market- and so they did. But once the market was flooded with Internet Explorer users Microsoft decided they didn’t need to do anything else and for years it was a series of bug fixes and patches with each release – and so they have not much changed from one version to the next.

Firefox [Phoenix] entered the browser game as an open source project based on the Netscape browser [purchased by AOL and discontinued last year]. Firefox picked up a backer, Google, that really liked open source projects and pretty much anything that would topple Microsoft from it’s perch.

Over the years Firefox has steadily gained market share, and recently hit 20% of the market, and continues to grow. Firefox is fueled by Google’s financial backing, but recently Google surprisingly released their own version of a web browser, called Chrome. In it’s debut Google offered reasons why it’s releasing it’s own browser, and although not directly pointed at Firefox, the statement pointed out the shortcomings of current browsers. From Firefox’s standpoint this is kinda like a stab to the back. Firefox and Google are business partners and if there was a problem it should have been brought to light internally and addressed, not present it’s own initiative and say things like other browsers are inferior.

While Chrome is in it’s infancy it’s already got a brand behind it and many users have already picked it up as their new favorite browser. The only thing it has going for it right now is that it’s fast and its backed by Google.

Firefox has a well established user base, extensions, usability and hefty distribution. While Chrome may swing around the fact it’s fast- it’s new. I predict it’s not going to be as fast when the features required get in the way. That’s the beauty of Firefox; it comes as a base element and you can add or take away things you don’t want.

Now Firefox and Google have signed a deal to stay friends for the next 3 years, but what happens after that? What happens to a application that no longer has the strong financial backing it once did? Are the loyal donors going to stay loyal or will money dictate their loyalty?

I think the biggest issues in the general public, for all browsers, are security and privacy. Firefox is secure as it can be, right now; the updates for it are consistent and privacy doesn’t seem to be an issue, but Google is a ad based company; there’s a conflict of interest there. They have already been hit with security problems and even bigger privacy issues.

The concern is that big brother is watching every single click and search; this would be a gross intrusion of privacy and I think it’s keeping the browser from growing faster than it has with the general public.

So- where Internet Explorer entered the game [in the past] as competition, Google has put it’s foot in the door of Firefox. It’s a good bet Firefox is really going to start crankin’ the gears on security and features, but who’s gonna feed Firefox after their cease fire agreement is over? But then again, who’s to say Google will stop funding Firefox? Firefox is open source, as is Chrome, and there’s a benefit to sharing others code…We’ll have to wait and see. Can there be a happy medium? That’s the $64,000 question…

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