In a rather bizarre turn of events, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer announced Wednesday that the company has just partnered with Mozilla to make Yahoo the default search setting for both mobile and desktop versions of Firefox. “This is the most significant partnership for Yahoo in five years,” she writes in a blog post, “and we’re so proud that Mozilla has chosen us as their long-term partner in search.”
The partnership, which will tie the two companies together for the next five years, is quite the departure for Mozilla. Since 2004, Google has been the global default Firefox search option, but with the agreement ending this year, Mozilla opted to pursue a different type of search option for their Firefox browser. However, Yahoo will not serve as Firefox’s global default search experience like Google has been for the last ten years. Yahoo (and Google) will still be an available search option for all countries, but it will only be the default setting in the United States. This decision was made so that Mozilla can “increase choice and innovation on the Web, with new and expanded search partnerships by country,” writes Mozilla CEO Chris Beard.
The desire to innovate the Web is an echo of Mozilla’s broader plans to keep the Internet user-focused. To celebrate the company’s 10th anniversary, Chris Beard released a manifesto of sorts last week, inviting his audience of readers to stand with the company for “an Internet that belongs to everyone. And no one.” To that end, Mozilla is rolling out a host of new services – ranging from the new Firefox anniversary release, to their new Polaris privacy initiative – to help improve the Internet and better protect its users. This partnership with Yahoo seems to be another step in that direction.
From a competitive standpoint, though, this move makes a lot of sense. Google has Chrome, a browser that operates as direct competition to Firefox, and now Mozilla has the flexibility and freedom to enhance its Internet browsing experience without Google looking over their shoulder. It’s also a smart move for Yahoo, as they are clearly gunning to reclaim their former glory as the go-to search engine for Internet users. It’s a classic “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” scenario, and it will be fascinating to watch how the two companies shape the way use and experience search over the next five years.