Mozilla “Got Outfoxed” by Google – Former VP Accuses Google for Sabotaging Firefox
Former Mozilla VP, Johnathan Nightingale, has called out on Google for what could only be termed as anti-competitive practices. In a Twitter thread on a somewhat unrelated subject, Nightingale said that during his 8 years at Mozilla, Google was the company’s biggest partner. “Our revenue share deal on search drove 90% of Mozilla’s income,” he tweeted.
However, that doesn’t mean Google wasn’t involved in some underhand practices. “When I started at Mozilla in 2007 there was no Google Chrome and most folks we spoke with inside were Firefox fans,” Nightingale wrote.
They were building an empire on the web, we were building the web itself.
“When chrome launched things got complicated, but not in the way you might expect. They had a competing product now, but they didn’t cut ties, break our search deal – nothing like that. In fact, the story we kept hearing was, “We’re on the same side. We want the same things.”
“I think our friends inside google genuinely believed that. At the individual level, their engineers cared about most of the same things we did. Their product and design folks made many decisions very similarly and we learned from watching each other.
“But Google as a whole is very different than individual googlers,” Nightingale added.
Google Chrome ads started appearing next to Firefox search terms. gmail & gdocs started to experience selective performance issues and bugs on Firefox. Demo sites would falsely block Firefox as “incompatible.”
All of this is stuff you’re allowed to do to compete, of course. But we were still a search partner, so we’d say “hey what gives?”
And every time, they’d say, “oops. That was accidental. We’ll fix it in the next push in 2 weeks.”
Nightingale wrote that for a long time, these oopses continued to happen. “Another accident. We’ll fix it soon. We want the same things. We’re on the same team,” were the responses Google offered.
There were dozens of oopses. Hundreds maybe?
The former Firefox exec said that he doesn’t believe if Google was that incompetent. “I’m all for “don’t attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence” but I don’t believe google is that incompetent.”
“I think they were running out the clock,” he added. “We lost users during every oops. And we spent effort and frustration every clock tick on that instead of improving our product. We got outfoxed for a while and by the time we started calling it what it was, a lot of damage had been done.”
This is not a thread about blaming google for Firefox troubles though. We at Mozilla wear that ourselves, me more than anyone for my time as Firefox VP.
Nightingale was trying to use his experience with the Google-Firefox episode as an example of detecting the sustained pattern of “oops” that comes from Google to help people realize that the same would happen with Toronto’s contentious Sidewalk project (in collaboration with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs). However, the tweets have sparked conversations on how Google has done this repeatedly with not only other browsers but also with other search engines and mobile operating systems.
Google did a lot of “oops” accidents to Windows Phone, too. Same pattern of behavior with its services and Edge. Oopsy this, oopsy that. Good thread https://t.co/1deoVYHpUj
— Tom Warren (@tomwarren) April 14, 2019
Several watchdogs and activists have repeatedly called out on this behavior by both Google and Facebook (and in some cases, Apple and Amazon, as well). Have they become the new Microsofts?