Firefox conducts study to see if users will tolerate Bing on Google

Well done to the small percentage of you who, like me, still use Firefox on a daily basis. Also, don’t worry if your browser searches suddenly start pinging Bing instead of Google, your browser has not been hijacked by malware. Instead, you are part of a study conducted by Mozilla, to see if Firefox users will adopt a change to the default search engine.

Mozilla’s research experiment went live about two and a half weeks ago, but has so far gone largely unnoticed. Normally this would be surprising, given that default search is the core of the browsing experience, but it only went live for 1% of desktop users.

According to StatCounter, Firefox’s share of desktop browser space is a few ticks above 8%, placing it behind Edge (8.84%), Safari (9.99%), and Chrome (a whopping 66, 94%). And its overall share across all platforms is 3.54%.

On the desktop, this equates to less than one in ten users who use Firefox. And then of this group, only 1% were involuntarily recruited to participate in this study.

The recent attention prompted Mozilla to issue a statement, explaining that Firefox studies are common because they aim to improve the browser.

“As part of optimizing the Firefox experience, Firefox regularly conducts studies. Firefox is currently conducting a study that may cause some users to notice that their default search engine has changed, ”Mozilla said.

On the surface it might seem like a minor thing, but changing the default search engine is actually a big deal. Google has historically paid Mozilla a lot of money to use its search – ZDNet reported in August 2020 that Google had agreed to extend its search agreement for three years, and it is estimated that it will pay the browser maker between 400 and 450 million dollars a year. So it’s around $ 1.2 billion extension.

This agreement will expire in 2023, after which Mozilla may seek to reconnect with Google or take another direction. The latter is not without precedent. In November 2014, Mozilla selected Yahoo as its primary search partner in a deal worth $ 375 million per year. However, after Verizon acquired Yahoo in 2017, Mozilla took advantage of a clause in its contract to terminate the deal, and it returned to Google.

When Yahoo became the default search in late 2014, it had around 4% of the search market, if you look at StatCounter numbers. By comparison, Bing is currently at 2.48% on all platforms and 6.54% on desktop.

I still think kicking Google would be a risky decision, but I guess if Microsoft came up with the right deal, Mozilla would be willing to do it. At the very least, he’s exploring the idea with this study, which “will last until 2022”.

Mozilla is also making it clear that users who have changed their search to Bing and want to return to Google (or a different search) can do so. However, the video instructions it refers to are obsolete.

To actually change the default search, go to Settings (click the three horizontal bars in the upper right corner and select Settings), click Search in the left column, then select the search you want in the search engine by fault. bottom menu. If the one you want to use isn’t there, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on Find more search engines.