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Firefox To World: Can You Spare A Dime?

Mozilla is trying to figure out where its cash is going to come from in the future.

Firefox To World: Can You Spare A Dime?
[Photo: Flickr user Mike Schmid]

‘Tis the season for generosity. And if that’s the vibe you’re feeling, an old friend wants you to know that your hard-earned cash is always welcome in its coffers. From now until the end of the year, Firefox is asking users of its 10-year-old browser to chip in to keep things running smoothly.

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The new in-browser, NPR-style pledge drive is Mozilla’s latest effort at finding new sources of cash as the nonprofit service tries to keep up with browser competition from Microsoft, Apple, and Google. Upon launching the browser, users will see a call for donations accompanied by a widget designed to make the process easier.

Historically, the vast majority of Mozilla’s funding came from a long-standing search deal it had with Google, which paid Mozilla to be the default search engine and homepage in Firefox. That arrangement came to an end in late November, replaced with (a likely more lucrative) deal with Yahoo, but Mozilla faces increased competition in the browser space, especially in mobile.

The financial details of the Yahoo-Firefox integration aren’t known, but Mozilla’s budget woes apparently predate the shift. Last year, the nonprofit’s revenue from the Google deal had reportedly flattened out. According to CNet:

The nonprofit organization, which develops the Firefox browser and Firefox OS mobile operating system, saw its revenue increase by 1 percent to $314 million from 2012 to 2013, according to financial details disclosed in a tax filing published Thursday. That’s a sharp contrast to the 90 percent increase from 2011 to 2012 and lesser increases between 18 percent and 33 percent the three years before that.

As a result, Mozilla has been experimenting with new ways to bring in cash. A link prominently displayed on Yahoo’s homepage suggests that users “upgrade” to Firefox, and Mozilla is even on the Firefox start page. User donations have long been a revenue source for nonprofits in the tech space–whether for Kickstarter or Wikipedia–even if they pale in comparison to the mountains of cash they could likely earn as a commercial entity. With this year-end fundraiser, Mozilla of course hopes to see if its fan base is willing to pony up some money for using the beloved service.

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About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things. Find me here: Twitter: @johnpaul Instagram: @feralcatcolonist

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