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Can Firefox survive in a Google world?

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The red panda is the longtime mascot of Mozilla, developer of the Firefox browser.


(Image: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Last week, Microsoft announced it was throwing in the towel on its EdgeHTML development effort and switching to the open-source Chromium engine. That’s a big win for Google, which maintains that codebase and uses it as the core of Google Chrome. It’s arguably a big win for Microsoft’s enterprise customers, too, who can now count on having a standards-compliant browser that works with all their modern web-based apps.

You know who was not among the winners? Mozilla, makers of the Firefox browser.

Also: Microsoft Edge: What went wrong, what’s next

In a doom-and-gloom-soaked post on the Mozilla Blog, CEO Chris Beard criticized Microsoft’s decision even as he acknowledged that it “may well make sense” in business terms even as it poses an existential threat to the non-profit Mozilla:

We compete with Google not because it’s a good business opportunity. We compete with Google because the health of the internet and online life depend on competition and choice. They depend on consumers being able to decide we want something better and to take action.

[…]

If one product like Chromium has enough market share, then it becomes easier for web developers and businesses to decide not to worry if their services and sites work with anything other than Chromium. That’s what happened when Microsoft had a monopoly on browsers in the early 2000s before Firefox was released. And it could happen again.

Unfortunately, Mozilla’s relationship with Google is… Well, let’s just say it’s complicated. Yes, Firefox competes with Google in the browser market, but Google also literally pays to keep the lights on at Mozilla.

Two weeks ago, Mozilla released its annual report, including audited financial statements for 2017. In that report, it acknowledged that “[t]oday, the majority of Mozilla Corporation revenue is generated from global browser search partnerships, including the deal negotiated with Google in 2017 following Mozilla’s termination of its search agreement with Yahoo/Oath….”

In fact, more than 89 percent of Mozilla Corporation’s $562 Million in income in 2017 came from search engine royalties, and almost all that appears to have come from Google. (Yandex is the default Firefox search engine in Russia and Baidu is the default in China. Google is the default in the United States and other developed markets.)

That fact is, tellingly, listed under the “Concentration of risk” heading in the Mozilla 2017 financial statement (PDF).


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The current search-engine contracts run out in November 2020, less than two years from now. If Google decides to end that search relationship or change its terms in a material way, the financial impact would be devastating on Mozilla. With $514 million in cash on hand and $421 million in annual expenses, it would only be able to operate for about 15 months without cutting another search deal.

Unfortunately for Mozilla, most of the market forces that forced Microsoft Edge to give up on its independent browser engine apply equally to Firefox.

Despite excellent reviews, the Firefox Quantum browser, released in late 2017, hasn’t been able to steal any significant usage share on desktop platforms. Depending on which source you look at, Firefox continues to be stuck in the high single digits as a percentage of overall browser usage.

In the latest figures from the US Government Digital Analytics Program, for example, Firefox accounted for exactly 8 percent of traffic from Windows PCs and Macs, compared to 8.44 percent for Microsoft Edge and 7.9 percent for Safari. That comparison is even worse than it appears, because Edge can’t even be installed on devices running MacOS or versions of Windows other than Windows 10, and the desktop version of Safari runs only on the Mac.

If you look only at mobile operating systems, Firefox is a non-starter, with one-half of 1 percent of web traffic as measured by DAP, which is slightly less than Amazon’s Silk browser. Part of the problem might be that Google treats Firefox as a second-class citizen, as ZDNet’s Chris Duckett reported in July 2018:

“We are focused on providing a great experience for search across browsers, and continue to work to improve this for all users,” a Google spokesperson told ZDNet.

“Firefox uses the Gecko engine, which requires us to do extensive testing on all of our features to ensure compatibility, as it’s different from WebKit (which is used by Chrome, Safari, UC, Opera). We’ve done this for Firefox desktop, but have not done the same level of testing for mobile.”

That’s the same problem that Microsoft’s engineers cited as their primary reason for giving up on EdgeHTML. I’ve heard that the overwhelming majority of the time and energy that EdgeHTML developers spent over the past three years has been on fixing compatibility problems with sites that didn’t work properly because they were only tested on WebKit and Chromium-based browsers.

Can Mozilla afford the technical costs of maintaining the only rendering engine and browser code base that isn’t based on WebKit or Blink (Google’s Chromium-based fork of WebKit)?

The brutal nature of competition in the modern technology landscape suggests that Mozilla’s mission of providing an alternative to the Google monoculture is admirable and probably doomed to failure. The big question is whether Google will continue to pay royalties to keep Mozilla afloat after 2020. That might happen, just as insurance against potential antitrust action.

PREVIOUS AND RELATED COVERAGE:

Mozilla: Why Microsoft Edge’s switch to Google’s Chromium is bad news

Microsoft’s move probably won’t help Edge and it’s also bad for the open web, say Mozilla, Vivaldi.

Microsoft confirms that Chrome extensions will run on new Edge browser

Microsoft’s Chromium-based Edge browser could close the extension gap.

Microsoft’s Edge to morph into a Chromium-based, cross-platform browser

Microsoft is going to remake its Edge desktop browser by using Chromium components and by bringing it to Windows 7, 8.1 and macOS, in addition to Windows 10.

Microsoft Edge: What went wrong, what’s next

Microsoft’s grand browser experiment flopped in the marketplace, so the company is turning to an unlikely successor: the open-source Chromium project. Can it succeed where EdgeHTML failed?

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Callaway Chevy Silverado SC602 Signature Edition trounces Ram TRX in a drag race

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American performance vehicle builder Callaway Cars has debuted its newest creation: The Chevy Silverado SC602 Signature Edition, now officially the best sleeper truck on the road. How fast? Hold your breath: This Chevy Silverado has trounced the mighty RAM TRX in a drag race. That’s saying a lot since Ram made it clear the TRX is “the quickest, fastest, and most powerful mass-produced truck in the world.”

But as it turns out, Callaway has other plans. The company has a long and cherished history of building quirky yet high-end performance cars like the C4 Corvette Sledgehammer and C7 Corvette AeroWagen. However, what we really love about the Silverado SC602 is the way it looks.

It may resemble a factory-stock Chevy Silverado from some angles, but there are telltale signs of the truck’s outstanding stoplight-to-stoplight ability. Like those 20 or 22-inch Callaway lightweight wheels, for instance, or the bevy of chrome Callaway exterior badging, including a bold CALLAWAY script on the carbon fiber front grille.

As with any Callaway vehicle, what matters most is hiding under the sheet metal. The SC602 starts life as a Chevrolet Silverado Trail Boss, RST, LTZ, or High Country with a standard 6.2-liter V8 motor and four-wheel drive. Next, Callway installs a GenThree Eaton TVS R2650 Supercharger with a TripleCooled intercooler. The blower offers 15-percent more displacement yet requiring 18-percent less power output.

It doesn’t stop there. The truck also gets a high-flow intake, low-restriction stainless steel dual outlet exhausts with quad exhaust tips, and a bespoke Callaway ECU with custom tuning. After all the dirty engine work is complete, the Callaway Silverado SC60’s blown V8 is now pumping out 602 horsepower and 560 pound-feet of torque.

But wait, the Ram TRX’s Hellcat V8 makes 702 horsepower and 650 pound-feet of torque, 100 more horses (and 90 more torques) than Callaway’s truck, so how did it trounce the Ram? Two words: weight and tires. The Silverado SC602 tips the scales at only 5,820 pounds (2640 kg), while the Ram TRX weighs around 7,080 (3,211 kg) pounds.

The result is nothing short of astonishing. The SC602 goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.3-seconds, zero to 100 mph in 9.80-seconds, and breaks the quarter-mile in 12.5-seconds @ 113 mph. Meanwhile, the Ram TRX goes from zero to 60 mph in 3.99-seconds, a bit quicker than the Chevy.

But the latter is faster from zero to 100 mph as the Ram needed 10.14 seconds to perform the deed, proof of the Callaway Silverado SC60’s mid to high-range pulling power. And yeah, those sticky performance tires were partly responsible for the Callaway’s drag strip prowess.

What’s more, the Silverado SC602 is 50-state emissions compliant and carries a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty to supplement Chevy’s bumper-to-bumper warranty. Other goodies include aluminum door sills, billet aluminum pedals, an Alcantara-covered horn cover, and ID plaques to let other people know you’re driving the genuine article.

How much? We have no idea. But you can get in touch with Callaway if you fancy the ultimate Ram-beating sleeper truck.

Callaway Chevy Silverado SC602 Signature Edition Gallery

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Ford reveals the custom 2021 Mustang Mach-E to be given away for charity

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Ford has supported various charities for a long time, often donating customized automobiles to be auctioned off. Each year Ford offers a customized car for the AirVenture charity, and typically that car is a Ford Mustang of some sort with a big V8 engine under the hood. This year, the car Ford is donating to the charity is a different kind of Mustang.

Ford has revealed the customized electric 2021 Mustang Mach-E that will be auctioned off this year. The vehicle was built to honor the sacrifices of Women Air Force Service Pilots. The special Mach-E is inspired by the female volunteer pilots and the planes they flew during World War II.

Proceeds from the vehicle auction support the EAA initiative to provide young women and underserved youths more access to careers in the aviation industry. Ford notes that it has worked with AirVenture for more than two decades and has donated 12 custom aviation-themed performance vehicles so far, raising a total of more than $4 million. 2021 marks the first year Ford has donated an electric vehicle.

The custom Mach-E was designed by Ford and has a custom paint scheme with military badging inspired by the warplanes the volunteers flew. Women Air Force Service Pilots flew almost every type of military aircraft in World War II as they rolled off the factory floor after assembly. Ford put badges, including the US Army Air Force star on both sides, wings logos on the hood and fender, and No. 38 on the front fascia, rear bumper, and inside the cabin.

That number represents the 38 volunteers who died serving their country. Women Air Force Service Pilots are a group of American volunteers who transported warplanes to US Army bases worldwide to be used in combat. The female pilots flew more than 60 million miles during the war and weren’t recognized as active military personnel until 1977 when the pilots were granted retroactive military status.

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This Porsche 911 Turbo S pays homage to Mexican driving ace Pedro Rodriguez

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In collaboration with Porsche Latin America, Porsche Mexico, and Porsche Exclusive Manufaktur, German automaker Porsche has built a custom 911 Turbo S in memory of the late, great Pedro Rodriguez. Rodriguez is the most successful Mexican racing driver of all time.

He walked away with 11 titles in the World Championship of Makes – now known as the World Endurance Championship – and helped Porsche capture the crown in 1970 and 1971 aboard a Porsche 917 KH in Gulf Oil livery. Rodriguez claimed two Formula Grand Prix wins, four wins in the 24 Hours of Daytona, and a victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans before losing his life in 1971 at the Norising street circuit in Nuremberg, Germany.

Fifty years on after that fateful and deadly crash, Porsche is reliving the glory days with a custom 911 Turbo S ‘One of a Kind’ Pedro Rodriguez. The car debuted at a Sportscar Together Day event at the Centro Alto Rendimineto in Toluca, Mexico, where it drew oohs and ahhs with its custom Gulf attire.

Porsche claims the 911 Turbo S ‘One of a Kind’ Pedro Rodriguez is, well, genuinely one of a kind. “This configuration, with these specific details and equipment, has been locked in the Porsche configurator, as well as in the production system, so that this car is literally unrepeatable,” said Camilo San Martin, Director of Porsche Mexico.

Wearing the iconic Gulf Blue paint with single orange striping, it also has custom high-gloss black wheels, an aluminum center lock, and a black number 2 in a white circle graphic on the doors and front hood. Look closely at the B-pillar and you’ll find a silhouette of the 917 KH race car wearing the colors off the Mexican flag, complete with the name and signature of Pedro Rodriguez.

Other bespoke elements include unique carbon moldings on the lower door frames (which illuminate when the doors are open), Graphite Blue leather seats with orange stitching, and an engraved tribute of the eight races that Rodriguez won aboard the Porsche 917 KH under the rear spoiler.

Also included are a Gulf Blue key fob (with Rodriguez’s signature) and a luggage set wearing the same blue and orange colors. It still has a turbocharged 3.8-liter flat-six pumping out 640 horsepower and 590 pound-feet of torque with an eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox under the hood.

The Porsche 911 Turbo S Pedro Rodriguez will hit the auction block later this year. Porsche will donate the auction proceeds to various charities.

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