November 17, 2004 4:00 AM PST

Firefox fortune hunters

Just because Firefox is free and open source doesn't mean developers aren't cashing in on the popularity of the Mozilla Foundation's new browser.

On the contrary, new businesses are cropping up to provide organizations ranging from museums to software companies to the U.S. Department of Defense with Mozilla-based applications--for a fee.

News.context

What's new:
New businesses are cropping up to provide organizations with Mozilla-based applications--for a fee.

Bottom line:
Are people getting involved in Mozilla and other open-source projects to get rich? Not quite.

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"Business is pretty crazy right now," said Pete Collins, who last year founded the Mozdev Group in anticipation of demand for private Mozilla development work. "With the popularity of Firefox and the economy rebounding, we've been swamped. We don't even advertise--clients find us and provide us with work."

The Mozdev Group is still a small shop--seven employees scattered around the globe, including two new hires. In response to demand, Collins intends to hire two more workers in January, and hourly rates, which range between $75 and $100 per hour depending on volume, are going up.

The rise of Mozdev Group and businesses like it is but a small part of a broader corporate interest in open-source software. High-tech stalwarts such as IBM and open-source originals like Red Hat have long embraced the open-source model, selling services and pitching platforms for use with software whose underlying source code is made available online for free and licensed use.


Pete Collins
founder, Mozdev Group

Open-source software businesses have lured even Microsoft veterans into the fold.

The demand for Mozilla development work comes as the Mozilla Foundation's recent Firefox 1.0 release enjoys good reviews and brisk downloads. Mozilla, which then-AOL Time Warner spun off as an independent foundation last year, oversees the volunteer, open-source development of the Firefox browser, the Thunderbird e-mail reader and other software.

Firefox's success ends a long drought for Mozilla, which had racked up a six-year record of extensive delays and suffered from a badly reviewed Netscape release based on its code.

Developers' enthusiasm for Mozilla also fulfills, at least in part, an original goal of the open-source group, which was to establish Mozilla technologies as a platform for application development. To the degree that Mozilla continues to progress in that direction, it succeeds in countering one of archrival Microsoft's most formidable advantages: a far-flung army of independent software developers building software keyed to the Windows operating system and the Internet Explorer browser.

"They've created an easily extensible architecture," Ross Rubin, an analyst with the NPD Group, said of the Mozilla effort. "Once you've done that, all you need is an installed base, and theirs is growing....Plus (Mozilla) is cross-platform, so it has the opportunity to attract a broader base of developers."

Mozdev Group is the corporate offshoot of MozDev.org, a

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5 comments

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failed to mention one more
This article failed to mention the most direct way in which Firefox is making money. Firefox bundles certain search engines with its search bar and Firefox has business relationships with those companies and gets commissions from them. For example, the eBay search bar generates money for Firefox everytime someone searches eBay using the search bar.
Posted by nrlz (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IE's real market share much lower
All the calculation of IE vs. Firefox market share has missed one critical factor: the actual amount of usage of a browser in daily surfing. Most early Firefox lovers like me are more technically prone and keep up with emerging tech trend. These people use browser far more than average folks with IE. For example, my mother-in-law has IE in her computer and surfs web one a day average. My wife and I both have Firefox and we are on and off the net five or six times each every day by average. If consider this factor into calculation of market share, IE may have much lower market share already.
Posted by (9 comments )
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IE in her computer
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.analogstereo.com/kia_shuma_owners_manual.htm" target="_newWindow">http://www.analogstereo.com/kia_shuma_owners_manual.htm</a>
Posted by Ubber geek (325 comments )
Link Flag
Above message is patently false
The parent message is misinformation. The only instance of a money-making referral in Firefox that has been shown so far was in the German translation of FireFox 1.0 in which the ebay search engine was linked through a third-party dataminer. This was a blunder on Mozilla Europe's part which has since been corrected. No other versions or languages of Mozilla or Firefox are known to contain any such thing - and since these programs are open-source and popular, it would be discovered in no time if they did.
Posted by McDutchie (2 comments )
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Re: Above message is patently false
The eBay plugin was not a "blunder". It was a referral program to generate money for the Mozilla Foundation.
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.heise.de/english/newsticker/news/53518" target="_newWindow">http://www.heise.de/english/newsticker/news/53518</a>

Even Mitchell Baker (Firefox developer) plainly states, "[w]e provide access to search services from a range of sources including Google, Yahoo, Amazon, eBay and others you can see in Firefox. We expect to see some funds come to the Foundation as a result of our integrated search."
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/mitchell/archives/2004/11/firefox_10_now_1.html" target="_newWindow">http://weblogs.mozillazine.org/mitchell/archives/2004/11/firefox_10_now_1.html</a>

And yes, Firefox is open source and it was precisely the fact that it was open source, which allowed this information to be found in no time. (Found within 7 days since the eBay plugin was changed to the referral link.)
Posted by nrlz (98 comments )
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