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Mozilla Revenue Grows 33 Percent

Max 'Beast from the East' Smolaks covers open source, public sector, startups and technology of the future at TechWeekEurope. If you find him looking lost on the streets of London, feed him coffee and sugar.

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Royalties paid by Google keep the free software community well-supplied

The revenues of Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiaries grew 33 percent in 2011, according to its annual financial report released on Thursday.

The organisation also published a “State of Mozilla” report, highlighting the importance of the mobile device market and products beyond Firefox browser for its future.

Mozilla Foundation is a non-profit organisation, but its subsidiaries, such as Mozilla Corporation, can make money from licensing deals, with intention to later reinvest it into the Mozilla projects.

State of the Union

This year, the total revenue of the free software organisation totalled $163 million (£103m). For comparison, Mozilla earned just $123 million (£78m) last year.

Over three quarters of this revenue comes from Google, which pays Mozilla royalties every time Firefox users try to find something online through Google’s search engine. Mozilla has similar deals with Microsoft and other search providers.

Analysts suggest that some of the money paid by Google is part of a deal signed last year, details of which have not been disclosed. The arrangement states that Mozilla keeps Google as the default search engine in Firefox, in return for heavy subsidies.

Last month at the Dublin Web Summit, Mozilla CEO Gary Kovacs called the Silicon Valley giant a ‘frenemy’, saying that this cooperation “would be dangerous if there wasn’t a value in what we are doing.”

Meanwhile, expenses of the organisation grew to $145 million (£91m), including $103 million spent on software development and $17.5 million on branding and marketing. Last year, expenses of the Foundation tallied up at $87 million, so it’s not just the revenue that’s rising.

According to the ‘State of Mozilla’ report, the organisation has big hopes for its mobile Firefox OS. Created from start to finish using HTML5, it should give manufacturers a cheaper alternative to iOS and Android.

“Just like we did on the desktop, Mozilla is setting out to ensure that the mobile Web is full of freedom, choice and opportunity and that it has the ability for users to create anything they want. With Firefox OS, we can break open the world of native operating systems and closed platforms once again,” reads the report.

The first ‘Firephones’ are expected to be launched in Brazil in 2013. If it’s successful, the system should give Mozilla additional revenue streams, such as money from operators and Firefox Marketplace app publishers.

Another promising project currently being developed by Mozilla is Persona, a unified website authentication mechanism which uses email addresses as identifiers and focuses on privacy and browser integration. It is currently going through Beta testing.

Mozilla also runs several educational initiatives, not the least of which is Webmaker – a programme to teach people code and design, launched earlier this year. Most of these projects were demonstrated last weekend at the Mozilla Festival – an annual meeting of open source enthusiasts.

“We have the vision of this world, the architecture, the technology and the product plans. We’re building these products now. We have the financial resources to support these efforts. This is an exciting and very productive period,” Mitchell Baker, Mozilla’s chief lizard wrangler and chair, wrote on her blog. “Please join us in building this world.”

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