Mozilla CEO: Ties with Google 'complicated' since Chrome

Mozilla Corp. has a "reasonable" relationship with long-time partner Google Inc., but it's gotten complicated since Google launched its own browser, according to Mozilla's chief executive.

"We have a fine and reasonable relationship," John Lilly, Mozilla's CEO, said in an interview last week. "But I'd be lying if I said that things weren't more complicated than they used to be."

Responding to questions about Mozilla's take on the upswing in browser competition, Lilly also knocked another rival, Microsoft Corp., for dismissing attempts to boost browser performance as merely a "drag race."

"It's a pretty good time to be a browser user," said Lilly. "There are more smart people hacking on browsers than in a long time. But when I hear Dean [Hachamovitch, general manager of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE)] say JavaScript performance is for crazy guys to worry about, then that worries me."

Last week, Hachamovitch said Microsoft wasn't interested in joining what he called a "drag race" between browser makers that include Mozilla and Google in boosting JavaScript rendering performance. Both Mozilla and Google have debuted new JavaScript engines that they've bragged dramatically boost speed. Hachamovitch declined to say how the final version of Microsoft's upcoming IE8 will stack up against rivals in JavaScript benchmark scores, saying only, "It's definitely faster than IE8 Beta 2," the current test version.

"HTML and JavaScript are the languages of the Web," Lilly argued. "And what might happen, if modern browsers like Firefox and Chrome just run away from IE [in performance], wouldn't be very healthy. Sixty-nine percent of users still use IE, and if JavaScript on IE is three or four times slower [than other browsers], developers might think twice about whether they can push the limits with JavaScript."

But Lilly remained confident that his company can maintain its momentum, which has translated into a 24% increase in Firefox market share since the beginning of the year.

"At this point, one in five users of the Internet uses Firefox," Lilly said, citing statistics from Net Applications, Inc. "That's good, and we're proud of that. When we launched Firefox 1.0 [four years ago], the odds of getting to 20%, most would have said that was impossible."

Mozilla, however, is in a unique situation among browser builders in that the bulk of its revenue -- 88%, or about $60 million in 2007, the last year for which the company has released financial information -- comes from Google. Under a series of deals, the most recent inked last August, Google pays Mozilla for assigning its search engine the default in Firefox, and for click-throughs on ads placed on the ensuing search results pages.

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