Mozilla And Oath Headed To Court Over Firefox Default Search Engine Switch From Yahoo To Google

By Aaron Mamiit | Dec 06, 2017 08:40 PM EST

Mozilla and Oath are heading to court after the companies filed lawsuits against each other related to the decision to switch the Firefox default search engine from Yahoo to Google.

Mozilla announced that it was dropping Yahoo in favor of Google just as it unveiled the Firefox Quantum, a lightning-fast browser that ironically looks to challenge Google Chrome.

The Mozilla-Yahoo Deal Of 2014

Yahoo, which was purchased earlier this year by Verizon and then combined with AOL to form Oath, signed a contract with Mozilla in 2014 to make it the default search engine for five years. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo at the time, looked to cut into the popularity of rival Google's search engine through the millions of Firefox users. While there remains a user option in Firefox to change the default search engine, the move resulted in Yahoo reaching five-year high search volumes a few months after the agreement.

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The contract, however, was very much skewed in Mozilla's favor. Mayer allowed the inclusion of a clause that will allow Mozilla to continue receiving annual payments of $375 million from Yahoo until 2019 if Yahoo was bought by a company that Mozilla does not want to work with. Mozilla was even allowed to walk away from the contract if it wanted to.

Mayer did not think that such a thing would happen, but Yahoo's purchase by Verizon triggered the stipulation. Verizon, a telecommunications company, is not really known for search engines, so it is understandable that Mozilla decided to end the contract with Yahoo.

Firefox Switches To Google, And Chaos Follows

Mozilla decided to switch the Firefox default search engine from Yahoo to Google, while requiring Oath to pay the annual $375 million payment that Yahoo promised.

Oath filed a complaint against Mozilla for what it alleged was an improper termination of the contract between Mozilla and Yahoo. However, Mozilla has now lodged a cross-complaint against Oath, claiming that it only seeks to exercise its rights under the 2014 contract. The terms were lopsided, but that was what Mozilla and Yahoo agreed to three years ago.

Oath believes that the deal should not be honored as it was made by Yahoo's former CEO, and that it does not follow the company's current vision. In addition, $375 million is a massive amount of money, even for Verizon's stature. However, the burden of proof lies on Oath, as it appears to be pretty clear from the contract that Mozilla is not breaking any rules.

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