The fall of the Gecko (Mozilla)
Summary: Mozilla is letting Microsoft manage users’ data in Firefox, including keystrokes in the address bar
TECHRIGHTS has published plenty of pro-Mozilla and pro-Firefox articles over the years. Speaking for myself, I have posted literally thousands of pro-Firefox links over the past decade as I viewed Firefox as the software that rescued the Web from Microsoft’s monopoly and iron grip. It was Firefox that had Web developers cease their Internet Explorer-only mentality (or dogma). It is with deep regrets that I have to revoke my support for Firefox, not just because of its treatment of Eich, the company’s pro-DRM apologists, the ads, and now the privacy compromises. This post is an accumulation of a fortnight of sad news about Mozilla. The saddest thing is that Mozilla does not view this as sad news, or at least doesn’t want the public to view it that way.
Let us agree that the relationship between surveillance and ads is a close one, but one must not be treated as interchangeable with the other. This post is not a rant about ads, which to be realistic is truly a growing business model, especially on the Web. That alone is not the problem. This post is also not provocation or trolling but the expression of genuine concern for a project and a company I have loved and wish to still love (if they rectify their act, despite the seemingly irrevocable nature of some recent moves).
Ads are not the main problem with Mozilla, even though it sure helps discredit Free software projects like Fedora, so Fedora is planning to dump Firefox (except if one installs it from the repositories). Free software does not go well with ads (Linux Mint received flak for a controversial approach to such a business model), so it is not too shocking that Fedorans are unhappy with the move. This serves to show that Mozilla’s appeal to advertisers is in fact backfiring. They’re losing market share that way. As Internet News put it, “Fedora Linux [is] Set to Abandon Firefox over Advertising Issue”. Not everyone has a problem with ads, especially when these can be blocked. As one pro-GNU/Linux and BSD site put it: “That Sponsored Tiles program from Mozilla, which I first wrote about in Mozilla to sell ads in Firefox browser via the Directory Tiles program, has gone live.”
One might have to download a cutting-edge build to see it. Again, it’s not the ads that we’re worried about.
Putting aside the fact that spies use ads for surveillance (a good example might be something along the lines of Angry Birds), the NSA sure works very closely with Microsoft. It’s a strong relationship that goes back to the 1990s. A lot of people, perhaps influenced by Microsoft’s massive (multi-million) anti-Google PR campaign, look the other way and accuse only Google of privacy violations in search, E-mail etc. There is news right now that says Google allows privacy for a fee (or at least removal of privacy-infringing ads). It’s a substitute for the ads business model. To quote the Romania-based SoftPedia: “Google is always looking to diversify its online advertising policy and you might think that there is little left to do in this regard. It appears that Google has found yet another way to monetize ads, both for itself and for the website, but this time the power rests in the users’ hands.”
That is actually a good thing, no matter how Microsoft’s anti-Google PR tries to spin it.
Then comes the news about Mozilla breaking up with Google despite the fact that “Mozilla gets more than 90 percent of its revenues from Google” (which was a good thing, as it helped fund Free software).
One longtime Firefox observer wrote that “Firefox maker remains ‘utterly confident’ as revenue growth sputters”. What are they so confident about? Firefox has been Google-reliant for quite some time; it’s no secret. To remove that reliance one needs to find hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue (or otherwise shrink considerably). What other than selling out to the “devil we don’t know” (or the devil we do know in the case of Microsoft) can possibly achieve that? Thunderbird already sold its users out in that horrible way by linking to Microsoft (“Bing”) just before Mozilla abandoned Thunderbird development. Firefox is now going down a similar route, putting aside attempts to raise donations (now in Bitcoin form, too). According to this article, Mozilla was really loaded with money up until now. A reader of ours asked us: “What is the money spent on? Not Thunderbird or Firefox, obviously.”
Marketing, or perhaps even face-saving projects, used up much of the budget, not important projects (with PGP support) such as Thunderbird. As Mozilla had hundreds of millions of dollars coming in, the old excuses about not maintaining Thunderbird because people use GMail (PRISM) are utter nonsense. Yes, when Mozilla stopped Thunderbird development (with easy-to-use PGP support through Enigmail) it said people were moving to to hosted mail (PRISM/NSA), naming GMail by name. Guess who bankrolled Mozilla at the time…
Either way, the problem with the move away from Google is that Mozilla now actively helps a sworn enemy of FOSS and GNU/Linux (ignore the PR nonsense about Microsoft “loving” Linux and other such self-serving lies that we debunked last month and earlier this month). In addition there’s the privacy factor, but it’s not the main point. “Why Mozilla is scared of Google” was one headline of interest and the respective article said: “For the last 10 years, Google has had that business almost entirely to itself. Every time you make a search through that bar, Google makes a little bit of money from ads and passes a piece of that money on to the browser through AdSense’s revenue sharing deal. That adds up to hundreds of millions of dollars for companies like Mozilla, but the money can produce some strange incentives. Google’s making a browser too, and it may not want to support Chrome’s competitors forever. Suddenly, the short-term money starts to look like a long-term liability.”
But Microsoft makes a Web browser too. There’s no point using “Chrome” as a reason for Mozilla to fear Google but not Microsoft, which makes the much worse and standards-hostile Internet Explorer that Windows imposes on PC buyers. Chrome is at least based on Free software (which Chormium is), whereas Internet Explorer is purely proprietary. Firefox can reuse code from Chrome.
According to this article, things are getting worse with the shift to Microsoft because Mozilla now lets Microsoft log keystrokes in the address bar (see the screenshot). How ridiculous is that (even if that behaviour can be disabled)? Very sad.
One pundit says that “despite losing Google as its cash cow, Mozilla isn’t dead yet”, noting: “Its Google advertising contract was coming to an end. With 90 percent of Mozilla’s income coming from Google, it was far from good news. With the contract ending in November, and no reason for Google to renew the deal with its Chrome Web browser success, things were looking dark as an overcast, moonless night for Mozilla.”
So what? Moving to Microsoft (through Yahoo) is not independence, it’s even worse than before. Mozilla cannot assert independence by becoming dependent on Microsoft and the NSA through Yahoo. Microsoft is not “Choice and Innovation” (as Mozilla tries to frame it), it’s espionage and blackmail (with patents). The company’s head said: “In evaluating our search partnerships, our primary consideration was to ensure our strategy aligned with our values of choice and independence”
That’s a joke, right?
Yahoo is now just a front end of “Bing” (in the US, where the Mozilla deal was signed for), so we might as well just speak about Microsoft here, not Yahoo (the covert façade). If Mozilla continues to sell out its users, now by diverting users’ searches to Microsoft (via Yahoo) like Canonical tried several years ago, then we as users need to speak out. The boosters of the monopolist, people like Microsoft Peter, sure love this deal. It is good for Microsoft.
It’s Not About Yahoo, It’s Microsoft
Mozilla has clearly learned nothing about Ubuntu’s mistake with Yahoo — a mistake that was realised later and the plan undone. As Lirodon put it in our IRC channels, “Microsoft’s Yahoo-branded front-end of Bing is going to be Firefox’s new default search engine,” but we do not see enough people willing to chastise Mozilla over this. Microsoft only (by default) is not “multiple-search-partner” as LWN put it, and this should be rather clear. Putting aside the DRM, the ads and other controversies and scandals, this is quite serious and merely the latest step. It is just one among other misguided decisions that turned a once-awesome company into a one that compromises and even abandons principles, hopelessly thinking it would help it gain market share rather than the very opposite.
Sam Dean wrote about this deal and recalled that Mozilla “has historically gotten more than 90 percent of its revenues from Google, to the tune of $300 million recently, in exchange for search placement in the Firefox browser. That has completely changed, and now Mozilla has struck a similar five-year deal with Yahoo.”
5 years being stuck with Microsoft. And they probably cannot even revoke this deal. It’s similar to the 5-year (since 2006) Microsoft-Novell deal (also irrevocable, despite huge amounts of criticism). Some years ago Mozilla put some pressure on Google by flirting with the idea of a Microsoft deal. Can Google perhaps still save Mozilla from this horrible dependency? Press reports make that seem unlikely and few articles even point out that Yahoo is a relay for Microsoft (US searches done purely by Microsoft, meaning that Yahoo search is essentially just “Bing” in the US), after a corruptions parade and a corporate coup. Those who are implying that Google is in Yahoo because of the CEO (see the sneaky remarks about the CEO) must not have followed recent events closely enough. To quote one take on this:
It had been reported that Google and Mozilla were still negotiating on renewing their deal, but apparently that has failed (in the U.S) at least. No word (yet) on how much the Yahoo deal is worth to Mozilla, but it’s likely a good deal for Yahoo.
No, for Microsoft. Yahoo searches in the US are Microsoft’s business.
Christine Hall wrote:
There’s just one teeny-tiny little problem. For the last several years, Yahoo has been obtaining its search results from Bing, owned by Microsoft, with no indication this will change. I’m not exactly sure how the Microsoft/Yahoo deal works, but you can be sure that some money goes to Redmond each and every time a search is done via the web portal, something that many FOSS supporters might find unacceptable.
She is right. If only more people got this story right, perhaps there would be an uproar big enough and Mozilla would cancel the Microsoft (through Yahoo!) deal. Tell Mozilla what you think; get this mess undone before it’s too late and even incorporated into new stable releases. █
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Image by Will Hill
Summary: Another warning about Duck Duck Go, the so-called ‘search engine’ which actually relays results from Microsoft on top of Amazon-hosted servers
THE search engine that people routinely use is a very big deal. It’s a big decision. People tend to throw around clues about medical conditions they are having, technical issues, names of people they are stalking, political views and so much more. Now we are getting yet more proof that people’s searching habits may also, in fact, lead to their assassination or character assassination some day in the future, even decades from now. Leaderships change over time and so do rules or regulations (this is often referred to as “turnkey tyranny”). Just look what Japan and Germany did 75 years ago, killing (executing) millions of people based on broad profiling. Read about Sook Ching (肃清) for example.
Giant octopus grasping the Earth (with its teeth on top of North America, implying perhaps domestic spying and more) is a logo that recently came from the NSA itself, as hard as it may be to believe (seen at the top right, unaltered). We already know, based on Snowden’s heroic actions, that the NSA is very much connected to the CIA’s drones strikes and US citizens are among the targets. We post many links about these issues because they’re enormously important.
Sadly, many people believe the false promise of privacy at Duck Duck Go. The illusion of privacy is worse than no privacy at all because it gives people a false sense of security that leads them to doing what they otherwise would not.
Now that some FOSS sites foolishly promote Duck Duck Go (or affiliated services) we wish to remind readers that for several clear reasons Duck Duck Go is a sham when it comes to privacy. We have already explained why. We wrote about this several times before and Will Hill put together some of the arguments against Duck Duck Go.
Michael Hayden (former head of both the CIA and the NSA, who laid the ground for much of the existing policy) says that “we kill people based on metadata”. This means all sorts of things. They are using people’s search phrases and other shallow things (perhaps browsing habits, not just phonecall records) as long as these are compact to store and analyse (data-mine). As storage gets cheaper and resources for computation grow (thanks to an Amazon deal), the more they collect from more people. Dossiers gathered by automated profiling are used to predict or assess people’s thoughts, even when they might be studying/researching things (e.g. looking up Hitler-related stuff for curiosity, not for support). This can also be used to justify murder of civilians by drones after they are killed (justification by alignment of so-called ‘evidence’ after the act).
Hayden’s remarks were noted in our latest daily links and are now going quite viral on the Internet. The same correlation that says drone assassinations are driven by ‘metadata’ was noted some months ago in The Intercept, based on a source other than Hayden, so even though Hayden is a pathological liar, herein we have some corroboration.
Don’t give the NSA ‘dirt’ with which to paint you a “bad person” worthy of death, smearing, etc. The NSA uses data for espionage, so it needn’t have to do anything with national security, just national interests (meaning corporations’ interests). Every single person has, at one point or another, searched the Web for some phrase that may be interpreted by an outsider as suspicious, especially if context gets removed. Duck Duck Go is a dangerous search engine to be using at the very least because it’s hosted by Amazon, which received $600,000,000 from the CIA to help keep every bit of data (mass surveillance) forever. █
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Summary: Litigation by proxy still a hot trend, where Microsoft is the supplier and parasites like Vringo are the executioners
WELL, we sure saw it coming. We have followed Vringo for years, especially after Microsoft/Nokia passed it some ammunition that hits Google where it hurts. Microsoft even paid Vringo.
We are by no means going to defend Google Search, which is horrible surveillance (so-called ‘replacements’ like Duck Duck Go are even worse in some ways), but the point worth making here is that Microsoft and its proxies continue to hassle Google. Here is Joe Mullin’s report  on the latest development. It’s a shame that Microsoft’s role is hardly emphasised. Our Wiki has a more complete chronology of it. █
Related/contextual items from the news:
Vringo is a tiny company that purchased some patents from Lycos, an old search engine, in 2011 and then used those patents to sue Google. In December 2012, Vringo won $30 million in a jury trial, but that was far less than the hundreds of millions it was seeking.
Today, Vringo got the payout it was looking for: a 1.36 percent running royalty on US-based revenue from AdWords, Google’s flagship program. US District Judge Raymond Jackson had already ruled last week (PDF) that the AdWords program, which was tweaked by Google after the Vringo verdict, wasn’t “colorably different” from the old infringing program. He gave Google and Vringo one last session to hammer out a royalty rate, and when they couldn’t, he went ahead and set it (PDF)—at almost exactly the rate Vringo was seeking.
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Microsoft thinks about the children
Summary: How CBS is promoting Microsoft agenda and even removing articles critical of Microsoft
Someone amongst our readers sent to us a link to an advertisement from a Microsoft booster. An article by Lance Whitney/CNET is not much different from habitual advertisements, but it is disguised as news. This former Microsoft press writer, Lance Whitney, has been doing this type of thing for years, so promotion of Microsoft’s latest little scam is only to be expected. Almost every Microsoft marketing scam gets promoted in CNET and one just needs to review the authors’ background to understand why. “A special version of Bing will be offered to schools later this year,” says the booster, “one that promises no ads, no adult content, and special learning features.”
“An article by Lance Whitney/CNET is not much different from habitual advertisements, but it is disguised as news”The only learning is machine learning. Microsoft will be profiling children along with the NSA. The same author is also advertising Vista 8, embedded in something that has little to do with Windows, where Microsoft is barely even a contender. Watch him injecting his Microsoft agenda into artticles that actually speak about tablets — an area where Microsoft does so poorly that some expect Microsoft to give up altogether and dump Windows RT (we covered this earlier this week).
CBS is not a news network and coverage of the NSA leaks helps prove it. It’s no better than the embarrassing CNN. It’s mostly propaganda and agenda, shrewdly disguised as balanced reporting.
ZDNet, another CBS site, has just spiked an article titled “Is Microsoft Abandoning Its Mobile Operating Systems?”
Yes, the article has been deleted and censorship is likely the cause.
“The original article which started this whole investigation is helping Microsoft to infiltrate schools and spy on everyone’s children (clients).”The author told me “It’s in the middle of an editorial fight that has nothing to do with the content.”
I asked: “If it has nothing to do with the content, what does it have to do with, the author?”
“One way or the other it will see the light of day again,” the author told me. This author is responsible for the little Microsoft criticism that’s left in the site. ZDNet seems to be in bed with Microsoft in the sense that Microsoft pays for the editorial structure to be altered (I gave examples over the years, notably Microsoft Windows 7/8 promotion in designated editorial sections). A lot of ZDNet writers are also associated with Microsoft. CBS does a similar thing in CNET, so watch out. Generally, the very act of challenging a critic can lead to self-censorship. It interferes with independence of writers. I am not naming the author, for his own protection.
The original article which started this whole investigation is helping Microsoft to infiltrate schools and spy on everyone’s children (clients). Any spying for toddlers or children disguised as “education” is fundamentally malicious. “In the past,” says iophk, “if M$ gave hard cash to schools, they just turned around and used to buy Apple to avoid M$ garbage.” He points to this article which uses the word “pushing” (like a drug deal) to describe what Microsoft does here, gathering data on children and schools and then selling it, just like Gates and Murdoch [1, 2].
It is not nice when privacy abuses are marketed as helping poor kids. This is crude. █
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Summary: Facebook starts leaning on Microsoft for help now that its users (products) no longer log in and give data (content) to consume advertisements (Facebook’s real clients) as much as they used to
Irrespective of financial performance, Facebook is losing impact based on various metrics that we have tracked for years. Confirmatory media reports aside, Alexa ranks show Facebook peaking and then plateauing in 2011, finally suffering a statistically-significant decline of 4% in the past month alone. The past month has been exceptionally bad for Facebook, showing not just plateau but decline. In order to stay relevant, Facebook has been lobbying with Microsoft against public interests (this contributes to further isolation and alienation). Just like Yahoo, which is stuck with Microsoft after getting hijacked by Microsoft, Facebook is too closely aligned with Microsoft and against Google. As CNN put it, “Yahoo may want out of its search agreement with Microsoft, but the Internet giant doesn’t really have another option.” Yahoo nearly signed a Google deal some years ago, but Microsoft used AstroTurf tactics to stop it. Now Yahoo! is a dead man walking. Microsoft’s investment in Facebook has had a similar effect. It doesn’t let Facebook deviate from the ‘Microsoft line’.
“Facebook will decline from majority market share to negligible market share in years to come.”Now we discover that Bing, the Microsoft-censored ‘search’ which scrapes Google results pages, is to be further integrated with Facebook. Just like Nokia, Facebook will decline from majority market share to negligible market share in years to come. Don’t let Microsoft-friendly sites make it seem like Nokia after the Microsoft takeover is anything but irrelevant. Even they say that “if you are thinking that this new Lumia is giant leap forward for Nokia and Windows Phone, you are mistaken.”
Microsoft never helps companies. It devours of them. It leaves the unwanted bits out in the cold to rot. █
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Summary: Yahoo is left with no real capacity to provide search results of its own; Microsoft elongates the pain with another one-way (self-serving) deal
Yahoo is an excellent example of the toll of Microsoft’s behaviour. Many people lost their job, as I explained yesterday morning in a one-hour interview with a technology journalist. According to the news, Yahoo fell deeper into Microsoft’s trap, which will probably result in yet more cuts, affecting customers too (will Flicker be next to get shut down?). To quote: “Yahoo signed a deal with Microsoft in 2009 that came into force the following year and effectively turned Yahoo from an internet search engine provider into an advertising broker, with Microsoft’s Bing providing Yahoo’s internet search engine. The two firms signed a 10 year deal with exclusivity clauses that can be exited during the term, however Microsoft has signed a deal to continue being Yahoo’s exclusive search engine provider.
“There are other such search engines which use Microsoft results without it appearing so to the user.”“Tucked into Yahoo’s 10-K filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Microsoft’s decision to renew also revealed some interesting terms of the deal. For example, Microsoft gets just 12 percent of revenue generated by its search results, an amount that could decrease to seven percent if Microsoft doesn’t renew what Yahoo calls its “sales exclusivity for premium search advertisers”.”
There are other such search engines which use Microsoft results without it appearing so to the user. It is an effective strategy for Microsoft. Facebook is another example because Facebook shares its data with Microsoft, one of the most influential shareholders.
Yahoo is hijacked to very high a degree. iophk says “Yahoo is mostly a shell of a company now. It’s a bit like Nokia” (see our Nokia pages).
“Wait until the revisionists tell us that Yahoo killed itself.”Google’s Mayer made a last attempt to rescue Yahoo after Yahoo nearly signed a Google deal (Microsoft used AstroTurfers to covertly prevent this). Here is another report, stating that “Yahoo! Inc. (YHOO) Chief Executive Officer Marissa Mayer has attempted unsuccessfully to unravel a 10-year search-advertising pact with Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) in favor of a deal with Google Inc. (GOOG), according to people familiar with the matter.”
Nokia is going down the same road as Yahoo. Microsoft killed it. What went wrong with MeeGo? Microsoft bribed Nokia, put a mole in it, then ‘lost interest’ in MeeGo (the Microsoft alter-ego). Now it’s a patent trolls feeder for Microsoft. Watch this revisionism from TechRadar (often a source of FUD and bait headlines that hurt Linux). That’s not how most of us remember it. In fact, Nokia’s Linux-based handsets continued to outsell the Windows ones long after the Microsoft deal had been signed. Wait until the revisionists tell us that Yahoo killed itself. Revisionists did that to Netscape. █
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Summary: Microsoft is searching for new fear-mongering ideas as it loses online (services and servers)
The decline of Bing has been rapid and I now see it accounting for no more than 5% of search engine referrals in my sites (I manage about a dozen). Bing is dying, so Microsoft resorts to pathetic FUD. It resorts to FUD such as this Scroogled [1, 2] nonsense we covered here before while it is also lying and cheating with secret belated patches to daemonise Google’s server platform of choice. We still see Microsoft's partner Trustwave seeding Red Hat and Linux FUD, not noting that Microsoft even admits not disclosing patches. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichol has just written about this too:
Linux, Windows, and security FUD
It’s 2013. but the Linux FUD just keeps coming. In the most recent example, security firm Trustwave claimed that Linux kernel vulnerabilities went unpatched more than twice as long as it took to fix unpatched flaws in Windows. This assertion would be a lot more believable if it wasn’t coming from a Microsoft partner.
What no one seems to have bothered to do when they reported that Linux was far more lax about taking care of so-called zero-day flaws was to see where Trustwave was coming from. Had they bothered with even a simple Google search they would have found that the company had partnered with Microsoft to bring their application firewall to Internet Information Server (IIS). In particular, Trustwave made a point of boasting how they’d collaborated with the Microsoft Security Response Center (MSRC).
In the meantime, Linux, which I freely admit isn’t completely secure—no operating system on the planet ever will be—continues to be be trusted by the world’s biggest Web sites, such as Google, Facebook, and Wikipedia and by such mission-critical sites as the New York Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. Now, as it has been for decades, Linux remains more secure than Windows, and no FUD can refute this.
Watch out for Microsoft spin because a lot of it exists right now and we haven’t the capacity to track all of it anymore. Full-time job and family limit my ability to do this like I used to. █
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Summary: Bing keeps falling, now as low as 5th, according to a Microsoft-friendly source
Microsoft’s partners at ComScore deliver some raw numbers which show Microsoft declining in search (we still have an issue with proxies and we challenged them over it, only to receive a weak response).
RUSSIAN SEARCH ENGINE Yandex surpassed Microsoft on the number of monthly search queries worldwide in November and December 2012, according to a recently released Comscore report.
Microsoft websites processed 4.477 billion queries, while Yandex processed 4.844 billion.
As you’d expect, Google still reigned supreme with 114.73 billion search queries and 65.2 percent market share. Chinese search giant Baidu was second globally with 14.5 billion and 8.2 percent, and Yahoo came in third with 8.63 billion and 4.9 percent.
Bong [sic], the latest of many names for Microsoft’s search, has hardly gotten press in recent years. It got a lot of publicity when Microsoft paid a lot of money for this publicity. It all clearly failed because Microsoft still loses billions of dollars online. █
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