It's something of an open secret that Mozilla, the organization behind the open source Firefox Web browser, gets most of its funding from Google -- 91 percent, to be exact. The deal gives Google top placement in Firefox's search engine bar. But now that Google is also shipping Chrome, its own branded browser, some critics are asking whether the search engine giant's deep pockets have allowed it to gain too much influence over the Web browser market.
This week, Mozilla CEO John Lilly admitted that his organization's relationship with Google is "more complicated than it used to be" in light of the current funding arrangement. But Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwartz goes even further, claiming that because the market is controlled by just a few giant companies -- namely Google and Microsoft -- the Web browser has become "hostile territory" for application developers. Could the days of an open Web be coming to an end?
That's all well and good, except that arguably only Microsoft can compete with Google's share of the browser market. For example, Opera is a longstanding alternative browser that is often praised for its compliance with Web standards, but its market share is but a fraction of that of Firefox or IE. Because of Opera's narrower reach, a new feature introduced in Opera might be seen as less significant, and therefore be less likely to become part of the public standards.