Now that Netscape’s more or less officially dead, it occurs to me that it might be worthwhile for Google to bankroll the Mozilla Foundation, either by donating a substantial sum or by hiring several of the browser engineers. Google’s shown a penchant not just for being "not evil" but for supporting products and companies (ahem) that contribute to the web even if it’s not directly in the area of search.
Since Google’s all but announced that they’re no longer "just search", I’d probably amend my qualms about lack of focus and say that if Google wants to own the entire area of information innovation, they need to be significant contributors to the evolution of Mozilla.
Firebird is, finally, a usable browser, and damn close to the being the best in the world, if it isn’t already. Google’s shown the ability to get an installable client onto millions of desktops around the world. And they have a user experience focus that would nicely shore up the critical weakness that’s dogged Mozilla from day one. If the goal is now organizing and presenting information instead of just being the best search engine, then a browser client focused on information retrieval, search, and management is a great first step. And I’d give them better than even odds at being able to grow that application into a full microcontent client if they were so inclined.
What would be the business model? My mind tells me that a free, open-source browser with built-in hooks to Google services and APIs would be good enough to push increased usage of Google’s revenue-generating services and advertising. Microsoft has publicly conceded that they’re going for Google’s market, and Yahoo threw more than a billion and a half dollars at the Google problem earlier this week. Against those challenges, I’d say the onus is on Google to embrace and extend with a free product that’s better than anything the competition can offer: That’s what works.
So, a Google browser, based on Mozilla. An easily-justified commitment to cross-platform support and outstanding user experience, based on Google’s history of honoring those tenets and the Mozilla organization’s inherent preference for them. Culturally, hiring the core members of the Mozilla dev team would be an extraordinarily easy fit. And, frankly, it’d probably require little more development resources, bandwidth, or staffing than the Pyra acquisition did.
I’d pay $500 for a Google-branded microcontent management platform based on the Mozilla core if it were scriptable, stable, and integrated API-neutral blogging and aggregation tools. Or I’d pay $150 annually. So, Google, are you guys game for taking your position as a platform vendor seriously?