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Push Firefox, Make Cash

November 11, 2005

Good news: Google will now pay you $1 every time you successfully refer someone to download and install Firefox (a version pre-loaded with the Google toolbar, of course). US-only for now, it seems.

Firefox has seen an amazing adoption rate, but it has been slowing down. This is a huge boost. Combine the cries of frustrated web designers and developers over the past few years, the plethora of anti-IE sites by designers for end users, the reach of people building web sites who are thoroughly and utterly sick of supporting IE6, and the lure of cash. Any bets on how many percentage points Firefox is about to jump?

Somehow this flew under my radar last week, but I don’t see many people talking about it. It seems pretty important. Google has the pockets for this (scamming aside), and given the past year or so of rumbling in their direction from Microsoft, the motivation as well.

Kyle says:
November 11, 13h

Perhaps you didn’t see many people talking about it because of the circles you walk… I saw tons of coverage, but then again I follow a lot of Web Publishing / Advertising circles :)

Although, it’s fair to note that the Kill Bill Browser site is new, and (no matter what they say) 100% for profit venture. Not saying it’s bad, merely saying it doesn’t belong with the others you mentioned.

Oh, and damn I wish I had thought of it!

Stellaris says:
November 11, 13h


am I the only one to find this sort of “endeavour”/strategy rather… disgusting?

Paying people to promote their browser of choice appears pretty weird to me. To me it seems to be even worse than the point system at spreadfirefox.

Or am I missing some important point? If so, please enlighten me.

November 11, 13h

“am I the only one to find this sort of “endeavour”/strategy rather… disgusting?”

No, you’re not.

Dave S. says:
November 11, 13h

Huh? Paying content providers to include promotions for your product is called ‘advertising’. How exactly is this worse than Amazon’s referral program, for example?

Kenneth says:
November 11, 13h

“am I the only one to find this sort of “endeavour”/strategy rather… disgusting?”

Nope, even though I firmly believe Firefox deserves the attention.

Carlos Bernal says:
November 11, 14h

It’s a great idea (feelings aside), this is the only realistic way to push FF into the mainstream.

“am I the only one to find this sort of “endeavour”/strategy rather… disgusting?”

Well I’m sure there are others who f-e-e-l like you do, but then again we always have the profit-is-evil people with us.

Don’t knock it, there should be an incentive of this sort…otherwise FF is doomed to be used only by 10%-15% max. I can see computer makers installing FF to get their cut…great stuff!

Dave S. says:
November 11, 14h

Okay, that makes three in a row without a dissenting voice, which makes me wonder if I’m missing something fundamental here. Is this, in fact, something different than Amazon’s referral program? Or are you just bristling at the fact Google is advertising an open source product, as any major software company would advertise one of their in-house solutions?

Now’s the time to disclose your bias, folks – if you’re of the RMS “software should be free” camp and this is just an extension of that, fine, we don’t have to continue this discussion. Otherwise help me understand what exactly makes this worse than a typical banner ad promotional campaign.

dragev says:
November 11, 14h

Stellaris: I think you are missing an important point. Google is promoting Web standards and making money at it (as Dave pointed out). I hope this “endeavour” will help break the IE monopoly so that developers can stop worrying about IE’s “special” behavior.

Kyle says:
November 11, 15h

Wait wait wait… Google’s not just paying to promote free & open software? They might actually be trying to turn a profit? *gasp*

Wisen up kids. This isn’t the land of sugar canes and fairytales. It’s a real world. It’s a money-driven world.

In the long run, this is the least intrusive and malcontent of pay-per-install campaigns. Most are trojan ad-delivering mechanisms installed through ActiveX.

If you find this campgin disgusting, you better rethink what the internet is about. (Hint: M _ _ _ Y)

Junap says:
November 11, 17h

you left out an underscore. I like to think the Internet is all about M O N K E Y :)

Tommaso says:
November 11, 17h

I perfectly agree with dragev: two or three years ago we thought that there wasn’t (and there wouldn’t be in the future) a “force” really able to tidy up years and years of bad web developement (caused by IE, Netscape, proprietary web standards and so on …). The web was a jungle of bad markup, bad structure and bad design. The major companies kept on developing software that produced bad code (for the happiness and comfort of lazy developers, bad race) and reduced the Internet to a descharge.
Now finally a young company, powered by people full of new ideas is trying to become “that” force, for the benefit of the User. I must agree! Firefox has been an enormous step towards a better web, Google too, and the spread of web standards too again.
Go on boys, the golden age is (almost) back. ;)

(Apologies for my english.)

November 11, 17h

Call me paranoid, but I think Google is pushing Firefox because of the tabbed browsing.

They want to turn as many people as they can into power browsers like probably most of the people reading this site.

Regular people go to a page, click one link at a time, read the page and hit back if they don’t find what they were looking for, then click a second link, etc.

They really want us all to click open half a dozen links in different tabs, then read the tabs at leisure and close the pages we don’t need without reading–but, crucially, after having opened them in a tab.

AdSense people, AdSense.

And the toolbar? Anyone read the “not the usual yada yada” recently?

[removes tin foil hat]

Tommaso says:
November 11, 17h

Tabbed browsing is the power of AdSense, yes ;) I always click on the AdSense of websites I like, because:

1) The tabs do not annoy me, also if they reach websites I don’t care to (but then I always take a look).
2) It’s a good way to support good websites.

I like the Google politic. :)

Fahed says:
November 11, 19h

Now i know why everyone has a “Get FireFox” button on their sites.

Sean says:
November 11, 20h

There is nothing wrong with Google promoting Firefox, considering the competition forces their browser on clients since they incorporated it into the OS. I know many of you want to think that a grass roots effort to make the web IE-free is not only possible but the only way to go, however I think reality has finally caught up with all of us who were too busy dazed by early adoption numbers to realize the common user just doesn’t care about their browser. Paying individuals to help promote the browser will help re-energize the base and allow Firefox to grow once more, and in the process make Google some money back (there is certainly no harm in that).

Lets stop looking through the Firefox/GPL/Opensource RDF for a moment and realize that it will take corporate backing, lots of money and marketing to undo what IE did to the web by promoting Firefox. I expect this to be the first of many corporate ventures supporting Firefox, and I welcome them all. The more market share Firefox and standards-based browsers take the less I have to hear from idiot clients who don’t want to pay me a few hours extra to bullet-proof a layout to work on Firfox/Safari/et al and IE <= 5.5. I’m tired of clients who think IE 6 is the only browser out there, and the only way these people will come to understand that is not by their webmaster/designer/etc telling them they need to switch, but by a targeted marketing campaign. That takes money, and that takes a risk low enough that investors will see a return, or profit. If that keeps you up at night, then stock up on the Pepto, because without investors like Google the future of your designs will continue to bring stress and agony into your life.

November 12, 04h

This is advertising for Google, pure and simple - and it’s damn good at that. By supporting open source browsers like FF, Google maintains it’s brand identity, which is a value-added at best. But really what they’re doing is pure, smart advertising.

The toolbar gives them a lot of relevant data, and the default homepage for Firefox is Google while the default homepage for IE is MSN. In other words, if Google can get you to switch to a browser that has Google set as the home page and has a Google search bar, there is a much higher liklihood you’ll see Google ads.

I think Google also wants to win some mindshare from Microsoft.

I’m not complaining, and I’m glad to see Firefox gain marketshare. But this isn’t just Google being nice to the community - there is some serious business here, and you can tell Google has Microsoft in it’s sights.

Alan says:
November 12, 05h

Google has the money and people to be able to make their own browser loaded with toolbars, search boxes and adverts!

Why do you think they haven’t just built their own?


Paul says:
November 12, 06h

Alan, people don’t want a browser “loaded with toolbars, search boxes and adverts,” which is perhaps why they haven’t built one as such.

The other reason being, of course, that Google isn’t in the browser market, and building a browser isn’t as easy as some seem to think. (Hell, even Microsoft are -seemingly- incapable.) It would take years.

Firefox has the other slice of the marketshare, and is highly popular amongst web developers, who are the ones who use Adsense in the first place.

November 12, 06h

Am I the only one who had an “it’s about time” reaction to this? As was stated above, to really push Firefox into the mainstream, someone’s going to have to pour some large amounts of marketing cash into it.

I’m glad that it’s happening now, because I think it’s long overdue. And I’m glad it’s a heavyweight like Google who’s backing it. There’s only so much that sites like spreadfirefox and others can do.

Sam says:
November 12, 07h

You know that regardless of what show your mind might be putting on for you, the larger amount of web designers don’t care about what web browser the customer is using. However, if someone in their company stumbles upon the campaign, I figure it’ll go down something like this.

“Hey Bill, guess what I found.”


“Google’s sponsoring some program, seems like if we get them downloads, they’ll give us money!”

“Free money, woot! Add a link onto all of our sites.”

Regardless of whether this is winning people over the right way or not, it’s still winning people over.

November 12, 08h

This is all great news for the web, but if more and more people migrate over to Firefox, that means spyware programmers will also migrate over to Firefox. Well I guess you have to win a little and lose a little for this one.

Mike D. says:
November 12, 09h

This is actually just a consumer permutation of something Google has been doing for quite awhile now: paying to speed the distribution of their toolbar.

Google has deals with a small handful of significant companies (see RealNetworks) and they have been quietly paying them exactly $1 per toolbar download for over a year now. Basically, any company with any sort of wide distribution that is able to bundle the Google toolbar with their product is eligible to get in on this deal… albeit, these have been one-off, individual deals up until this point.

So what’s happening here is that Google is just taking that program to the next level, to the consumer. It’s an even better deal for Google in fact, because not only do they continue to get their new toolbar users, but they begin to push people away from IE and towards Firefox… a browser which quite possibly will be almost a *necessity* to use some of their upcoming offerings.

What do I think? Genius. Of course.

November 12, 12h

I’d disagree that this is a ‘huge’ boost. Huge means it’s something that breaks out of the blogger/web-savvy culture, and FireFox has only started to scrape the edges of that frontier. It’s taken a good chip out of IE’s market share, but the distance it has to travel is still far, far greater than how far it has come to date. That said, it is indeed a boost, and there’s no arguing that.

As for how I feel about the promotion, lots of websites and companies offer bonuses to people for successful referrals. Google is different in that it’s putting a price tag on its bonus, and delivers it in cash. Referral promotions are always a ‘string attached’ sort of affair that exploit the good will between people to make a sale, or in this case acquire a download. It’s just a fact of marketing, though not a savory one.

Michael says:
November 12, 12h

Related to Kill Bill’s Browser is this how-to site:

Looks like it’s trying to kick-start the phenomenon you’re predicting– for all the web designers that are fed up…

trovster says:
November 13, 05h

I think this is a good thing for the web, regardless of who’s making what money. Hey, we all promoted Firework to friends and family already, might as well make a tiny bit of cash out of it…

I’m wondering why they’re actually doing this. Google have got Ben Goodger and four members of the orginial IE team on their payroll. Why promote a browser when you’re building your own (we know they are… come on!). My take; they’re gonna buy Firefox/Mozilla? It’s already got popularity, why compete?

Stellaris says:
November 13, 09h


let me clarify my point-of-view, even if it’s a little late in the game:

Of course I know that what Google is doing is what is generally termed “advertising” or “promotion”, but that wasn’t actually my point. Maybe I didn’t make that clear enough, I was pretty psyched up at the moment I wrote the initial comment.

That Google’s behaviour is apparently acceptable in the world of business is a no-brainer. Maybe I’m merely puzzled and a teensy bit revolted that the *users* will probably jump up on the bandwagon because of the payment. To me that’s an extension/similar to the point system at spreadfirefox where you receive reputation by converting people to use Firefox. The more people use Firefox, the better. I totally agree. But I don’t like the idea of offering the users incentives for spreading the word.

Since my comments were and are mostly based on a negative gut feeling I’m having with the whole affair, it’s hard to actually discuss the matter I guess. But I know that I won’t promote Firefox, because someone offers to pay me for doing so or awards silly points at some community site so I can ride the cool wave.

I’m glad that there were a few people who seemed to share my *feelings* about the topic, I did not intend to win anybody over.

Jessica says:
November 13, 12h

This sounds like a great way to make some quick cash selling a great program so I signed up.Look forward to making a few bucks off Google and Firefox both are programs I use daily!!

Tommaso says:
November 13, 16h

Anyway I think it was better if Google directly paid Firefox developers :P

sosa says:
November 13, 22h

I can’t understand why everything which matters is always “US Only”… or maybe, it still can be “US, Canada and Europe Only” but the point is nobody seem to care about Latinamerica. That’s sad.

will says:
November 14, 04h

I’m all for it for about 100 reasons. That said, why is it odd that some folks might not be for it? You dont have to be a member of the GPL/open source world or be particularly paranoid to feel like google is sort of becoming big brother. not in the chummy greg brady sorta way.

Like I said, I’m all for it and think it’s great news for lots of folks but seeing the google toolbar in every browser in the world is not exactly something I can get excited about.

Andreas says:
November 14, 06h

It seems to be a wise decision both for google and the Firefox will be spreadened even more and google will confirm its dominion in the search engine market.

May be it could be also a push for webstandards for the sake of better search engine results in the not-so-distant future.

It has the dim feeling that mozilla org could be compromised in some way by googles money @stellaris, but on the other hand, open source or free software costs a lot of time and money to develop.
The more people share the “firefox experience”, the easier it will be to open up new personal or financial resources.

daavq says:
November 14, 07h

I like firefox and IE. I think that we need to be careful to not give any one company too much business or control when it comes to the internet. When one group controls it then it becomes much easier for them to limit users access/presence. I’m thinking to say pro-democracy sites or anti-Bush sites or whatever.

The internet is still the wild West anyone can plop on a website now about whatever they feel like. It should remain that way. And so should browsers.

AlastairC says:
November 14, 15h

trovster wrote::
“Why promote a browser when you’re building your own”

Why build your own when there is a perfectly good one that is free to use? They can create their own (Googlised) version of it, and still keep up with the updates from the main source. Very smart, and still good for FF. Google likes to create win-win situations, let’s hope this is another.

They have one of the main guys from Firefox, plus Hixie formerly of Opera, and they are usability testing the browser:

If they keep feeding this back to the main ‘branch’, it’s all good :)

Oleg says:
November 15, 06h

Read one more time…US only mean that only Us;)

Caleb says:
November 15, 08h

It’s all about standards folks. Google recognizes the need for this and hears the cries of web designers. Microsoft refuses to listen to the designers. I think Google is doing us all a favor. Let us rid ourselves of IE. If we want to be really brave, we can stop designing sites that are compatible with IE and force the download. Risky, yes, but if enough designers do it the phasing out of IE could be possible.

November 16, 17h

It seems like there is consesus among the people that responded that Firefox is a great product. Having said that, I *wish* we lived in a world where that was enough to get people using it. Unfortuately, there are still plenty of people out there who’ve either missed all the publicity surrounding FF lately or don’t understand why it’s better than IE. Hopefully seeing a few Get Firefox banners around will increase adoption.
As AlistairC pointed out, this seems win-win. Google gets their toolbar out there and FF gets some additional users subsidized by Google. In addition, the people who use FF get a chance to make a little extra money. It’s not any different than AdSense displays on web sites except at least in this instance, the site owner has control over the product being advertised for.

Jerome Bautista says:
November 16, 22h

It’s sad that the web developers are still talking about what browser to promote. I don’t think you’d feel the same way about MSIE if you were to put yourself in Bill’s shoes. If you are business-minded why would you fix something which makes you profit? If you can’t accept that MOZ-FF will not lead the browser wars in the next 5-10 years then just create something any smart developer would do, know thy audience and design something that wouldn’t break as much. There are a lot of fancy tricks you can always resort to if it’s really a big issue you know. Start coding and stop complaining… yes life is so unfair.

I’m just happy MOZ-FF is striving to be the greatest browser there is. Let’s just hope we get to see the day that it wins over MSIE. I’m all for standards but sometimes, complaining doesn’t do much.

Roger says:
November 17, 23h

“It’s all about standards folks. Google recognizes the need for this and hears the cries of web designers.”

Come on, it’s all about the toolbar. Google recognizes that preinstalling their toolbar will make profit, way beyond the $1 they pay the referrer.

November 20, 03h

I read a comment over @ slashdot that said a Toolbar user is worth something like $50/yr to Google.

While I’m sure Google will profit immensely from this, it doesn’t hurt Firefox either.

November 20, 03h

Sorry the address for the slashdot post:

November 20, 15h

Nothing wrong with a little bit of “advertising.” As a FF user, having the google toolbar handy has been a great time saver for myself.

Jon says:
November 22, 10h

It’s not just because wants to make more money and beat Microsoft and IE. Google also like to do good things and support some positive software projects. For example they spent at lest $12.4 million on the summer of code.

Ivan says:
November 24, 08h

Am I the only one to see that the Google’s aim with this initiative is not to promote Firefox, but to collect information? The Google toolbar sends important information to Google servers.

It may sound paranoic, but I see the new Micro$oft comming, big sharks hold GG now and they want more, more and more M _ _ _ Y. In long run the Firefox bundled with toolbar and Google Statistics will bring more harm than profit to site owners as GG will use the information collected to divert users flow from regular web sites.

December 04, 07h

I’ve been asking friends to download and use Firefox. Now, I’ll be asking them to go to my site and click the link to download Firefox :)

Unfortunately this Firefox referral program is only available to publishers in the U.S.

But I guess they will soon add some more tabs in there (more Google products/service on affiliate marketing).

Xrew says:
December 05, 10h

Its wondeful idea. Firefox works much better than IE. Now we can get money for that. Intresting What will make Microsoft for popularization IExplorer 7? It is bad, that this marketing politics operates only in the USA.:(

Abilio says:
April 04, 03h

Whats wrong with google colecting data?
At least they are prety straightforward about that. I didn’t see anyone in here complaining about the Alexa/MSN similar behaviour. Worse, they don´t talk about that and it comes with the SO. And who knows exactly what they collect… At least FF should have no direct access to other things in my PC.
About the “add browser”… Anyone remembers what happened to Opera when they did it?