Thursday, June 26, 2014

How do you boycott free?

I have a question in the wake of the Brendan Eich business.  I’ve never installed the Firefox browser on my laptop; Internet Explorer handles my browsing needs just fine, thanks.  I have an older desktop that’s still in service, but IE bogs down so we use Google Chrome instead.  I do have Firefox installed on my work computer; I have a couple of programs that require it, and my experience is that it is modestly more robust that IE on our crappy government networks.

But my question is, how do Mozilla and Google make money on free stuff?  Google supposedly makes money on targeted advertising and on selling consumer data for marketing purposes.  But while I regularly use Google for internet shopping, I have never – not once that I can recall – clicked on an embedded Google “targeted” advertisement and bought something.

And Mozilla?  They’re not even a search engine!  The only product they make that I know about is Firefox.  I assume they have an option to track my browsing history, but the user can opt out of that (as I have done at work).

So while I’ll be happy to help punish Mozilla for gross moral turpitude, I don’t actually understand the path a dollar takes from my wallet to Mozilla.

Any explanation would be appreciated.


Felicity said...

The main way Mozilla makes its money is by partnering with Google, who actually makes a lot more money off of advertising than you think.

If you go to the homepage of Firefox(the default start page) you'll see that Firefox by default tries to get you to use Google. They don't do this because they like Google, but because Google gives them $$$.

The default search engines you can use in the top right dropdown box next to the url bar also has a sampling over other companies that gives money to Firefox to exist there.

This is the 2009 financial report:

and while a bit outdated, still is fairly accurate.

LDiracDelta said...

Since firefox is getting their money circuitously through advertising, install Ad-Block Plus and it will strip out adds on many many web sites. The effect is very nice.

* Adblock Plus for Firefox

* Ad-Block Plus for Chrome

Also, as a fellow Christian, I wish to guard my eyes from some of the crap you see on British websites. You can right click on a webpage's content and have Ad Block Plus always strip out content that matches your rules. This works best in Chrome.

newrebeluniv said...

But my question is, how do Mozilla and Google make money on free stuff?


trumwill said...

Like Felicity says, Mozilla gets money from Google. They also have comparatively low labor costs since they rely heavily on free labor. Somebody may donate them bandwidth.

Google's ads are effective when appropriately targeted. It's not just ads that occur when I am on some Google service, but what I input seems to effect the ads I see everywhere. I don't think it's a coincidence that I see an insane number of Lenovo ads. While I've never clicked on one and purchased a ThinkPad, it is how I know when the new series of Thinkpads have been released. I would assume that Google gets money for brand profiling, so that Lenovo knows whose computers they need to put ads on.

Dr. Φ said...

The default search engines you can use in the top right dropdown box next to the url bar also has a sampling over other companies that gives money to Firefox to exist there.

@Felicity: I'm not sure I understand. Aren't search rankings determined by Google?

@Delta: I installed AdBlock on Chrome here at home. It does seem to block the YouTube ads.

@Trumwill: But doesn't Google control the ads? How does Lenovo get to determine which computers to put ads on? And how would they know if you never click on any ads?

trumwill said...

I assume that Google sells adspace to Lenovo with the salespitch that "We will use our wealth of usage data to target these most specifically to people who are interested in your projects."

It's up to Lenovo to believe that salespitch or not (just like "We estimate 5,000 people look at this billboard every day!"), but it's certainly more credible coming from Google than elsewhere.

trumwill said...

Tangential, but related: Google stripped my smartphone of a feature that I consider to be crucial, so I ended up rooting it. Prior to this, I'd never had any real need to. Anyway, since it's already rooted and all, I got it to disable all in-app ads. The rooting was actually worth it for that alone.

Dr. Φ said...

Was it an Android? I like the sound of this "rooting" business.

trumwill said...

It was indeed an Android phone. There is an app for Android that seems to work with most phones (check before doing anything on yours) that will root it. After rooting it and installing SDFix so that I could have all of my MicroSD capabilities back, I installed another one called Adfree.

A warning, though: rooting voids your warranty.

(Sorry for the delayed response. I've been on the road and it wasn't letting me respond on my phone.)