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Interview with Tristan Nitot, president of Mozilla Europe

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We have the opportunity to interview Tristan Nitot (in italiano su Webnews), president of Mozilla Europe. Tristan speaks about the relashionship between Mozilla and Google, Chrome and the future of Firefox on mobile platforms.

When the economic crisis began, many have wondered what was the real sustainability of those businesses that rely on less traditional business. Going to the heart of the problem: which is the Mozilla Foundation´s response to the pressures of economic crisis?

Most of the Mozilla revenue comes from deals from Search Engine partners. They receive traffic from the Firefox start page or the Firefox search box (on the top-right corner of the browser) and pay Mozilla for it. So far, we are not concerned by the crisis. We´re a very frugal organization from the start, so we´re ready to face the crisis, should it hit us.

In the past there have been many speculations regarding the dependence of Mozilla from funds derived from Google. Today what is the amount of total revenue for the group?

It is true that Google is our number one partner in terms of revenue, around 80%. A little known fact is that Mozilla is saving a significant chunk of its revenue into a "reserve fund", so that if a contract with one of our search partners was to suddenly stop, we would not have to seek a new partner in emergency. We´re also working on diversification of our revenue.

What Mozilla thinks about Chrome and how it could be the relationship between the browser and the two companies in the coming years?

Chrome is clearly a competitor, and Google is certainly a company that deeply understands the Web, has bright engineers, a good brand and a lot of money. So even if Chrome does not have significant market share, it does has a lot of potential to be a serious competitor in the future. Now I think that Chrome is aiming at displacing Internet Explorer, because it´s painful for Google to depend on its rival Microsoft´s Internet Explorer to deliver Google´s services. On top of this, Internet Explorer, as a browser, is lagging from a features point of view, so this limits Google´s ability to innovate and deliver new services. On the other hand, Firefox is innovative and fast, and it does not belong to Microsoft. For Google, Microsoft´s Internet Explorer is the target, not Firefox.

Internet Explorer Vs. Everyone: Opera´s accusation at the European Commission is bound to be raising discussions for a long time. Should the EU accept the procecutor´s thesys, what could the new scenario be like? Perhaps, more browsers available on Windows-based systems alongside IE? Or production deals for OEM supplies? Other than this, what solutions could offer the best opportunities for the market?

It´s a very difficult discussion to have. As we all know, Microsoft is guilty of violating the US anti-trust laws, and it is abusing its monopoly power on Windows to extend it to the browser, which is illegal. So the market is really broken. Now, the issue is that technology regulation is really hard to do well. In some cases, it won´t be useful, while sometimes it´s going to be worse than the problem it´s trying to fix. Mitchell Baker is discussing all of this on her blog. See her series of blog posts on this topic:

Mozilla is landing on the mobile market. In the long term, which could be the most profitable industry: desktop or mobile?

It´s hard to say, and Mozilla does not approach things this way. We´re a not-for-profit organization, so we´re not about maximizing profit. The reason we want to build a mobile browser is that mobile is very important, as more and more people will be using the Web from their mobile phones (or MID / Mobile Internet Devices), so if Mozilla wants to stay relevant overall and push our mission and stay true to the Mozilla Manifesto, we need to be also relevant in Mobile. (Mozilla Manifesto in Italian: ). This is why we´re hard at work on our Mobile browser, codenamed Fennec. We should soon see a version for Nokia´s N810 (which runs Linux), then a version for Windows Mobile, then Symbian.

Second Life. Facebook. YouTube. Great projects with big revenue problems. The "social" part of the Web has to prove its maturity. What differentiates a project such as Mozilla?

We´re very different in at least 2 or 3 ways.

#1 - As I said earlier, we´re a not-for-profit organization. We do need money to operate, but it´s not our goal. The services you mention are for-profit companies. I´m not saying that we´re better than them, but we are very different, both in our goals and ways to operate.

#2 - We have already reached sustainability several years ago and of course plan to remain sustainable.

#3 - Another thing is that we´re Open Source. What we do is public, transparent, community-based and reusable by others. If you want to build a competitor to Firefox, you can download our source code, find a new name for it (you can´t call your browser "Firefox") and there you are! You can´t do this kind of things with Second Life, Facebook or YouTube...

If you were forced to use a second browser alongside Firefox, which would you choose and why?

That´s a very interesting question. I love Firefox´ ability to be customized via add-ons (extensions and themes), and I´m sure I would have a hard time using another browser. I love testing new extensions and I´m fascinated by the innovation it enables. Because it´s easy to create extensions, people with silly ideas come up with very cool prototypes of crazy ideas.

I think I´d use Seamonkey ( ), because it has extensions or Camino ( ) on the Mac. They´re both based on Firefox. If you run Windows, Chrome is pretty good, and if you have a Mac, Safari is nice (I don´t like it on Windows, though). I sometimes use Opera too, which runs on the 3 platforms.

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