Former top Mozilla executive Johnathan Nightingale came forward over the weekend via a Twitter thread to flatly accuse Google of deliberately hindering progress for competing browsers, ZDNet reports. The now archived tweets suggest that while Google outwardly valued its partnership with the company during his time as General Manager and Vice President of the Firefox group at Mozilla, that wasn’t actually the case.
The former executive is quick to note that doesn’t extend to developers at Google, who seemed more genuine in their roles and were presumably not the source of the problems. It was the actions of Google itself that were subversive, if not outright dishonest and manipulative, Mr. Nightingale explains.
Problems appear to have started almost immediately after Google launched its own browser, with the company beginning to showcase ads for Google Chrome alongside search results for Firefox and related search terms. As time progressed that compounded with the sudden appearance of performance bugs and similar problems with the increasingly popular Gmail and Docs products and other ‘incompatibility’ issues.
Patterns began to emerge in the recurrent mistakes on Google’s part, Mr. Nightingale asserts, with the search giant fixing the problems on its end but Firefox ultimately losing another handful of users to Chrome. By the time the company caught on to that pattern, dozens or “maybe” hundreds of instances had happened and Firefox had lost a lot of ground.
The shady behavior to watch for…
In spite of Google’s apparent mistakes — or misdeeds — ultimately knocking Firefox back while Chrome stole the spotlight, Mr. Nightingale does not appear to harbor any hard feelings against the search giant. Instead, he places the blame for the turn of events on Mozilla and himself, in particular, beseeching other companies to be more attentive to systemic organizational bad behavior.
Returning to his own experience with Google, the former executive says that red flags should have gone up because of the sustained nature of the mistakes and delays on fixes. Google is a highly efficient machine, as is any organization, and individual attachments do not factor into the equation. Once a goal is set, all bets are effectively off.
…that everybody takes part in where they can
Mozilla isn’t likely the only company to have had a similar experience with Google regardless of whether the inherently undermining behavior was, in fact, deliberate. Firefox was not the only competing browser in the space.
Its position in the market was largely bolstered by ongoing bids in other areas, including web-based communications and moves to push boundaries forward in terms of web applications. By 2008, the company had also started work on Android, eventually leading its OS to become the most popular in the world.
The wide scope of Google’s projects across many different segments of the industry — which it still holds — positioned it so that the company not only could but needed to focus on its own requirements first to accomplish its goals. Coupled with seemingly less-than-above-board practices such as what probably equated to taking advantage of any search for a ‘browser’ to put forward its own browser is fairly anti-competitive.
In the software space, Apple’s decision to allow Google’s apps on its own marketplace for iOS but to only port over a few applications to Android is a prime example of another company taking a similar tact. The practice isn’t as readily marked as a cheat and Apple isn’t obligated to oblige but there was nothing in place to prevent Google’s actions as outlined above either.
Staying with the iPhone manufacturer, the company has infamously held out in terms of not allowing browsers other than Safari to be set as the default on its smartphones. The quirk of iOS is similar to Google’s tactic of requiring installation of its own apps on Android handsets by default, prompting anti-trust suits against the search giants. Google has summarily lost a large number of those cases and been required to change its policies.
There are key differences, such as Apple wholly owning iOS as its sole manufacturer compared to Google’s open-source, multi-OEM approach. The fact remains that dominance is often the result of one company one-upping another and the type of activity Google stands accused of — guilty or not — is not at all uncommon.