After updating to Firefox 98, scheduled on March 8, some users will notice that their default search engine has been changed. The change will affect users from all countries.
Mozilla has announced the change in one of its support articles. However, the announcement does not provide details on which search engine will be replaced by what.
Search providers in Firefox are country specific. The browser auto-installs them in form of add-ons after checking regional settings.
Why Firefox 98 will change the default search engine
The reason for forcing the search engine change is claimed as the lack of official agreement (formal permission). It makes impossible to ship certain search providers within the browser.
The support post says that the respective companies were offered to sign the agreement. Those that did not comply with the conditions will be removed. Back in 2017, Mozilla removed Yahoo from their search options for the same reason.
The user will be able to restore the changed search engine and make it default again. But in this case he will need to install an external search plug-in or add-on. This situation must be familiar to Linux Mint users where getting Google in Firefox used to be exactly the same procedure.
The change seems to be related to search traffic royalty agreements. They are a huge part of Mozilla's revenue. For example, in 2020, Mozilla's share of revenue from search traffic was 89%.
Google is the default search engine in the English version of Firefox. Yandex is the default search provider in the Russian and Turkish versions of the browser. Baidu is the default for China.
A deal with Google to route search traffic, which brings in about $400 million a year, has been extended in 2020 until August 2023.
Finally, here's one interesting fact. From the fall of 2021 until the end of January 2022, Mozilla was running an experiment. For 1% of Firefox users the browser set the Microsoft Bing search engine by default.
Perhaps one of the search partners failed to meet Mozilla's search quality and privacy requirements, and Bing is being considered as an option to replace it.
The original support post is here.
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