Mozilla today said that income from search partners climbed 31% last year, hinting at the reportedly lucrative deal the open-source foundation struck with fierce browser rival Google.
Royalties, almost all of which come from search services like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and others, were $161.9 million, up by nearly a third from 2010's $123.2 million.
Nearly all the Mozilla Foundation's 2011 revenue came from search providers, which paid the organization for leading Firefox users to their websites. In 2011, royalty payments accounted for 99% of the year's income, slightly lower than the share of Mozilla's revenue attributed to search in the last three years, when losses in other areas, such as the organization's investments or currency exchanges, pushed total income below that of royalties.
Mozilla Foundation is the not-for-profit organization that oversees Mozilla Corp., the commercial firm that develops Firefox for desktop and notebook PCs and Macs, and Android smartphones.
According to the audited financial statement (download PDF) released Thursday, total revenues for 2011 were $163.5 million, up 35% from 2010's $121.1 million.
Historically, Google has accounted for most of Mozilla's search royalties; in 2011, Google's payments made up 85% of the total, or $137.6 million.
Last year's dramatic boost in Google's contribution -- 32.9% over the year before -- was a significant uptick from past years' increases. Google's average annual increase during the five-year period from 2006 to 2010 was 16.8%, less than half of last year's.
Although the boost could have been due to more Firefox users, it seems unlikely, as the browser's share of the global market has slipped 16% in the last 12 months, according to Web metrics firm Net Applications.
The more likely reason: The three-year search agreement that Mozilla and Google signed late last year.
According to reports, the new deal required Google to pay Mozilla almost $300 million annually to keep its search engine the default in Firefox.
The two companies acknowledged the new contract in late December 2011; both declined to comment on the specifics of the deal, or confirm the $300 million annual payment.