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Apple 'undermines the Internet,' charges Mozilla CEO

March 25, 2008 12:00 PM ET

Nor is it, Lilly said yesterday, about the money -- as some, including ZDNet's Larry Digman, have wondered. "There's no subtext in my message," said Lilly. "Not once did money come into my head when I was thinking about this. Competition, yes. In many many ways, this is about more competition."

Mozilla makes the bulk of its revenues from its relationship with Google Inc. Indeed, that relationship accounted for 85% of the $67 million Mozilla posted as revenues in 2006, the last year for which it has made financial information public. The search giant pays Mozilla for assigning the Google search engine as Firefox's default, and for click-throughs on ads placed on the ensuing search results pages. Because Apple's Safari also uses Google as its default, some speculated that Lilly's Apple attack was profit-motivated.

"It's not about the money," Lilly answered when asked about that issue. "The money thing is the money thing. If we don't build a better browser, we'll lose users, and that's fine. That's the way the market should work."

One security analyst played it cautious. "Let's say it was unexpected," said Andrew Storms, director of security operations at nCircle Network Security Inc., when asked to comment on Apple's move. "I did not expect Apple to bundle something else with its iTunes updates, so in a sense I do object to what Apple did, because it didn't explicitly define what it would include beforehand."

And Storms thought Lilly scored at least one hit when the Mozilla CEO said he would have had no problem with Apple's Safari distribution path if it had allowed users to opt in to the browser download instead of having it be automatic. "Then it's a different story," said Storms. "And [Lilly] has made a valid point. More than half, maybe even as much as 90% of users just accept what's offered."

"The world is a complex place," said Lilly. "There are new offerings on the Internet all the time, and we're all trying to figure out together how to be respectful of users."

This time, though, he made it clear that he thought Apple had stepped over the line. And he was unrepentant for taking on the company. "I think they've undermined the work that we're doing on security and updates," he said.

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