The Mozilla Foundation today released its financial report for 2020. As usual, this gives us a good picture of the organization’s financial health from a year ago, but for the first time this year, Mozilla also provided us with more recent data.
It’s no secret that Mozilla recently went through a number of difficult years, with major layoffs in 2020 as it restructured its for-profit arm, Mozilla Corporation. Its flagship Firefox browser, despite a number of technical advances, is also struggling in a marketplace that is now dominated by Chromium-based browsers. Still, in 2020, Mozilla Corporation’s revenue was $466 million from its search partnerships (largely driven by its search deal with Google), subscriptions and advertising revenue. That’s essentially the same as in 2019, when Mozilla Corporation generated $465 million from these sources.
For 2021, the organization forecasts revenue of over $500 million.
What’s maybe most important, though, is that Mozilla’s new products like its Mozilla VPN service, Firefox Relay Premium, Pocket and other commercial initiatives are slowly but surely starting to pay off. As Mozilla executive VP Angela Plohman and CFO Eric Muhlheim noted in today’s announcement, revenue from new product offerings will grow 150% this year and account for 14% of the organization’s revenue in 2021. The Mozilla VPN service saw a revenue increase of 450% from 2020 to 2021.
Still, in 2020, 86% of Mozilla’s revenue in 2020 came from its search deal with Google. That may be down from 88% in 2019, but for all intents and purposes, Mozilla remains fully dependent on Google for the time being.
Diversifying its revenue sources is really the only way for Mozilla to decrease its reliance on a search deal with a company that is both a competitor, thanks to its dominant Chrome browser, and is increasingly out of alignment with Mozilla’s overall philosophy.
“As advertising changes and the future of the web’s business model hangs in the balance, we have been exploring new and responsible ways to monetize that align with our values and set us apart,” Mitchell Baker, CEO and chairwoman of Mozilla Foundation, writes in today’s announcement. “We’ve long believed the deprecation of cookies and a reckoning of the online advertising ecosystem was coming — and was much needed. Now it is here, and we are positioned to navigate the industry toward a new model of responsible advertising that respects people while delivering value to companies. By building products for the future, we are building a business for the future.”
At the end of the day, though, what Mozilla needs is for more users to adopt (or come back to) its services, whether that’s its browser or its VPN. There is a window here for a non-Chrome browser, with users increasingly skeptical about Google’s motivations and Microsoft’s Edge team making a few missteps in recent months. Yet at the same time, Mozilla’s efforts to bring sponsored suggestions and ads to Firefox haven’t necessarily endeared the organization to its own users either.