The end of 2011 brought Mozilla back into news. The company released Firefox 9 as the next installment of their open source web browser and announced a new business deal – on the official blog Mozilla announced that they have signed a new agreement with Google.

Mozilla will continue to have Google set as the default search in Firefox for at least another three years, while Google will share some of their advertising revenue with them. For Mozilla such agreements are very important, since it is the only way for them to earn money.

The specific terms of the agreement are not officially disclosed, but it is estimated that about 80% of the $123 million income came from this agreement in 2010. This time, apparently Microsoft and Yahoo had competing interests in this position which raised the amount Google had to pay for being the default search provider to $300 million annually. At least that what unnamed sources disclosed to All Things D. Given that the deal lasts until 2014, this means almost a cool $1 billion for Mozilla. Not bad for a free browser…

Dwindling market share

Source: StatCounter Global Stats - Browser Market Share

In terms of market share, Firefox is slowly losing users. In the second half of November, Google Chrome for the first time eclipsed Firefox globally. Over the course of 2011 Firefox's share declined from almost 31% to a bit over 25%. Meanwhile Chrome was able to climb from about 15% to 27%. Chrome is not only winning over Firefox users, but also people from the Internet Explorer camp, which is down at about 38% (from around 46% at the beginning of 2011).

As a consequence of the rapid release model started earlier this year, Firefox version numbers are now going through the roof. This is done to reduce the amount of time until a feature gets into the hands of the users. At the end of the day, Mozilla published more versions of Firefox in 2011 than in the whole history of the project that started way back in 2003.

This version includes performance improvements of the JavaScript engine by up to 30%. This is made possible through a technique called Type Inference. In JavaScript values are dynamically typed, the actual type is usually only determined at runtime. Type Inference generates type information by analyzing the code and optimizing the just in time compiled code accordingly. A detailed explanation of the employed techniques can be found at Mozilla's website (PDF).

Other changes include two-finger gestures and better theme integration on Mac OS X 10.7, some new HTML5 features and the usual security and stability enhancements. As always the changes can be found in the release notes.

You might have noticed we didn't even report about Firefox 8. The last release was pretty unexciting, which will happen every now and then due to the short development cycles. Firefox 8 included some minor improvements in startup time and some new HTML5 features.