How can you possibly make millions of dollars from giving something away for free? That was the question answered about the free Firefox web browser by Weblogs Inc founder Jason Calacanis on his blog.
This column appears in the June 06 issue of PC Advisor, available now.
After returning from BarCamp LA, an "ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment", Calacanis reported that the most interesting thing he learned was that Firefox made $72m (about £41m) last year.
"The best piece of information I got out of BarCampLA was that Firefox, which is produced by the for-profit Mozilla Corporation, made $72m last year and is on target to have 120 employees this year. I have no idea if this is true (anyone?), but it makes sense.
"I mean, there has to be 72 million people using Firefox out there and making $1 a year seems low to me," Calacanis wrote on www.calacanis.com, although he later updated the post to clarify that he had "no idea if [the $72m figure] is true or not".
How is Firefox making all this money? It's all down to the Google search box integrated into the browser, apparently.
"Mozilla Corporation [which makes Firefox] makes all that money because of the Google Search box on the top right. If you search with that box (which I do all day long) and you click on the Google ads on the results page Firefox gets 80 percent of that," he explained.
Soon the internet was abuzz as other bloggers picked up the story. Eventually it reached Christopher Blizzard, who is on the board of Mozilla Corporation. In a blog post at www.0xdeadbeef.com, while he did not clarify the exact amount that Firefox makes through the Google toolbar, he did comment: "It's not correct, though not off by an order of magnitude."
Not a bad little earner, really.