That little search bar at the top right of your Firefox browser (along with the Google search on the default Firefox start page, as a reader pointed out) is driving 9.18% of searches, according to research by advertising network Chitika, Inc.

That's a huge chunk in a market where Google handles more than 80% of searches and its competitors Bing and Yahoo! handle just 8.56% and 6.69%, respectively - suggesting a huge bidding war may be brewing for November 2011 when Google's contract with Mozilla is up.

These figures suggest Mozilla could be the second-biggest driver of searches after Google.com. And the 9.18% does not include searches performed by typing directly into the address bar, which also go through Google, Chitika said.

Yahoo is also one of the pre-loaded options in the Firefox search box, but Chitika did not break out how much of Yahoo's queries come from that tool specifically. Bing is available as an extra add-on.


Note: Values add to 99.99%, an effect of rounding to the nearest hundredth.

Microsoft controls 15.25% percent of search because it powers Bing.com as well as Yahoo's search engine in the U.S. If Microsoft could kick Google out of Firefox and claim those searches for Bing or Yahoo, it could easily bump up its market share by an incredible 60% - surely worth given that it's been exceedingly tough to wrestle searches away from Google.

The Mozilla Foundation earned $75 million in revenue in 2007, the "vast majority" of it from the search partnership with Google. That revenue could be worth even more now that the competition for search dominance has heated up with the viable challenge from Bing.

About 23% of Internet users use Firefox, according to Chitika, and Google handles 91.45% of their searches. Bing handles 2.46% and Yahoo handles about 5% of searches in Firefox.