Bing today announced something it probably should have made available a long time ago: a new version of Firefox with Bing as the default search option in the search box and the Awesome Bar. Of course the download is optional and just for all you Bing lovers who sought an easy way to switch to Bing inside your Firefox instead of Google.Microsoft's search engine
What does it mean for Google, Google's partnership with Firefox, Firefox, Chrome and Bing? Time will tell if it means anything and that's probably largely dependent on how far and wide such a custom browser gets used. It could be a good backup though in case Firefox's biggest revenue partner, Google, decided to focus all of its support on its own browser.
"You are being redirected to Mozilla to download Firefox. Microsoft is neither licensing nor distributing Firefox to you," says the fine print on the download page. Firefox, meanwhile, assures readers in a terse blog post that this is just an extension of an existing partnership with Microsoft and that there are 20 other custom versions of Firefox already available with other partners.
Still, there's something that feels heavy about this.
Firefox, of course, was born and lived with Google's help mostly to wrestle control of the browser market away from Microsoft and IE. Even if aliens (or agents of apocalypse) came and abducted all the people who work for Mozilla right now, the world would still forever be a better place for all they've done to push the envelope for technical standards and choice.
Some studies indicate that in blind tests, Bing actually outperforms Google. (Update: Google called me on this claim and upon trying to reproduce the specifics all I could come up with was this very small test. Sorry about that, I take it back.) Its market positioning has been as a second rate option, though, something Firefox runs the risk of becoming in the eyes of people who value Google Chrome's performance above all else. Maybe the Firefoxes of the future plus Bing in the search bar will be a whole new experience for users and will win back hearts and minds for both vendors.
Maybe it's no big deal, though. Just another option.