Ending a month of speculation, Google has renewed its search exclusivity deal with Mozilla, who has long featured Google as the default browser on its Firefox Web browser.

When the deal expired in November, it gave rise to speculation that Google might not renew it, which would deprive Firefox of about 84% of its annual revenue. That possibility seemed bolstered by the fact that Google’s Chrome was said to have recently ousted Firefox as the number two browser on the market. An end to the deal could have put the future of Firefox in jeopardy, although some thought the ominous predictions were overblown.

For the next three years, Google will remain the default search engine in Firefox and Mozilla will continue to get a ton of cash from Google in return.

When the original deal was signed in 2008, Google was only getting started with Chrome, which then grew to be a significant player in the browser market.

Still, Firefox is used by millions of people and Google still wants a piece of that action. If the Google deal were to expire, it’s conceivable that Microsoft could swoop in and replace it with Bing, handing a significant chunk of the browser market share over to one of Google’s chief competitors.

Whatever Google would gain by pulling the financial rug out from beneath Firefox would be overshadowed by it losing even a few points in the search market, which is where most of Google’s revenue comes from.

Google has marketed Chrome as a speedier, more secure browser and capitalized on the familiarity people already have with the Google brand and its products. In the beginning of the month, at least one firm who’s counting said Chrome had eclipsed Firefox as the #2 browser behind Internet Explorer for the first time ever. These numbers vary from source to source, but there’s no denying that Chrome is growing fast. Even so, the company behind it evidently sees no reason to try and bury Firefox even further at this stage of the game.

john paul titlow