Mozilla Revenue Claim Sparks Frenzy

Since its inception, the non-profit Mozilla Foundation has remained active thanks to generous corporate backing and the hundreds of volunteers devoting countless hours toward building an open source browser. But little has been made of the company's revenue following the launch of the Mozilla Corporation -- until now.

The rumor frenzy was started by Weblogs, Inc. founder-turned AOL executive Jason Calacanis following the BarCamp conference in LA. "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," said Calacanis.

Mozilla makes much of its money through the Google search box that ships on the popular Firefox Web browser. Each time a user clicks on a sponsored link in those search results, the company receives approximately 80 percent of that revenue, says Calacanis.

"They also have Amazon in the search box, and other services that I'm sure kick them back some affiliate fees," he added. "Brilliant."

The comments were soon picked up by Digg and referenced on a number of other blogs, generating thousands of responses. Some users questioned the Mozilla Foundation's request for donations when it was raking in so much from ads through its corporate subsidiary, but most users were supportive of the success.

Mozilla Corporation board member Christopher Blizzard responded to the speculation on his blog, saying that while the revenue number was not accurate, it was not far off. "I won't comment on the dollar amount except to say that it’s not correct, though not off by an order of magnitude," he wrote.

Blizzard added that, "I see people talking a lot about the huge profits here, but we don't think about the excess as profits. Some of that money does roll up to the Foundation proper, but we work with them to determine when and where that happens. There's no chance of an IPO and it's not being put into anyone's bank account. Simply put: no one here is getting rich."

The $72 million figure was also appended to the Mozilla Corporation's entry on Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, but was later removed. "Since the number has been stated as not out of line it sounds like someone is trying to play this down," remarked Calacanis.

Still, the AOL executive was positive about the apparent success Mozilla has begun to enjoy thanks to Firefox. "What an amazing business: make a kick-ass browser for $10-15M a year in expense and make $72M (and growing) in revenue. It's such a good business that the folks at Flock.com are trying to do a similar thing."

"Money is one of the last things we worry about and people shouldn't get hung up on the numbers, except to realize that it gives us options," noted Blizzard.

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