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Mozilla Files Cross-Complaint Against Yahoo Holdings and Oath (blog.mozilla.org)
239 points by ac29 11 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 63 comments

Yahoo is suing one of the internet's good guys. SAP is apologising for suing it's customers (Diageo). Oracle, well they have been known to retain the odd lawyer. When you go to court it should be a last resort. When you go to court everyone loses. I think this kind of case is so damaging to Yahoo. I hope Mozilla wins a huge sum

Yahoo is known to be a patents troll — for example I remember when they sued Facebook in 2012 [1]

Now I don't blame anybody for trying to milk Facebook and I'm definitely not rooting for Facebook, but it's the general principle that counts.

Yahoo has been using patents offensively. When big companies can no longer innovate, they litigate.

[1] https://dealbook.nytimes.com/2012/07/06/yahoo-and-facebook-s...

Keep in mind this is Mozilla's presentation of the case, so definitely take with a grain of salt. Yahoo hasn't AFAICT made a public statement about the case, and the heavily redacted initial complaint probably paints the situation differently:

> On December 1, Yahoo Holdings and Oath filed a legal complaint against Mozilla in Santa Clara County court claiming that we improperly terminated our agreement

If I had to guess, Yahoo seems to be arguing that the Verizon deal and restructuring didn't trigger the "change of control provisions", but Mozilla is arguing that the provisions were triggered. Since none of us have access to the original contract, it's impossible to say who is right, but with so much money on the table it's no surprise that the lawyers were brought in.

> When you go to court everyone loses.

Apart from the lawyers.

I've never been a bigger believer in this than now: recently had several conversations with lawyers hired to advise my company. Every single statement they made was hedged to protect themselves in the event they were wrong. They would only tell me what the law said by including copies of the actual law text. They would not directly answer questions about how the law can be interpreted based on case law and other precedents. Their only value was in providing the law text slightly faster and more conveniently than I could do so myself. Their chief concern seems to be protecting themselves from any blame, not protecting their client.

You either have bad lawyers, or are a bad client. (seriously)

I get so tired of hearing this. In my experience, the majority of practicing lawyers do everything in their power to stop their clients from going to court because they think it's a waste of time.

Most of their clients force them to do it anyway.

Meanwhile, the lawyers take the blame for being forced to do what their clients ask, despite their clients being 3 year olds about it.

Not blaming, merely stating that lawyers on both sides will do well.

Even taking the bright-side interpretation though: at least one of them failed in removing the further litigation cost and risk, their goal as you say is to protect their client as you say and that is often the best way.

Good point. All the people lose.

Lawyers are people too, they are just way better at playing the game than you or I.

Yahoo is slowly dying, and Mozilla had just put them in another corner.

If them, Yahoo - have any reason to believe they will win this case, then certainly what did Mozilla expect?

Isn't Yahoo already dead? I thought they'd been carved up for parts and sold off to Verizon as "Oath"?

I was somewhat sympathetic to poor old Yahoo, but I hope Mozilla takes Verizon to the cleaners in court.

> I was somewhat sympathetic to poor old Yahoo

Isn't it weird how we anthropomorphize companies like that? It's just a name. One that can be bought and worn like a mask by pretenders.

Well, they are in a painful metamorphosis. They were bought by Verizon, and if Verizon can successfully kill off net neutrality Yahoo will probably undergo a resurgence.

Since where Mozilla is the good guy?. In fact, since Mozilla fired one of the founders for political reason, Mozilla is turning from bad to worse: a) Is breaking plugins just for the good of change. b) The browser is bloating more and more for each new version. c) Is adding new features that never asked for.

Developers aren't happy, customers aren't happy and now, partners aren't happy. Google is happy.

1) Since they did not fire that founder, he retreated, 2) they broke those plugins to achieve significantly better performance, security, and an easier to work with, less often breaking extension API, 3) they need to bloat their browser to keep up with webstandards, other browser vendors are doing it just as well for the same reason and 4) is adding features that maybe you didn't ask for, but they've probably received good feedback for. They know more about their users than you do.

> a) Is breaking plugins just for the good of change.

Nobody will take you seriously if you think that the biggest browser re-write since Microsoft introduced Edge is "just for the good of change".

Mozilla has always been the good guy, but only sometimes for technical reasons. They have been the good guy for their constant fight to keep the web open. They are the only for profit company that I happily give the benefit of the doubt.

Well, and they're hardly "for-profit". The Mozilla Corporation technically is, but the Corporation is wholly owned by the Mozilla Foundation, which is legally a Non-Profit, so is forced to invest their money into their specified mission.

Therefore if the Corporation makes more money than they feel like investing, they either have to put it aside for later investments or pay it out to the Foundation, which is then legally forced to invest it.

The only real thing where they could shove money to the side is with paying their workers too high wages.

>Developers aren't happy, customers aren't happy

I am both of these and could not disagree more.

Everyone I know who uses Firefox is happy with it. None have switched from Firefox to Chrome due to the plugin system changing. I think you vastly overstate the number of people this has adversely affected.

Firefox is removing an absolute ton of bloat. It's slimmer than it ever has been in a long time.

Except on Mobile. (Let's ignore Firefox iOS since that's really just webkit with a better UI.)

Either Mozilla know something I don't, or they're sticking with a sinking ship and forgot to jump to the robust ship that was launched quite a few years back.

Good. I hope they get that $1B from Verizon and that it goes towards making the Internet even better. Knowing Mozilla's reputation, I'm confident that it will.

Could also go bankrupt before the suit is decided.

(cough Netscape cough)

I'm not sure why this is downvoted. Isn't this a realistic concern when it comes to these types of lawsuits?

I mean there were 2 more years left in the deal IIRC? (2014-2019). 750M more or less probably means quite a bit to Firefox development. If it gets killed in the marketplace before the money ever shows up, getting it then might be a bit late to save the browser landscape.

Relevant discussion from last year regarding Recode's interpretation of the original contract: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=12050374

The confusing part, as pointed out in the top comment in the post, is that the contract as interpreted by Swisher would certainly be material enough to be mentioned in Yahoo financials. However, the Yahoo filings at the time gave no such indication of this obligation.

Related discussion here about the contract termination 20 days ago: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=15711002

Quite a situation. Mozilla has basically one paying "customer" and it can only be one of two search engines.

The concern here would be if they burn bridges with Yahoo, than they have less negotiating leverage with Google.

I forget, is Yahoo search based on Bing, or is it the other way around, or is that deal dead?

Yahoo syndicates their search index from Bing (Microsoft) and adds a little UI differentiation on top. I hate to say it, but Verizon/AOL could easily run Yahoo's heavily partner-dependent search business into the ground. I already hear peer feedback about them becoming more bureaucratic and less practical, and starting to alienate other partners. By the time Mozilla needs some leverage against Google I'm sure they will find a willing counterparty in Microsoft. It's unlikely they will ever have to deal with Yahoo directly again.

Mozilla could go to DuckDuckGo, Bing, Ask, etc or a mix of search engines varying by country, a bidding process isn't unheard of (Opera did this).

Mozilla already did this. The google deal was global.. but the yahoo deal was not. Yahoo only purchased the US default. And Mozilla signed deals with Baidu for China, and Yandex for Russia at the same time. Google was left as the default for all other countries.


How much money does DuckDuckGo have to offer Mozilla? Mozilla do ask for quite a chunk of money when selling traffic (/users).

Why would they go to DDG instead of directly to the source (Bing)?

DDG has a stronger commitment to privacy. That said, DDG will almost certainly be outbid by other companies, and DDG will probably face problems scaling to that many users.

It's not only the scaling as a technical problem, but also scaling their Microsoft/Bing relationship.

DDG is effectively outsourcing the search infrastructure to Bing, which puts it in a precarious position.

If DDG becomes the default in Firefox, will Microsoft accept the increased traffic or exposure? Will they keep their current commitment to DDG?

Can you provide source of the claim that DDG search is 'outsourcing the search infrastructure Bing'? This appears to be a regular claim, but as far as I know, DDG buys search data from multiple parties, including Bing, Yandex, and many others. They have their own web crawler as well.

Because outside of Russia's Yandex that works well only in Russia and China's Baidu that works well in China, there's no other alternative. That "etc" in your sentence is not an "et cetera".

Bing is the only game in town for Google alternatives.

Here's a sample of what can happen: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/08/15/bing_microsoft_duck...

According to the Wikipedia page at least, DDG claims to have 400 sources and their own crawler. Etc definitely applies.

If you look at the info page by DDG cited in Wikipedia, it'S over 400 sources for the "instant answers" section, not the normal search results, and the phrasing is at least unclear if their own crawler contributes to the normal search results. https://duck.co/help/results/sources

Those other 400 sources probably make up a very small part of the actual search results.

If your only negotiating leverage against Google is going with Yahoo/Verizon then Google will call that bluff all day long.

>I forget, is Yahoo search based on Bing, or is it the other way around, or is that deal dead?

Both Google and Bing.

>"Yahoo disclosed the details of a new search deal it's formed with Google after releasing its third-quarter earnings results today. Under the terms of a new arrangement effective October 1st and lasting until the end of 2018, Google will provide Yahoo with search ads, algorithmic search, and image search services for both desktop and mobile. And according to a regulatory filing, Yahoo will also get to decide which search queries to send to Google and will not have to meet a minimum requirement of queries."


was there some detail around what they didn't live up to in terms of their contract?

> According to the change-of-control term, 9.1 in the agreement, Mozilla has the right to leave the partnership if — under its sole discretion and in a certain time period — it did not deem the new partner acceptable. And if it did that, even if it struck another search deal, Yahoo is still obligated to pay out annual revenue guarantees of $375 million.

Wow. What a phenomenally bad deal that was for Yahoo and Marissa Mayer

Why would they go with that deal. How did anyone at Yahoo read that and said "Great, let's do this".

Was it desperation - "If only we could put yahoo search in front of all those firefox users, yahoo will prosper again". Sadly I do imagine someone saying that. People who would disagree probably jumped ship a long time ago.

Pretty much a standard clause. Put it in your supplier contracts! You want to protect your product from degrading by changes in your supply-chain.

Bankruptcy or a new owner of your supplier may change their product so significantly that you want an immediate out without having to keep your side of the obligations. The supplier just restates with that clause that they won't change the product drastically and what that product is exactly is specified in the rest of the contract.

It was a reasonable proposition, look at all the users funneled by IE and Edge to Bing. Google isn't a be all end all search engine, outside the English language sphere, Yandex, Baidu (albeit propped up by China) and others either dominate or take a large chunk of the search market.

yikes this is what prompted my question because I figured it had to be an extremely bad deal like this, I just didn't want to believe that was the case !

Would love to see a browser ask which search engine to use at at first launch and at every major version update. The list could be randomized as to not favor any.

The search box in Firefox has a pulldown menu that lets me choose from 8 different search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, DuckDuckGo, and others. My default is set to DuckDuckGo because I'd rather not be tracked, but if I think another search engine may give me better results for a particular search, the choice is just a click away.

This removes the only real source of revenue Mozilla has. How do you suggest they fund development?

Implement this by having the already built search provider list, with none selected at install. On the first address/search bar use, prompt the user. (Choose or add your own as currently available...)

I like it.

Am I crazy, or did Firefox or some other browser do this around a decade ago? Maybe Opera or Avant Browser, back before money deals were made?

Sounds familiar. Chromium (not Chrome) still asks on first use but IIRC defaults to Google if you ignore it. IE (8, I think, whatever came with Win7) offered an option at first run but I've never had the options page actually load, so it defaults to Bing/MSN.

With what purpose? Surely nobody would voluntary use that?

I would if only to see what other search engines are there.

Fun fact: you can see that without installing a special app. See https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/search-tools/

If you follow me on Twitter (@yuhong2), you probably have seen my recent discussions with BrendanEich on Google, Mozilla, and the debt-based economy. I even attempted a debt diagram. The government shutdown may hit this week, making it a good time to discuss.

I'm not on Twitter. You want to share some quotes?

Just search for @yuhong2 @brendaneich and you will see most of them.

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