RealTime IT News

Goodger Goes to Google

UPDATED: Ben Goodger, who has been serving as the lead engineer of the open source Web browser Firefox, is no longer employed by the Mozilla Foundation. This week, he announced that Google has retained his paycheck and services.

According to Goodger's announcement on the MozillaZine blog, Goodger made the official switch on Jan. 10, but it doesn't significantly alter what he's been doing with Mozilla for almost two years.

A spokesperson at the Mozilla Foundation said Goodger will remain on the Firefox development team as lead engineer, and that Google will allow him to devote at least half of his time to Mozilla-specific matters, notably future improvements to Firefox.

"My role with Firefox and the Mozilla project will remain largely unchanged, I will continue doing much the same work as I have described above -- with the new goal of successful 1.1, 1.5 and 2.0 releases," Goodger said in his post. "I remain devoted full-time to the advancement of Firefox, the Mozilla platform and Web browsing in general."

According to Steve Langdon, a Google spokesman, Goodger was hired as a software engineer, but he would not comment on the role the Firefox developer would play within the company or what projects he'd be working on.

"Ben is a very talented engineer," Langdon said. "His experience and skills match Google's interest in exploring interaction between browsers and Google's services."

Interest in the open source Firefox browser has gained significantly in recent months, ever since the Mozilla Foundation's release of Firefox 1.0 in November. In that time, the organization has logged more than 20 million downloads for the browser, mainly due to the strengths of the application: tabbed browsing, integrated pop-up blocking, RSS support and the extensible module system, which lets independent developers add functionality.

The announcement, made in the morning, prompted a wave of speculation on online forums that Google was trying to co-opt the Firefox movement and gain a corporate voice in development in the increasingly popular Web browser.

By Monday afternoon, Mitchell Baker, Mozilla Foundation president, was doing damage control to answer some of the fear, uncertainty and doubt surrounding Goodger's announcement.

She pointed out that there are other Mozilla members who get their paycheck from a corporate source, whether it's on a full- or part-time basis, or as individual contributors: IBM , Sun , Oracle , Red Hat and Novell .

"Some people have asked if this means that Google has a corporate voice in Mozilla Firefox," she wrote in her blog. "The answer is 'no.' Ben is the module owner for Firefox, and as module owner, he has responsibilities to the Mozilla community. These responsibilities are documented in our policy on module owners and ownership. The key responsibility is that the module owner's job is to act in the best interests of the community and the project at large, not in the interests of his or her employer."

It's hard to imagine Google having any more of an influence than it already has within the open source browser. Many of the default search features are tied to Google in the first place, though Firefox supports all other types of search engines, and it hosts the Firefox default home page.

Others speculate the move to hire Goodger as further proof Google is getting ready to move forward with a Mozilla-based browser of its own. A browser seems to be in the works -- the company reserved the domain www.gbrowser.com in April 2004 -- and Goodger's addition would help cement the company's effort to release a standalone browser of its own.