Mozilla Extends Its Default Google Search Blockout, Signs Up Yandex In Turkey

Mozilla last November made waves when it swapped out Google as the default search engine in its Firefox browser in the U.S., replacing it with Yahoo, and put Yandex in for Google in Russia at the same time. Today Mozilla announced an expansion of that strategy: Yandex will now also be the default search option in Turkey, once again replacing Google.

Relatively speaking, Turkey is not the biggest internet market in the world, of course, but it is a large and key country for its position as a bridge between Europe, Asia and the Middle East. It’s also been known for being a key battleground in the ongoing fight for freedom of speech online, an issue where Mozilla has been very vocal. And of course, this is a development in the bigger story of how Mozilla is trying to turn itself around and is rejecting Google in the process.

“We have a commitment to make Firefox a browser for everyone, with more choice, empowering the users,” said Denelle Dixon-Thayer, SVP Business and Legal Affairs Mozilla, in a statement. “Last year, we ended our practice of having a single global default search provider and have in turn adopted a more local and flexible approach in search partnerships.” The new default search will be bundled with a new Turkish-language version of Firefox, the company says.

Yandex is known as the Google of Russia, partly because of the appearance of its search product, and partly for its position as the leading search engine in the country — albeit with a more modest dominance; its market share is just under 60% right now, and 75% among Firefox users.

Like Google, Yandex has expanded into mobile and lots of different cloud-based services, from mapping to media and e-commerce. It has also been butting heads with Google at home, where it’s been a vocal advocate of Russian regulators launching an antitrust investigation against its U.S. counterpart.

The process of getting in to Mozilla’s good books again has been a long one for Yandex. The company has been an on-again, off-again partner to Mozilla in its bid to grow market share in Eastern Europe.

Now it looks like the old proverb of “an enemy of my enemy is my friend” is ruling the day.

“We’re very happy to partner with Mozilla and proud that they’ve chosen us as their partner in search,” said Milena Djuričić, COO Yandex.Turkey. “We have been emphasizing the importance of choice for users in the search engine market since our launch in Turkey, significantly improving our search experience for the Turkish audience all along. It is thrilling to see our efforts bearing fruit once more with this partnership, an important indicator that we have been doing it right.”

It’s also a mark of how two smaller players are trying to come together to collectively improve their lot.

Yandex, which is relatively new to the Turkish market but seems committed to growing there, currently has only around a 4% share of the search market in Turkey — with Google far weighing them — and Mozilla’s Firefox has just under a 7% share of all browser use in Turkey, according to Statcounter.

In other words, it may be that for now the only way is up for these two, and in any case users may be ripe for a change. A Yandex spokesperson tells us that part of the process for evaluating Yandex involved Mozilla running a test putting Yandex in as the default search for new users. “The majority of users stuck with Yandex search instead of switching back to Google,” he noted.