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The value of Google’s Firefox browser deal

Google has thrown the creators of the Firefox Web browser a lifeline.

On Tuesday, Firefox-maker Mozilla announced that it had renewed a “mutually beneficial revenue agreement” with Google for at least three more years.

The deal basically means that Google remains the default search engine built-in to the Firefox Web browser, a privilege for which Google pays Mozilla an unspecified fee.

Since Google signed the original deal in 2004, the search giant has introduced its own Web browser, dubbed Google Chrome. And with Chrome now used by one in four Web surfers, speculation had grown that Google might not renew the Firefox licensing deal, depriving the non-profit Mozilla of a vital revenue source (according to AllThingsD, which broke the news of Tuesday’s deal renewal, Google contributed 84 percent of Mozilla’s $123 million in 2010 revenue).

The value of the current Google deal with Mozilla is not being disclosed. Whatever the amount is though, it’s safe to say that it represents pocket change to Google, which has $43 billion in cash and short term securities on its balance sheet.

And with Google facing antitrust scrutiny for a variety of business practices, spending a little money to keep a rival browser alive has important PR value.

Firefox 4 rounds out action-packed Web browser season

Apparently March is Web browser season.Firefox4

On Monday, Microsoft unveiled Internet Explorer 9, the latest update of its browser, and trumpeted its 2.3 million downloads in the first 24 hours of availability. Earlier this month, Google unveiled the newest version of its browser, Chrome 10.

Now it’s Mozilla’s turn. More than a year in the making, Firefox 4 will be make its debut on Tuesday, bringing faster performance and a handful of new features.

And in a few weeks, the folks at Mozilla say they will release the first full-fledged version of Firefox for smartphones based on Google’s Android operating system (don’t expect an iPhone version of Firefox anytime soon, as Mozilla executives say that Apple’s terms of service prohibit third-party apps that boast standalone browser engines).