Yahoo and Mozilla in the court

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Roughly three years ago, Yahoo and Mozilla announced that Yahoo would be the default search engine on Firefox in the US.

While Mozilla emphasizes that the decision to replace Yahoo with Google was exclusively taken to improve the customer experience with the new version of the web browser, Yahoo has knocked the court's door with the hope of saving its limited customer base through the web browser. Now Mozilla has filed a counter complaint, stating that the switch back was in line with a deal struck between the two companies.

Oath filed a complaint against Mozilla for what it alleged was an improper termination of the contract between Mozilla and Yahoo.

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Immediately following Yahoo's acquisition, we undertook a lengthy, multi-month process to seek assurances from Yahoo and its acquirers with respect to those factors.

Writing yesterday on the Mozilla blog, chief business and legal officer Denelle Dixon said her organization chose to terminate its agreement with Yahoo/Oath based on a number of factors, including doing what's best for the brand, its effort to provide quality Web search, and the broader content experience for its users. Filed yesterday, Mozilla's countersuit in turn seeks "general, specific, and compensatory damages". However, the burden of proof lies on Oath, as it appears to be pretty clear from the contract that Mozilla is not breaking any rules. In 2014, it had entered into a deal with Mozilla to be the default search engine for five years. Mayer made the deal under the assumption that it would never happen.

Mayer's tenure at Yahoo was marred by a series of questionable management decisions that included spending $3 billion on acquisitions and famously paying ad man Henrique de Castro $109 million for 15 months of work. Yahoo's side of the story is that terminating the deal was a breach of contract. With the overwhelming response, Mozilla surprised its users by changing its longtime default engine from Yahoo to Google.

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Dixon added that the terms of Mozilla's agreement with Yahoo clearly spell out its post-termination rights.

The counter-claim also suggested that the allegedly missing payments have kicked a hole in Mozilla's budget. We enter into all of our relationships with a shared goal to deliver a great user experience and further the web as an open platform.

We remain focused on the recent launch of Firefox Quantum and our commitment to protecting the internet as a global public resource, especially at a time when user rights like net neutrality and privacy are under attack. No relationship should end this way - litigation doesn't further any goals for the ecosystem.

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Mozilla continued these types of discussions with Yahoo in March 2015, reiterating that Mozilla "wants improvement for both parties to grow marketshare", but the "current experience is causing users to move". Future proceedings should prove interesting.

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