German Version of Firefox in Hot Water

Gretchen Gallen
BERLIN – In what appears to be the first negative response from users of the newly launched Firefox 1.0 browser, German Firefox fans are in an uproar over an eBay search plug-in.

After promising to offer a browser free of adware and spyware – a feature that made Firefox instantly favored by a large sector of the online community – the German version of the popular open-source browser is being heavily criticized for using an affiliated site as the middleman for users clicking through to eBay Germany.

Rather than providing a direct link to eBay, users were redirected to adfarm.mediaplex.com or webtip.ch, which is owned by a Swiss company called Metaspinner Media GMBH, a data source mining engine that is partners with eBay.

In response to the uproar, which has called into question Firefox's philosophical foundation, Mozilla Foundation, the Mountain View, Calif.-based parent company of Firefox, issued a statement claiming it was only trying to gather statistical information on surfers but had not realized the "privacy implications."

A Mozilla spokesperson was quick to point out that the company had incorporated the search plug-in as a useful tool for users and that no money changed hands between Mozilla and eBay.

Taking immediate action, Mozilla will make new downloads of the open-source browser available by the end of the week; the search function on MozillaEurope.org is updated in such a way that it refers directly to eBay.de; and Mozilla has agreed to not change any search engine on its servers without making a previous announcement. Mozilla also provided a link with a patch.

"We regret this error and thank the user community for finding the problem and the patience," Mozilla stated.

In the meantime, Firefox continues to take the world by storm and currently maintains a total global usage share of 7.35 percent, according to OneStat.com, although Microsoft's Internet Explorer still dominates 88.9 percent of browser market share.