How do Web Browsers make money?

Internet Browser

When you think about web browsers, the names of popular browsers like Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Safari, UC Browser, Opera Mini come to mind first. You are currently reading this feature article through one of the above mentioned browsers – that possibility is also strong. 

According to a Statista’s survey, the world’s 4.66 billion active Internet users in January 2021, which was 59.5 percent of the world’s total population, and this number is increasing. Of these, 92.6 percent (4.32 billion) people are connected to the Internet through mobile.

There are hundreds of web browsers with dazzling features but we are using them for free. So the question that comes to mind is, “Since we are using free browsers, how does the company make a profit from that?” Today’s event is with the answers to those questions.

A little history of Browser

Let’s take a look at the history of browsers before analyzing them in detail. The first thing that comes to mind is WWW founder Tim Berners-Lee.

1991 was a milestone in the age of technology. That same year, Berners-Lee created a web browser called www. This is the world’s first web browser. Its feature was that it could be used for web browsing as well as editing or editing webpages without any hassle. But the problem was that only text could be seen in the browser, not any pictures. Then again, many people would combine the short form of ‘world wide web‘ with ‘www‘ and ‘www’ browser. The browser was renamed ‘Nexus‘ to avoid confusion.

www founder Tim Berners-Lee; Image Source: MIT News

Marc Andreessen, a young software developer, came up with the idea of ​​eliminating browser image problems. In 1993, in collaboration with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois, he developed a browser called ‘Mosaic‘. The most notable feature of it was that it had the opportunity to view text as well as pictures. In 1994, he broke all ties with the company and set up a new company called Netscape Communications. In the same year, Andresen launched a browser called ‘Netscape Navigator’ in the form of a mosaic browser.

World Wide Web browser in 1991; Image Source: Digital Archeology.

The browser gained 90% of the market share in 1995 due to its huge popularity in the beginning. Initially, the developers of Netscape Navigator said that non-commercial companies will be given the opportunity to use this browser for free. Everyone else had to pay a certain amount to use the browser. Meanwhile, in 1994, Spyglass Inc. Through licensing the source code of Mosaic, Spyglass develops another browser called Enhanced Mosaic. It was not open to everyone. It was sold to different companies.

Netscape Browser Image Source: Netscape / File Hippo.

In 1995, Microsoft bought the browser’s license for 8 million. By developing its source code, it gave birth to the ‘Internet Explorer‘ browser. The emergence of this browser has changed the course of the long-running browser’s lucrative business approach.

In order to increase its revenue, Microsoft has made Internet Explorer free for their operating system Windows 95 and other versions of Windows. Internet Explorer was also offered as the default browser on Macintosh devices due to a special agreement with Apple. In addition to being released for free, under the shadow of two tech giants such as Apple and Microsoft, all versions of Internet Explorer in 1999 were able to capture 75 percent of the browser market. Netscape Navigator has to kneel down to this uninterrupted progress of Internet Explorer. As a result, Netscape was declared open source in 1998.

The first version of the Internet Explorer browser in 1995; Image Source: Microsoft / Version Museum.

Meanwhile, when the special agreement between Microsoft and Apple expired in 2003, Apple took seriously the idea of ​​making their own browser. As a result, we have the world’s second most used browser ‘Safari’. AOL Netscape, a US-based online web portal and service provider, was acquired in 2004. Later, Mozilla Firefox was created using its open source code. The browser came on the market in November of that year. 

Meanwhile, the browser ‘Opera’ made in Oslo, Norway in 1996 was also released on January 12, 2005. Google made the latest splash in 2008. They have their own web browser ‘Google Chrome’ with ‘Isolated Tabs’ and ‘Fast Browsing Feature’ Brings. The browser was built based on Google’s Chromium open source code. These free browsers became popular overnight due to their success with improved security and speed.

NCSA Mosaic Browser; Image Source: NCSA / Version Museum.

The way web browsers make money

Mozilla Firefox ‘s revenue in 2018 was close to 436 million. About 95 percent of this huge sum comes from royalties. To put it bluntly, the Firefox browser is part of the built-in search engine advertising revenue. Mozilla also makes money by collecting donations from Firefox users. Although the amount is very small. As of July 2021, Mozilla has about 205 million active Firefox users, according to Fossbyte.

Mozilla Firefox
Mozilla Firefox; Image Source: Wallpaper Access.

The question may be – What is the source of income of Google Chrome that comes with free service?

Google takes the bulk of their revenue from advertisers. While users are installing Google Chrome to browse the Internet, they are also dragging people to their respective services. Such as- Gmail, Google Apps, Google Docs etc. As a result of the ‘all in one’ package, users are no longer accessing other applications separately. Meanwhile, with each service usage, page views are becoming increasingly heavy in their ad revenue bag. Google’s AdSense program is always keeping a close eye on your browsing data. Users are collecting data from Google search and selling it to various social media. Social media is analyzing that data and advertising according to the needs of the user.

Google Chrome
Google Chrome browser tops the list in terms of popularity; Image Source: Wallpaper Cave.

While browsers rely heavily on their search engine services, Google is totally dependent on browsers for search traffic. In the first few months of 2011, Google’s gross revenue was 8.58 billion, of which 98% came from advertising.

According to Statista, in February 2021, Google Chrome accounted for 63.64 percent of the Internet browser market. According to a study by Oberlo, Google Chrome held the leading position in the browser market in 65.27% of the market as of June 2021.

Safari Browser
Safari Browser

Apple’s Safari browser is in the next position with 18.32 percent market share. Of course, iPhone and Mac users will get thanks for this. Google has to pay a fee of 9-12 billion to the Safari browser every year, just as a royalty charge. In third and fourth place are Mozilla Firefox and Samsung Internet Browser, with a market share of around 3.30 percent.

market share of browsers
Comparative market share of browsers; Image Source: Statista.

Almost all web browsers offer users a virtual feature called ‘extension‘. Most of these extensions are made by third-party developers, who charge different amounts depending on the type of extension at different times. If they use the ‘Chrome Web Store API‘ as a platform for this, Google deducts a 5% fee from them.

Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge

The main revenue of Microsoft Edge browser like Google Adwords comes from the hands of search engine Bing. However, it is not a small thing to be able to catch Google Chrome or Safari with the position they are in. In addition, Bing’s ad revenue fell by 7 percent in 2018.

Opera Mini Homepage
Opera Mini Homepage

As soon as you open the Opera browser, you can see the websites like Facebook, Amazon, CricketBuzz etc. as shortcut icons on the homepage? Has Opera bookmarked these sites on the homepage as a hobby? No! There are so many events on the homepage because those companies are paying a certain amount of money to Opera.

In addition to royalties, another source of browser revenue is ad revenue. For example, Brave Browser’s ‘Basic Attention Token Reward Program’. Under this, Brave Browser shares 70% of the revenue generated by their users in exchange for viewing their ads, leaving the remaining 30% to themselves. 

This browser is highly regarded in the world of browsers in terms of privacy protection and speed. They also offer built-in ad blockers, and zero log policy. In any case, if they want to keep their business afloat, they have to make money. This is why they have arranged cryptocurrency in the browser, which is known as Basic Attention Tokens (BAT). Like the ‘Microsoft Rewards‘ program, they give BAT to their customers. They have also struck a deal with the world’s first blockchain phone, the HTC Exodus, where Brave Browser is set as the default browser.

Brave Browser
Brave Browser; Image Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The work of subscription is also paid at the same time. For example: Google provides ‘Cloud Storage‘ and Microsoft ‘One Drive‘ ads for additional storage. If a customer wants to use that service, he has to pay extra. This way the browser company can make a profit.

Mozilla Firefox search engine
Google as Mozilla Firefox’s default search engine;

Basically, that’s how browsers make money. As the world becomes more and more dependent on technology, the active use of browsers will increase. Over time, browsers will also find new ways to earn revenue, so that their annual revenue can jump from one million to billions effortlessly.


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