​Mozilla builds a future beyond Firefox by buying Pocket

Company behind Firefox browser gets better foothold on mobile devices with acquisition of tool for saving and discovering online articles, video and other content.

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Stephen Shankland
2 min read
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Mozilla launched a new brand in 2017.


You may not have brought Mozilla 's Firefox browser with you when you added iPhones or Android phones to your life, but now you might well be using Mozilla software on your mobile device anyway.

That's because Mozilla said Monday it's acquired Read It Later, the developer of the Pocket software for storing articles, videos and other content on the web. Ten million people actively use Pocket monthly as a mobile app or browser add-on, Mozilla said, with more than 3 billion pieces of content saved so far.

The app also lets people discover what others have already stored, an idea called discovery. It's a hot business on app stores, news sites, and other realms because middlemen can profit by showing content advertisers have paid to blend in. That's how 25-person Pocket makes money.

Pocket offers Mozilla a new way to pursue its mission of fostering a healthy diversity on the web even as we spend more of our time online within major centralized "silos" like Facebook. "They layer on top of all the different silos out there," said Denelle Dixon-Thayer, Mozilla's chief business and legal officer. "It creates openness in a way that historically wouldn't be there."

Pocket gives Mozilla a foothold on iPhones, iPads and competing mobile devices powered by Google 's Android software. Hundreds of millions of people still use the Firefox browser, but Google's rival Chrome has now claimed the lion's share of users, and Firefox is all but absent on mobile devices. That's a problem for the nonprofit organization because mobile devices account for much of the increase in online activity, and indeed phones are only way many use the internet at all.

The Pocket activity is useful for another Mozilla initiative, Context Graph, a tool to recommend websites that people might find worth visiting based on what they and others view online.

It's Mozilla's first acquisition, but not its last if Dixon-Thayer gets her way. "I would love to be able to grow our product portfolio," she said.

Most people who use Pocket do so both with PC browsers and mobile apps , said Read It Later founder and Chief Executive Nate Weiner. A majority also use it for both saving and discovering content, he said.

Mozilla has for years included the Pocket add-on by default in Firefox, with Mozilla sharing a portion of revenue from the sponsored content in Pocket's discovery feature, Dixon-Thayer said. Mozilla and Read It Later declined to disclose terms of the acquisition.

Mozilla today gets the vast majority of its revenue from search engines -- especially Yahoo -- that can show ads when people use their browsers to search. Mozilla wants to diversify its revenue sources, though.

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