The Mozilla Foundation, the non-profit organisation behind the biggest challenger to Microsoft’s popular Internet Explorer software, is set to tackle its rival more aggressively with the launch of a commercial unit to focus on marketing and revenue-raising partnerships.

The California-based foundation develops the Firefox web browser, which has made inroads into the domination of the browser market by Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

It develops Firefox on an open source basis, meaning programmers around the world can contribute to its development, and it does not charge for access to the code behind the software.

The newly-formed Mozilla Corporation is wholly owned by the Mozilla Foundation and will continue to serve the foundations goals, which are benefit the public through the creation of choice on the internet.

The corporation will focus on marketing, distribution and revenue-raising through sponsorship. Mozilla already makes several million dollars per year through partnerships with search engines, for which it provides links within the browser. Its main partnership is with Google, whose webpage is set as the home page within Firefox.

Mitchell Baker, one of the foundation’s board members, will be president of the corporation, which she described as “not a typical commercial entity”.

“Rather, it is dedicated to the public benefit goal at the heart of the Mozilla project, which is to keep the internet open and available to everyone,” she said.

Firefox was based on the same source code as the Netscape, the early browser leader which was bought by AOL in 1999.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer has long held the lion’s share of the web browser market. While surveys of browser market share vary, recent surveys give it between 85 and 90 per cent, while Firefox has between 8.7 and 10.1 per cent. However, most surveys have shown Microsoft has recently begun losing market share at the rate of about half a percentage point per month, with Firefox the main beneficiary.

Firefox’s popularity has been driven partly by security fears, as Internet Explorer has been the target of numerous attacks, and partly by its features, such as the ability to open multiple files within the same window.

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