Firefox Google Plugin

If you’ve upgraded to Firefox you probably noticed some changes in the results brought by searches from the top-right corner Google search plugin.


– The result page shows a Linux Mint logo instead of a Google one.
– The layout of the page is a bit different (ads are on top instead of being on the right).
– There is no access to advanced Google features (account, cached links, similar pages..etc).

The reason it is different is because instead of using the default plugin we now distribute our own and take advantage of a Google Custom Search Engine. The reason it it is different from the default Google search is because Google doesn’t offer the same features to Custom search engines as it does when searching directly from The reason we changed from default google to a custom engine is because it generates a lot of revenue and this single plugin could potentially make Linux Mint into a company which actually hires full-time employees.

The highest single source of revenue for Linux Mint isn’t the donations, it isn’t ads on the website, it is the default start page in Firefox. This simple search plugin is estimated to generated from 2 to 40 times more money than the start page itself. If this proves to be the case we’ll be in a position to grow and to achieve things we never dreamed off before. At the moment Linux Mint is maintained by me on a 2.5 hours / day basis with the help of a team of volunteers who are paid nothing. The income is similar to a single small salary. With this plugin, and although you may not enjoy the same level of comfort as when searching with the default Google layout, you contribute to making Linux Mint grow and we should soon see the day where our distribution gets maintained by a team of people working full-time on it.

For most distributions the business model is to sell associated products (Powerpack, Enterprise Desktops, Server offers) or services (Professional Support..etc). Although this allows the distributions to hire full staff employees it also takes a lot of resources and most employees end up working on these associated services/products instead of focusing on the distribution itself. If we find a way to finance ourselves by clever little changes like this one we can grow into a medium sized company with full time employees working ONLY on the distribution itself. As you can see this is a very interesting perspective.

For people used to using Google Images we included a second search engine so that they could achieve the same things as before. For people used to cached links and used to access their google account there is a workaround and it is possible to revert to the default Firefox plugin. Of course this is a pity and we don’t encourage you to do that (since this is the best way you can contribute to Mint and it costs you nothing) but it’s your desktop, not ours, and we always believed you should have a choice. So if you really want to revert back to the default plugin, follow the steps below:

Go to
Install the addon and restart Firefox
Go to google
Right click in google search bar and select “add to search bar”
Left-click arrow at left side of firefox search combo
Select “manage search engine”
You should find google at the bottom of the list
Move it to the top

By doing so your search results will use the original Google layout again (cached links, etc..) but hey everytime you make a search you could have made us grow at the same time.

It’s good to have a choice and it’s good to know why you’re going one direction or another. I’m sorry we rolled out this as an update without informing people. Hopefully this blog post will make things clearer and if you’ve been surprised by this new plugin you’ll now be able to understand how and why you want to keep it or change it back to the original plugin.

I’ll talk about Mint, as a Republic of Ireland registered company, in a separate blog post.



  1. Hi Clem,
    I’m new to Mint and first of all would like to thank you for this excellent work.
    I think that Google custom search implementation is a very good idea. You also should check the I (HEART) Miro extension from the participatory culture foundation.Basically this is a referral plugin and every time a user buys from the foundation earns money.The income from this would probably not be as important as the one from adsense but it may help.
    And by the way, I thought that Mint was a community project am I wrong? I’m just curious about it so sorry if this question is answered before of if it is an inappropriate question.

  2. Excellent. A nice easy way to support Mint development. I always wondered if you got income from the Google search box on the start page.

  3. Here’s a question: When I’m stuck in windowsland, how can I ADD the mint/google search so that you can capitalize on my windoze-based searching?

  4. ghanthar: Not completely. It depends how you see it really. Let’s say the community is deeply involved into its making but it doesn’t organize itself to lead the project as it does for instance with Debian or other distributions which follow an association-like type of organization.

    Kody: you can replace google.xml in program-files, mozilla, searchplugins (not sure of the exact location in Windows) with /usr/share/firefox/searchplugins/google.xml and add /usr/share/firefox/searchplugins/google_image.xml in the same place. Thanks :).

  5. Michael Basil: Yes, the start page was our first source of income until now. It was generating more or less 33% of it, the two other big sources being donations/sponsors and adverts. We’re close to 25% each now.

  6. Thanks for the info Clem. Now, say I’m at work and don’t have access to my mint copy of google.xml. Say I wanted to download it from somewhere, such as the Wiki or forum. Where would one go to download these files?

    For the windoze users, out there, it’s located here:
    C:\Program Files\Mozilla Firefox\searchplugins


  7. I 2nd this, point me to a link for a google search plugin for Linuxmint and I will install it on my work & home windows computers. As long as it provides the same results I will be happy to use it.


  8. Why didn’t I know about it before? 🙂
    Now I’m back in Mint Start. I’m glad that this way I am helping Mint:)

    Good work,

  9. I am ignorant enough not to know how do I help making money by searching stuff on Google/Mint… But I am impressed by the honesty behind this blog post, and I am going back to Google/Mint as my search engine (was using Yahoo for about a month, not bad…)
    If I can help you out to make a buck or 2 this way, it’s fine for me…
    I do however use the “Customize Google” extension, so I don’t know if your idea still works…

  10. Your way of removing this, does not work on my computer. I keep on getting the Linux Mint Google results. But I need to search images a lot. This is annoying!

    Please make a Firefox update, that removes this feature and make it possible for people to add the Linux Mint Google results manually!


  11. The customized search looks fine for “” but it is not suitable for localized versions of google like “”, because the checkboxes for filtering sites from my country and sites in my language are absent in the new Linux Mint Search.

    So, thank you for the guide to revert back.

  12. Clem,
    There are times that I would specifically like to use the standard Google search, but most of the time I would like to help you make a little extra money.
    If I re-install standard search as per your instructions, can I switch back and forth between the standard and your customized search with the drop down menu?

  13. welkiner: In /usr/share/firefox/searchplugins you should rename google.xml to googlemint.xml and in its content change the name of the plugin to “Google Mint”. Then you can install the google plugin and switch between the two.

  14. I found this page because the default Mint Google search is too annoying; however, I’m going to leave it as is because of the effect that it has for you (I suspected this), but would it be possible to make it a little more like the default layout in the next release (specifically, the row of other options, such as images and news, that appears across the top of the search results)?

  15. Clem – I really appreciate your honesty in this matter. I’m certainly impressed with the seamless execution of the Mintified Google search, and I’m happy that so many users are willing to help the cause. However, I simply couldn’t continue to live without much of the Google functionality I’ve grown accustomed to and I reverted to the default plugin.

    For me, the most frustrating part was not being able to get to a standard Google search page even when I tried. It felt like a little too much of my choice was taken away.

    And I also never realized how much I depended on the right-click “Search Google for “xxx'” function. It would be nice if not every possible way to query Google was Minted. Hopefully a better solution can be found for the next version.

  16. First, I didn’t reflect over why you had included this plug in, and I wanted to get rid of it, but now when I understand why, I’m happy to keep it. I bow to your excellent distribution of Linux. I really really like it and will keep on using it, since it’s the absolute best I’ve come across. Looking forward to the new release in April =).

  17. I’ve been a mint junkie for about the last two years. I use it at home on my desktop, and 3 laptops (no windows boxes out side of the server), and now I use it at work as well (and run Windows on a VM). I love this software guys, but…I hate the silly custom search. I want to make sure your getting your due, so I’m going to keep the darn thing, but is there any way we can somehow get some people together and get that custom plug-in “improved” to where it has the same standard functionality of the regular Google search? Hate to be a wet blanket, but IMHO it’s useless in my mind if it doesn’t offer the same functionality as the regular search, hence prompting people like me to want to remove it…can’t make much money then. All I’m saying is, get it as close to the regular search with a mint logo in the corner…everything else in this distro is so polished, the same should be said for the monetary generating part.

    Thanks guys

  18. I’m a new Mint user, and so far I really like what you guys have done–excellent work all around . . . however, I am a little troubled by the default mint-branded Google search. I understand it serves a purpose and brings the Mint team revenue to be able to keep refining and improving upon the distro–and I appreciate the hard work you guys do to make Mint a reality. Even though it’s Google’s TOS that gets rid of the extra features (Image search, shopping, etc.), enabling the plugin by default reduces functionality.

    My second concern (which I haven’t heard “the other side of” yet, so I’m especially interested in the team’s thoughts on this) is that it’s taking away revenue from the Mozilla team . . . granted, they get millions from Google and they don’t forbid anyone from redistributing with different defaults . . . it still doesn’t sit well with me. It feels a little bit “robbing Peter to pay Paul.” The Mint team works very hard on this distro. So does Ubuntu, so does Debian, so do all the FOSS application teams from Firefox to Gnome to the Kernel itself and I certainly don’t want to get people arguing over who’s “more deserving” or anything. That’s a decision only the end user can make, and they’ll contribute in the way that they feel is most appropriate–money, coding and participating, spreading the word, etc.

    Granted, it’s easy to change on the user’s end. But as a matter of principle, I feel the user ought to be asked first.

  19. Nick: This is unfortunately true. The default plugin does generate money from Google towards Mozilla and with this plugin the money generated now goes from Google to Linux Mint. As Mozilla and Google has a different agreement than the one we have with them they benefit from all the Google features and we don’t. Also, I really don’t know if the margin given to Mozilla by Google is the same as the one they give us. The truth is, as you mentioned, that by using our plugin and generating money for Linux Mint you don’t generate money to Mozilla as you used to in the past. The reason Google is paying is because advertisers pay Google for ads to be clicked on, so Google is paying whoever brings the traffic to its advertisers. The reality is that people use Google, no matter what distribution or browser. Now Mozilla is using this as their main source of income, and so are we. We could argue that the traffic brought to Google is brought by Mozilla, or we could argue that it’s actually brought by Mint, to be honest that traffic is there because Google is popular. Google is ready to share some of the money so it’s a simple matter of claiming it. Mozilla have done that for a while. We’re doing that now. It’s not wrong ethically although one has to understand that the money we generate isn’t going to be generated for Mozilla… also the Linux market is about 2% of the desktop market and we’re less than 10% of it.. Mozilla is about 33% of the whole desktop market. This for us is hugely important and probably highly insignificant to Mozilla. I hope this answers your question. Don’t hesitate if you want more details about this.

  20. For those of you who have installed the Firefox3 Beta4 through Synaptic Package Manager. Here is how to add googlemint to Firefox3. You will find the Mint version of google.xml located in /usr/share/firefox/searchplugins. Rename (as root in terminal) the file to googlemint.xml. Next open it in gedit (as root again) and change the name that is displayed to google mint. Now copy the file (as root) to usr/lib/firefox-addons/searchplugins. You will now have both versions in Firefox3.

  21. I respect, and thank you for, your honesty. I would have appreciated it more, though, if it was disclosed to me before I found out on my own.

    I do understand your position, but please, understand ours. Some of us use our wonderful Linux Mint of business. Some of us are paranoid, or at least concerned, about our privacy.

    I have no issues at all with helping you generate revenue, Lord knows, you deserve it.

    What I have done is set google as a search engine and Google “Minty” as a search engine, too. I will do what I can to help you with revenue generation, but I do need full functionality about 30% of the time. And I do worry that my use is being monitored and/or controlled.

    Thank you.

  22. Evets: Just a note on usage being “monitored” or “controlled”. We do not store any information related to your search queries on Google. All we do is use a Google technology called CSE which allows us take credit for the traffic sent to Google. In other words the information you submit to Google is monitored in the exact same way as if you made the search directly on (and not by us, by Google itself). As for the start page we use Google Analytics so the only information we get out of you is statistics on screen resolution, versions of firefox, etc.. same as on any website really. (We’ll publish some of these stats soon actually). You’re welcome to look at the source code for these, we do not gather information from your usage of the desktop or of the Web. I would personally assimilate that to spyware and not only would I be unconfortable using it, I would never allow such a thing to get into Linux Mint. The only reason we’d ever gather information would be to know more about the users from a statistical point of view (number of people using Elyssa vs Daryna, major screen resolutions, versions of Flash/Firefox, etc). The plugin doesn’t collect anything and the start page only makes a call to Google Analytics (like most websites on the Web do). If you need more information or if you have any doubt about your privacy or anything at all please ask. This is quite an important matter and I don’t want people to feel uneasy about this.

  23. Hey, thanks for the disclosure and solution – I am a new mint user, and while I love the distro, I can’t use the mint search – I search images or news far too often. I will keep the default home page, however. I would definitely switch back to the mint search if it had the other options along the top – but judging from previous posts, that isn’t an option?

  24. I did a search to find out how to stop the mint-based searches from occuring. This blog was the first entry in the results. However, after I learned that this is generating R&D for Mint, I am happy to use it. Perhaps it would benefit Mint more to inform people so they aren’t like me and misled into cutting off R&D.

  25. How do I remove the mint google search from Opera? Whenever I use an un-defined keyword when I search in the opera address bar, I come to linux mint google search. Which is crap, don’t help me at all, don’t work with google calculator etc etc.

    I don’t mind it in firefox, I only use firefox for leisure. But at work and during work I need to be productive, I use Opera, and I need standard google search. How do I remove it from Opera? I’ve already replaced the “g” search shortcut in Opera away from the linux mint search, but the linux mint search is still there somewhere…

    Why on earth to I have to find this blog post to even get references for how to remove it?? Wazzup with communicating? You are fucking trying to sneak it in and then hiding away clues on how to remove it again?? Are you completely out of your mind???

    Please, ask me to support your work, donate money, use this and that search etc.. but not this way, dude.. Worst software experience I’ve had in 3-4 years 🙁 Can’t wrap my mind around the fact that I got it from a linux distribution!

  26. By the way, can anybody explain me how the money generation works?
    I mean do not have the user to click on a ad? How comes, that this search can generate money?

    And Yes, as I am a German I want to use German google so I changed it, too.
    I believe this special search did not do LinuxMint a favour. It’s contra productive.

  27. Clem, there’s a much easier (imo) way to do what welkiner wanted:
    When following your original instructions, when you right click in the search bar, you can simply rename the search, so that it doesn’t replace the Mint Google search item. I named “original Google” GoogleOne, so it left “Google” (Mint’s version) alone. A nice thing is that “original” google shows a different icon (the lower case “g”), so you can tell at a glance which one is active.
    This is ideal for me, since I’m happy to support you about, say, 70 percent of the time, but when I want the original search behavior, that custom page is extremely annoying!!

    Thanks for giving us a workaround; I hope you find a better way to generate income though, because honestly I’ll think you’ll get diminishing returns if you mess too much with what people have come to expect/depend on in basic apps. I would have preferred not to have wasted some time trying to find a way to change the search behavior in about:config, for example. My fault for not checking the forum first though!

    Google should really try to give projects like yours more options for this stuff. You should be able to brand the page without sacrificing features.

  28. Hi Clem,

    While I certainly appreciate the work you put in on this distro, I have to admit that being based in the UK, I really need the localised functionality of a UK Google search. Its very irritating to get American versions of the things I’m looking for from the Mint custom search engine. For the mo I am reverting to the original UK engine. Is there any way you can get a localised version of the Mint search engine that includes the features that we all seem to want from the original pages .uk, .de etc? I would really like to support Mint 100% of the time when I am searching but I need the .uk features.

  29. hey there, i’ve been tryin everything i can think off to make the plugin work.
    I think I’ve done exactly what the instructions are, the plugin seems to install fine, but i noticed it only works on certain site, not on google, not on imdb, but it does work on other sites… so any ideas on what is going on, i hope the reason isn’t because my firefox is in spanish.
    That would mean that people who use mint on their own language that is not english are facing a lot of trouble :S

    anyone knows what could be the problem? thanks in advance

  30. I have no problem with having this Mint custom search enigne BUT why does it have to be so lacking compared to the standard google search.

    I mean no image search or shopping search options!?? And no mapping functionality this Mint search is missing A LOT.

    i enter bike shop + zipcode and get no cool google map with area shops..

  31. I agree completely with the colorado_greg. I am forced to revert to the default Google search layout because of the missing functionality. I use cache links, map results, and image/shopping results often – if these can be restored to the Mint custom plugin, I would be happy to resume using it.

  32. For all of you wanting your countries own search results, and would like to make linux mint revenue, you should be able to have your cake and eat it, just:

    Go to
    Install the addon and restart Firefox
    Search a random word in the Linux Mint search box.
    When the page comes up, in the address bar, change the bit to for the UK or for Germany for example, then press enter.
    Now it should come up with your local results, simply right click in google search bar and select “add to search bar”.
    Name it what you want, and it’ll now be an option in your search box and Linux Mint should still be getting money for your searches.

    Correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

  33. I agree that this is a royal pain in the posterior. I need all the other options Google has, the Mint one lacks any preferences, or links to other parts of Google, it’s too sparse.

    I see where you’re coming from as regards income, but please include the normal Google engine in there too, to be selected if desired, rather than having to go through all this palaver.

    I like Linux Mint, and will continue with it as my home distro, and have just made a donation. your donations page shows this is a way higher source of income that the sponsorships anyway, so perhaps this is counterproductive for you, if it puts people off!

  34. One thing the Minty version of Google Search does not do is track packages. I love that I can put in a tracking number and Google Search will know if it is FedEx, UPS, or USPS. I have just switched to the standard Google search based on this functionality alone.

    Sorry LinuxMint.

  35. I’m so glad I found this page because the Mint Google page has been doing my head in , so much so I’ve not been using the search bar and instead typing everytime which has been really annoying.

    I think the best idea would be to include the normal search bar as well, rather than making user’s do this manually. At the end of the day, if it’s a PITA to use firefox on Mint, it’s the sort of thing that puts people off.

    Thanks for the info though!

  36. It’s true i almost formated and reinstalled because of this, i find google image search very useful for any number of presentations and graphics projects and to have it’s functionality reduced for profit is really sad.. please figure out the glitch soon because you DO deserve some reward for your hard work, just please don’t cripple my browser’s functionality in the process.

  37. Thanks for a great distro. I followed the instructions since I prefer the default Google search. I’ll go to your Linux Mint store and buy something to help out.

  38. Thanks for providing this info. I was about to go hacking around the Firefox directory. Wish I could use your plugin and contribute, but my single gripe with Mint is trying to search for a map/image/news/etc and being foiled by the custom Mint search.

  39. Hi Clem,
    I’ve been using Linux Mint for the past two weeks and I think it is great!
    Unfortunately, I’ve found the Firefox Mint search lacking. I absolutely need the advanced search features.
    You could perhaps petition Google to allow these features in Mint’s custom search?

  40. I’d use it if it had simple things like the list of other Google tools (images, news, what have you) at the top!

    Great work on Mint btw. It’s absolutely amazing.

  41. Hello linux mint team.

    I just have a question. How to recover the custom search for linux mint, I did the change but I change my mind and I want to help you.


  42. Clem, I would happily use your customised Mint search, if only you provided the essential functionality for a UK search, as the normal does. Without this, however, your Mint search is useless to me. I wish I could support you with my searches, but you have not made it even remotely possible for the average UK resident to do so. Thanks. Pipps.

  43. Here’s a quick fix:

    1. Open file browser, open as root. (File-> open as root)
    2. Go to /usr/lib/firefox-* (where * is the current Firefox version), or search for “google.xml”.
    3. Edit “google.xml”, replace contents with the data on this page:
    (This is from my other distribution. Copy from text box or click “download”, do not copy, since that will include the line numbers)
    4. Save.

    This has to be repeated every time Firefox is updated from Mint. Would be better to update this package from another source, but I don’t know how to do that.

  44. DUDE, if you’d only include image results and made it work the exact same way as the google default engine… I’d stick with it.

  45. TIP: Put the cursor in the search box on loading the search page.

    At first I was very much annoyed about the Mint default search page. Especially because it was hard to change. However now on reading this blog, I understand the reason, and am less annoyed.

    The big reason for me on wanting the default google site back, is because Mint does not put the cursor in the search box on loading the search page.

    I usually do:
    to open new tab and
    to go to search bar and press
    to go to seach page.
    and start typing my search string. But this does not work with Mint.

    (I prefer not to use the mouse if not necessary.)

    If this is fixed (cursor in search form) then I will use Mint search (now that I now the reason why it’s used). Until then I use normal google. (I put the original back.)

  46. seems the blog does not support some characters. I was saying,

    I usually do:
    CTRL-T to open new tab and
    TAB to go to search bar and press
    ENTER to go to seach page.
    and start typing my search string. But this does not work with Mint.

  47. If its important for the distro, make it closest to the original as possible. Put the advertisement and the rest should be equal the original one.

  48. I’m getting rid of the linuxmint search page because Google Calculator doesn’t work. I can handle the moved links, the decreased readability, the ugly logo, but not removed functionality. (I’m a grad student, I need a calculator that can do units.)

  49. @rob:

    Try this instead (it’s faster too!):

    Ctrl-K to go to search box
    type your search string
    Alt-Enter to open search in new tab

  50. Does google pay linuxmint for each search or for displaying the ads? I use an ad blocking firefox extention that strips out google’s ads (among others). Does that cancel out the revenue stream?

  51. i would like to keep the mint firefox google plug-in since i understand it makes money for our lovely… but from the toolbar search, you don’t see how many total hits your search resulted in…and from both toolbar search and the default mint homepage search, you don’t have a link to advanced search options from the search results.

    i am a translator and sometimes it can be nice for me to check a specific phrase to see how common it is…that’s why i like to see total hits for my search…

    …and sometimes, when i see my results, i like to limit my search based on date or domain…

    just fix that stuff and i will be very happy with the customisation…and, unlike Åsmund, i don’t mind the moved links at all AND i don’t think the logo is ugly…lovely, rather 🙂

  52. I’d like to use that search to benefit mint, BUT I cannot use it because it removed all the functionality I’m used to and I like: shopping, images, maps tabs on original google search.

    I have to switch to original google search engine until this is solved..

  53. I’m afraid I find this functionality annoying as well, especially since there’s no convenient way to switch to the real google search (because if both were installed, even with the Mint one as default intially, I might be more motivated to use Mint most of the time and use the native Google one for the proper functionality). Other than losing all the localisation, features like Google calculator don’t work either.

    So, I’m blowing away the Mint search because I can’t be bothered figuring out the steps to have them both operating; please consider including both in future, distinctively named.

  54. Hey,
    I am happy to sport linux mint by using the search, but I’d really like the same features in the normal search to be present. I really want the shopping link, the calculator, and the unit converter.

  55. I agree with a lot of the people here. The regular features of google shouldn’t have been removed. I was just about ready to compile firefox from scratch because I couldn’t “forward” my search to

    Now that I know Mint makes money on this, I’ll leave it alone, but please update it so that all of the google features aren’t hidden in the process.

  56. I’m fine with the whole customized thing, and I think it’s cool that you guys can make some significant money off of it. I would really like to see the “Shopping” link added back to the top bar, though. That is the absolute quickest way to get a price range on something, and right now I have to click through several more pages to get there.

  57. Hey, I need to use the advanced google features, so I had to disable this. (sorry) Anyway, I made a small donation to make up for it. Could you let us know what the average revenue per user is? Just so I can know I’m not shorting you.

    PS: Thanks for the great work! I really like mint. 😀

    Also, just so we’re clear. The Mint team didn’t remove any features. Google doesn’t allow customised search full access to the advanced features. The Mint team has added back in what they can (This is what the search enhancer does) but there is only so much they can do.

  58. Dear Clem,

    I really love Mint, having used more than 10 distros in the last couple years, it’s #1.

    Unfortunately, I use google features at least ten times a day (running an international ecommerce site, always converting currencies, using it as calculator, etc.) So I had to disable it. It’s really crummy of Google that they neuter their search for folks like you! I do, however, really like the many links that it displays above the search on your results.

    Thanks for explaining why it acts like this. I will make a point of using the Mint page whenever I need to do a regular seach.

  59. Easy workaround: Go to the search box, “manage search enginges”, “get more search engines”, and search for “google language en”. Install it. This will install a new search engine, called English Google, and has the full advanced Google functionalities. This way, you can easily switch back and forth between standard google and advanced google.

    To make up for it, I pitched $20 in the cup 🙂

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