Is Firefox Burning Out?
Mozilla Firefox, once the sole reason why Web browsers evolved, is in danger of going extinct, according to the latest statistics from Net Applications and other researchers. A long, steady decline in desktop market share and an inability to gain the favor of mobile users add up to trouble for the venerable alternative to Microsoft Internet Explorer. Let's take a deeper look...
Why is Firefox Usage Declining?
Firefox accounted for just 11.6% of desktop browser installations in February, 2015, according to Net Applications. That’s a steep drop from the 17.24% desktop share that Firefox enjoyed in March, 2014, and far below its peak share of 25.1% in April, 2010. In fact, it’s Firefox’s lowest share since July, 2006, when the successor to Netscape Navigator was less than two years old. http://www.netmarketshare.com/browser-market-share.aspx?qprid=0&qpcustomd=0
Google Chrome has gained the most from Firefox’s loss, acquiring nearly 8 percentage points of desktop share during the past year. Internet Explorer has remained steady, while Apple Safari dropped about a point.
But Apple Safari overtook Firefox to become the third most used browser when mobile platforms are added to desktops. Firefox’s total user share (desktop plus mobile) fell below 10% for the first time, according to Computerworld’s measurements, and is down 3.4 points since July, 2014, to 9.5%.
Firefox’s mobile market share was less than 0.7% in February, putting it in dead last place far behind Internet Explorer. The problem is that Firefox doesn’t have a platform to call its own and dominate. Microsoft has Windows; Apple has iOS; Google has Android. Mozilla has rolled out a mobile Firefox OS but it’s hardly even noticed. Firefox, like Opera, just doesn’t have a significant mobile niche.
"I'm Not Dead Yet!"
Mozilla Foundation’s Firefox VP, Jonathan Nightingale, argued in January that Firefox has “fierce momentum” and that downloads of the browser in January were “the best in years” but those numbers apparently haven’t made it from the press release to the researchers yet. Mozilla CEO Chris Beard says the foundation remains committed to Firefox, and is “exploring how we can integrate client software on desktops and mobile with cloud service approaches to evolve what Firefox can do for people.”
It would be a shame if Firefox disappeared. If not for Firefox and its dedicated open-source developers, we might all be stuck in a mid-2000s time warp ruled by Microsoft. Internet Explorer crushed Firefox’s predecessor, Netscape, by 2002, achieving 96% market share. Innovation stagnated in the absence of competition; only one major upgrade of IE was issued during the next two years. But when Firefox appeared in November, 2004, the browser wars resumed and progress was made rapidly.
Oh, and Netscape still survives, garnering around 0.25% market share in Net Applications’ surveys. Netscape is a division of AOL now, so the browser is probably optimized for dial-up connections.
Should You Switch?
Admitttedly, I'm not the typical home user. I run all three browsers, for various reasons, but most of my daily work is done in Chrome. As I mentioned in my recent article on the FREAK Vulnerability, I do think it's better to use a browser that's not tightly bound to the operating system. (Those include Internet Explorer on Windows, Safari on Mac/iOS, and the stock browser on Android devices.)
I'm not saying that anyone should stop using Firefox, or that it's inferior to any of the others. Notably, Firefox was immune to the recent FREAK vulnerability. I actually hope it stays around, because history has shown that competition breeds innovation. The problem seems to be marketing, and a lack of product differentiation. Sometimes I'm running both Chrome and Firefox on the same computer, and I can't easily tell which is which.
Firefox had better start "evolving" soon or they'll be joining BetaMax and Blackberry on the list of cool technologies that didn't survive the competition. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 12 Mar 2015
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is Firefox Burning Out? (Posted: 12 Mar 2015)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved