Is It Too Late For Firefox?
The latest major update to Firefox, v.54, was released on June 13, 2017. Its developer, the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, calls it “the best Firefox ever.” After using v.54 for a day, I have to agree; this Firefox is the best I’ve ever seen. But will it be able to halt or even reverse Firefox’s decline? Read on for the full story…
What's New With Firefox?
Mozilla patched 31 security vulnerabilities in this Firefox browser update, including three “critical” ones. But the biggest change was the expansion of Firefox processes from two to five. A process is an instance of a program that is being executed and its activity. In Firefox, one process is dedicated to running the user interface (UI) and the other four render content in open tabs.
If a buggy Web app in one tab crashes the tab’s instance of Firefox, the UI and the other tabs will keep running. That's much better than the whole browser going down, and losing everything in all the tabs that were open at the time.
Each process takes a chunk of RAM memory. Mozilla says it has pared Firefox’s memory use, so that even with five processes running Firefox 54 consumes less memory than its predecessors, and much less than its leading competitor, Google Chrome.
Chrome creates one process for each open tab. That provides maximum protection against crashes in any given tab, but it also makes Chrome a notorious memory hog. If you have several tabs open in Chrome, you can open Task Manager to see how many Chrome processes are running and add up all the RAM they consume.
Mozilla says four content processes are “just right” for most users. Four processes make optimal use of one’s hardware but still leave plenty of memory for running other apps.
Users with more than 8 GB of RAM and a need to have lots of tabs open can increase the number of processes to improve performance and crash protection. In the Firefox address bar, type about:config, then change the number in the dom.ipc.processCount setting.
During my day of using Firefox 54, it performed flawlessly. There were no crashes, and Firefox even seemed to load pages noticeably faster than Chrome, my regular browser. But that’s not enough to make me give up Chrome, with which I am very comfortable.
The fact is, Firefox has lost the browser war. Even Mozilla’s former Chief Technical Officer, Andreas Gal, says Firefox is “declining unsustainably.” Gal used data from analytics firm StatCounter to project market shares of Chrome, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Safari on desktop computers. The results are not pretty, unless you’re Google.
Firefox had a mere 12% share of the total browser market in April, 2017, according to researchers at Net Applications. Their historical stats closely parallel those of StatCounter. Within the next year, Firefox’s share will dip below 10%, the experts agree.
Chrome, meanwhile, has 65% of the browser market and its trend line is climbing steeply. By early 2018, Chrome may well claim over 80% of the market. Even on Mac computers, 36% of users prefer Chrome over Apple's Safari browser.
Firefox has an illustrious history; its ancestor, Netscape, was directly responsible for the explosion in Web browsing back in the mid-90s, and at one point it held 90% of the market. But that was before Internet Explorer was bundled into Windows, and before Chrome came along in 2008. The competition amongst the "big three" web browsers was responsible for a lot of innovation in the browser arena.
But sadly, Firefox’s glory days are over. Internet Explorer (and Edge on Windows 10) have the advantage of being pre-installed as the default browser on Windows computers. The immensely popular Google search engine, along with Gmail and other Google services give Chrome enormous visibility. Firefox has no obvious wind beneath its wings to propel it forward. It's only real raison d'etre is that it's not developed by Microsoft, Google, or Apple. The non-profit Mozilla Foundation is responsible for Firefox, and some people find that a good reason to use it.
I'll keep an updated copy of Firefox, Opera and a few other also-ran browsers on my computer, but only for testing purposes. There's one web app that I use that requires Internet Explorer. But for everything else, I use Chrome.
Are you still a fan of Firefox? Have you tried the latest version? Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 26 Jun 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Is It Too Late For Firefox? (Posted: 26 Jun 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved