Is It Too Late For Firefox?

Category: Browsers

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.

Firefox trending downwards

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...

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Most recent comments on "Is It Too Late For Firefox?"

(See all 98 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

27 Jun 2017

I use Firefox as my main browser it does everything i want without all the Microsoft issues, I do use chrome for one or two apps that will only run on chrome but Firefox is my preference. I hope that with even a diminishing share of the market that it can keep on keeping on.

Posted by:

27 Jun 2017

For me, FF's biggest advantage over Chrome is easy access to all bookmarks (not just the few that fit into the bookmarks toolbar) through keyboard shortcuts: Alt+B then whichever keys get you to the bookmarks you want to open.

Posted by:

27 Jun 2017

I've used Firefox as my main browser since version 3, I was not happy when they started popping out new versions every few months, but they lost me for a year after version 28 when they went all "Australis" on us without warning. I moved to Pale Moon for about a year, by which time addons had restored the functionality lost with version 29 - like the addon bar where I ran a couple of addons.

There have been hiccups along the way but I've stayed with it ever since. I detest Chrome. I use Malwarebytes Pro as my antivirus, software firewall, antimalware standalone and every time I open Chrome it identifies FIVE tracking programs Chrome drops on my machine as PUP's. I don't like being tracked. I also absolutely want the File Edit, etc., menu. No exceptions. When Chrome took that, they lost me. I've had to use IE at work and, well, that's the only reason I ever used it.

I prefer a customizable browser and none is more so than Firefox, Pale Moon too. The sheer numbers of addons is staggering, yes, Chrome has a lot of them too now, but Firefox led the way in this arena. I still view Google as the evil empire, tracking my every move and I hate that, I always will hate that. I don't use their search engine and haven't for years, I use Ixquick or Duck Duck Go.

I do have another browser, newer to the game, Vivaldi, which I like quite a lot. It uses Chrome extension but not the memory Chrome does and may or may not be associated with Opera (which I also stopped using when the File Edit menu was essentially lost). I currently have 15 tabs open in Firefox and another 10 or so in Vivaldi. I love both browsers, I'd hate to lose either and I don't care if they remain a minority as long as they remain. I will always want an alternative to Chrome, won't use IE or Edge, and only use Safari in a limited with my MacBook Pro, iPad and iPhone, even there I use alternatives most of the time.

There just isn't any feature of Firefox that doesn't work better than any other browser, except Pale Moon - they have parted ways, but still operate much the same. I don't want to lose either, ever. If I did, I'd go full time to Vivaldi or Opera before Chrome. As long as there IS an alternative to Chrome, I'll be using it.

Posted by:

Danny G
27 Jun 2017

9 Reasons to Switch From Chrome to Firefox

And this is before 54!

Posted by:

27 Jun 2017

FF does exactly what I want a browser to do, and I find others lacking. You correctly identify the key reasons for the emergence of other browsers primarily because of tie-ins to the major players. It is like when Microsoft kept trying to pawn off the Bing search engine on us. I have a land line for $15/mo, a 10 year old auto, a non-powered toothbrush, and they all do exactly what I need. I do not need others making decisions for me at their profit.

Posted by:

Kenneth Maltby
27 Jun 2017

Thanks for this article - I've been missing Firefox since I stopped using it in favour of Google and Google Chrome. Nice to know it's on the upsurge again and with features that don't enable it to spy on you so much. Google insert so many ads onto my daily Internet usage that I was beginning to think it had installed a camera and microphone into my home!

Posted by:

28 Jun 2017

I like Firefox but I think that they made a big mistake not migrating to the Blink rendering engine used in Chrome. This would have upset their addon ecosystem but Blink is superior to the Gecko engine they are still using. One thing that surprises me is that I rarely hear anything about the Slimjet browser, which is based on Blink. This is a real peach of a browser - it's superfast, incredibly stable, and has a lot of builtin features. It's like an enhanced version of Chrome, without the spying or the high resource usage. In fact I think it's so good that I'm using it as my main browser and have not experienced one crash so far. The Chrome lovers out there should try it since it's so much better -

Posted by:

28 Jun 2017

I have loved using Firefox and have it set as my default browser. I loved Netscape as well. I made all of my webpages using Composer in Netscape, and now use Seamonkey's Composer feature (so glad to have found Seamonkey) I do use Chrome on occasion just to see what's happening with the favored kid on the Browser field. But haven't really found it to be better or anything worth using full time, unless I am forced to. And if it comes to that, I'll not go happily but will go with the flow.

Posted by:

Brummagem Flash
28 Jun 2017

I feel very uncomfortable that Big-Brother Android-G could be watching my every search, tracking my every movement, and knowing how I spend my money! So I use FireFox, DuckDuckGo, and I won't let my Andoid 'phone "know my location" (although I'm sure my network knows who and where I am).

Mozilla's contributors work for all of us- rather than for profit; but Google doesn't do anything for us, unless it makes money out of it.
In addition, Firefox is actually more efficient and, in my opinion, friendlier in use than Chrome.
The World would be immeasurably poorer without Mozilla's FireFox, and the altruistic philosophy it represents.

Posted by:

28 Jun 2017

I use FF exclusively. I Love the opportunity to read the main article in an email without all the side ads and garbage cluttering the screen! I also find the print and download options easy and useful.
Hope FF gets a chance to read the positive reviews

Posted by:

Top Squirrel
28 Jun 2017

I downloaded Chrome when it first came out, hit a roadblock in that I couldn't find an answer to a straight-forward question no matter what I clicked on. There was no link for 'contact us' for questions not anticipated by their programmers. No way to find a human being to ask an unanticipated question. They seemed to claim infallibility.

Finally gave up and started the uninstall process. Aha, but NOW the text appeared, telling me they have worked SO HARD on Chrome and are SO SAD I had decided to leave, and here is a message field which you can use to PLEASE tell us why you have given up on us. (And won't you please please reconsider?)

Well, I did. I told them NOW you ask me, after all my frustration trying to make your browser work you appeal to my pity for poor little you, you've worked so hard and big bad me has decided to throw you out with the garbage? Boo hoo.

So much for Chrome. I don't care if they've solved the problem or not. Whenever I see a pre-checked box in a download as if I have asked them to make Chrome my default browser, I get annoyed at their attempt to muscle me. Screw them.

I use Firefox (used to use Firebird 0.7) and I have Avant and Maxthon as backup browsers. And I appreciate the tip about slimjet and Pale Moon. I'll take a look.

Posted by:

29 Jun 2017

I was using Firefox forever especially because I like a couple of their User Agent add-ons so it can appear like any browser to the internet. I went to Chrome for a long time but have been finding it to take so much RAM lately that it sometimes gets slow & other times just ticks me off (I have task manager up all the time watching what is taking most memory.) So, I've been using Firefox again as my only browser for a week or so. I always have 3 or 4 different kinds of browsers on my PC and even more on a laptop with Linux running, but after seeing your article, I will have another reason to stick with Firefox. I really like the fact they are non-profit with a goal of maintaining a decent browser and mail carrier program. When away from work in the past, I always used Thunderbird. However, I like just using web based login these days. I'd rather not have ANOTHER program handling my mail, especially a Microsoft based one (I'll refrain from complaints in that area as it doesn't pertain to this article.)

Thank you for the article and enlightenment.

Posted by:

29 Jun 2017

Hi Bob. Thanks for this article on Firefox. I have been using Chrome for years but have been finding it slowing the computer during the course of the day and I have to shut it down and restart it to restore normal performance. I downloaded and installed Firefox and found an immediate and very noticeable improvement in browsing speed.

Posted by:

30 Jun 2017

"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it's time to pause and reflect."

Mark Twain

Posted by:

30 Jun 2017

Bob, if you like Chrome so much, how about getting them to improve their Bookmarking routine? I like the way F/F does it and especially how you can sort by name with a right click. You can do that with Chrome but it is very involved and clunky. Also, F/F has a very functional toolbar at the top of the screen vs. Chrome's hamburger on the right side. With a good cable ISP, there doesn't seem to be much noticeable difference in speed between the two. From the discussion here, think I'll give a look at Slimjet. I also thank you for all the tips that you provide us.

Posted by:

04 Jul 2017

I have been using Firefox since the time it still was named Netscape. I never realized the one came from the other. Now I only change (and to Chrome) when FF tells me to run flash. Some guy called Bob said don't do that! If I'm ever stuck with no choice other than Edge I guess my computing days are over. I put a URL into the address bar and it returns a search. Then I click the entry I had entered anyway and it returns another search, etc. Don't know how that's supposed to help.

Posted by:

11 Jul 2017

2 words: Sergey Brin...Larry Page. OK more than 2 words/names. As others have stated, I don't want Google/alphabet/The CIA (holding company for Google/Alphabet), etc. controlling me and taking over the world. I believe in competition and I will continue using FF and avoiding Chrome and all things Google related. I also hate and Jeff Bozo - another one worlder. Ever wonder how these guys were able to get started? Facebook? Who was really backing Zuckerface? No. I'm not anti-government...I'm anti big and out of control government.

Posted by:

26 Jul 2017

I started hating Google several years ago. They were automatically installing Chrome with other software and according to reports (not just my imagination) shutting down Internet Explorer functions, so I had to uninstall Chrome and reinstall Internet Explore. Then, gmail srated acting really quirky with muy Outlook Express and then Outlook, so I closed my account. I keep IE for my wife, but I have always loved FireFox. It's demise will be a crush to the computer world.

Posted by:

19 Aug 2017

Would only use Chrome if it is the ONLY browser. Have been happy with Mozilla Foundation's SeaMonkey since 1998 !

Posted by:

02 Apr 2019

Late comments to this article however, always liked Firefox but because of the direction they took Pale moon and Waterfox are best for me. Never ever liked Google Chrome it just never felt right to me, It always made me uncomfortable. It felt sinister too. That may sound ridiculous. Vivaldi is great. Excellent browser. The only 3 that feel good to me.

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