Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

Summary:An interesting question appeared on Quora the other day:Will Firefox have double-digit market share in 3 to 5 years? Seems like they are going to start to see massive erosion in share as Chrome/Safari and IE9 continue pushing forward.

An interesting question appeared on Quora the other day:

Will Firefox have double-digit market share in 3 to 5 years? Seems like they are going to start to see massive erosion in share as Chrome/Safari and IE9 continue pushing forward.

What's more interesting are the answers posted by Firefox co-founder Blake Ross and Mozilla CEO John Lilly.

This is what Ross had to say:

I’m pretty skeptical. I think the Mozilla Organization has gradually reverted back to its old ways of being too timid, passive and consensus-driven to release breakthrough products quickly.

Lilly was more upbeat:

I’m hardly an unbiased observer, but am confident that it will. Product is getting better all the time, and especially with 4.0 approaching in the fall. We’ve got 400M users and are growing that number. And we have a huge community of committed people around the world working on making it better. It’s more competitive than ever, but I feel pretty good about our chances, not only on the desktop, but also on Android, which is already looking good.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the five years ahead of Mozilla will be far tougher than the five years that's behind the company. While it's true that Firefox was born of a time when Internet Explorer dominated the browser market, Microsoft wasn't really an agile, nimble opponent. The company was (and in many ways, still is) a lumbering dinosaur with the turning circle of the Atlantic fleet. Firefox owes its current market share to being innovative and responsive to user needs at a time when Microsoft was still trying to dictate to users how they should use the web.

But times are a changing. First, there's Apple and its WebKit rendering engine which is not only making big gains on the desktop (in Chrome and Safari), but also on mobile platforms (for example the iPhone and Android, with Blackberry next on the cards). One place where WebKit isn't being used is in Firefox.

Then there's the hand-holding that Firefox has had from the Linux community. While Linux as an operating system still only has a tiny user share, these geeks have been very influential in increasing Firefox adoption at workplaces, schools, colleges and homes. But that might change, especially if Ubuntu kicks Firefox to the kerb in favor of Chromium in the Netbook Edition 10.10 release.

The problem facing Mozilla with Firefox is that the project itself has fallen foul of the very reason that Firefox came into existence - bloat.

The Firefox project began as an experimental branch of the Mozilla project by Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt and Blake Ross. They believed the commercial requirements of Netscape's sponsorship and developer-driven feature creep compromised the utility of the Mozilla browser. To combat what they saw as the Mozilla Suite's software bloat, they created a stand-alone browser, with which they intended to replace the Mozilla Suite.

Bottom line, Mozilla should focus on security, privacy, speed and standards and leave everything else plugins and extensions.

Topics: Enterprise Software


Adrian Kingsley-Hughes is an internationally published technology author who has devoted over a decade to helping users get the most from technology -- whether that be by learning to program, building a PC from a pile of parts, or helping them get the most from their new MP3 player or digital camera.Adrian has authored/co-authored technic... Full Bio

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