Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

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.

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TOPICS: Browser
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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.

Topic: Browser

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131 comments
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  • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

    I think Chrome will take a big chunk out of other browsers. But I don't believe IE9 would be a real competitor. IE browser is getting worse, not better. IE8 is so slow in opening new tabs, so less convenient than Firefox in managing bookmarks. I barely use it these days.
    vkelman@...
    • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

      @vkelman@...
      You see IE through veil of hatred, and firefox with glasses of roses.
      UseYourHead
      • Veil of hatred? Hardly.

        @UseYourHead : The only time I use IE anymore is when I am working on something that requires IE. Otherwise it is slow and inefficient.

        I am always modestly eager to try new versions of IE, but so far IE while it has some interesting things with accelerators and the likes, it just cannot compare speed wise with FireFox and Chrome.
        Snooki_smoosh_smoosh
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        @UseYourHead I too prefer Firefox to IE. It is considerable faster in my opinion. There are sites that you are forced to use IE because the programs have been written in such a way that they are incompatible with Firefox. I have been told by not a few companies that since IE is free and is included with Windows they write their programs for it and if incompatible with other browsers so be it.
        wwgorman
    • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

      @vkelman@... I think Chrome is a dedicated piece o0f crap. Do you really need the Super User to create a little specialized folder that is more secure ... for your tabs? Can you just chmod some things?

      Not with Chrome.
      prof.ebral
    • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

      @vkelman@...

      Yes, on one of my computers, FF 3.6 eats up HUGE amounts of CPU. Why not make two versions of FF: one "LEan 'n mean," the other "Feature-ful."
      michael@...
      • Nice try, wiseguy...

        <i>"...Yes, on one of my computers, FF 3.6 eats up HUGE amounts of CPU. Why not make two versions of FF: one "LEan 'n mean," the other "Feature-ful." </i><br><br>Or <i>why not</i> just have two types of end-user:<br><br>* Them that can't configure their computers <i>worth ****</i> .. then blog online to advertise their incompetence with using a very good product (e.g. FF 3.6)<br><br>and<br><br>* Them that can configure their computer so that a trivial task like browsing the web means they don't / can't/ won't slander a very good product (e.g. FF 3.6)<br><br>It's obvious you're in Group 1 with AKH .. spreading FUD and lies about FF lagging your PC, or bloating up your system. So that explains why I've got GOM Player going in the background, a word doc open for editing and 7 browser tabs open in FF 3.6 while i write this - without the slightest lag! Oh darn, <i>must be</i> the <i>state-of-the-art</i>, AMD 64 3000 (single-core), on the WinFast AGP board i'm using (@2005).<br><br>But hey, why let facts get in the way of <i>good, old fashioned, fabrication</i>.<br><br>(n.b. by the way AKH, i guess a program directory of 27-29MB's (about accurate for most FF installs) would bloat up <i>any, modern, 100GB (plus) HDD</i> ... [i]that is, if you've maxed out the same HDD with your porn downloads.[/i]) <br><br>...It's the end of the world as we knew it <img border="0" src="http://www.cnet.com/i/mb/emoticons/sad.gif" alt="sad">
        thx-1138_
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        @thx-1138_

        You're an example of why loads of users think IT geeks are elitist arseholes.

        People don't want to have to faff around configuring their computers, they just want them to work.

        Just saying.
        Tom-Tech
    • CHrome? LOL! Surely, you jest!

      @vkelman@... Chrome is so chocked full of incompatibilities it can't even remotely be taken seriously. Who wants a browser that can't put a page up looking the way it's supposed to?

      I just uninstalled Opera for similar reasons, and nobody with any sense has used IE in a long time. That leaves Firefox.
      SpectreWriter
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        two years ago I also left Opera for the same reasons. I got so darn tired of the OP devs giving excuses. I could care less about excuses....I just wanted it to work!
        jsjag
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        @SpectreWriter Chrome scores 100 on the Acid3 test. Is that enough for you? IE fails miserably and Firefox will at least score in the high 90s. Are you even using any standards tests?
        epitax
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        @Epitax

        You can write a browser that gets 100 and yet still can't surf most sites. Why? Because it's worthless.
        Michael Alan Goff
    • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

      @vkelman@...
      I don't much like IE browsers but I would never write them off. IE6 hung on for a long long time because its IE and has the marketing of ms which will be true of all IE browsers. It is very hard for IE to decline because it is so intertwined with MS software. And because it has this huge share of the market, no developer would ever not test their product against IE. You would be a fool if you dismissed it unless you are not for profit. Best technical abilities does not = the most used product.
      rengek
    • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

      To all, and writer of this piece. As far as IE is concerned, it has been allegedly proven unsafe, which IS a big concern..<br>As far as Chrome goes, it lacks for now the richness of plugins, and for me (as I work a lot with Remote desktops an top mounted bars) is very disturbing when the tabs are hidden behind my more important work features (there is no convenient option to change the alignment (for a 9:16 screen, I would appreciate the tabs on the side). NON of the two so far enables the use of multiple profiles, which I use regularly ( I have two connection settings for connections which I use).<br>Will industry finally adopt a more common sense approach to computing and cut its umbilical cord from the Microsoft womb? -It is yet to be seen. The adequate existence of Open Office which cost nothing, Pegasus, Thunderbird and Spicebird as mail exchange for no money (with the option of connecting almost without a hitch to the Microsoft product line) did not move the Captains of industry to do so.<br><br>So as long as these people are timid and stick to IE, the other software venture tend to suffer market share growth problems.<br><br>Whoever believes that this is a localized problem with software is invited to step-up!!
      nkinrot
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        @nkinrot <br>Time and time again, I have seen companies adopt a product which costs money as opposed to an open-source one because of a perceived lack of support for the latter. In some companies, it's company policy, believe it or not.<br><br>At my present company, they used a proprietary CORBA solution some years ago rather than an open-source ORB for this very reason. Now that the ORB has risen in price by a factor of 20, they are extremely unhappy--but there is not much they can do short of rewriting a lot of code.
        Mad*Max
  • It's actually a good thing...

    ...since the potential decline is caused by a competitive marketplace. It's not important to me that I use the most popular browser. All that matters is that there's plenty of healthy competition so we never have to go back to 2001 and suffer through Microsoft's willingness to sit on its market share lead.
    john.lemme@...
  • Version 3.6 gave me pause

    Literally. Up until version 3.6, I was tremendously happy with Firefox, and but 3.6 reminds me of IE performance, which is not a good thing.

    I know there are "workarounds," but that's beside the point. It's like when Norton took their eye off the performance ball. It nearly cost them the company.

    I understand features are "cool," and performance a pain, but you can't sacrifice performance for features - EVER - and expect to maintain market share - even if your product is free.
    Takalok
    • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

      @Takalok Firefox 3.6 is in no way slower than 3.5. Sounds like you're having other problems that aren't related to version 3.6 (even though upgrading might have triggered it). Try http://support.mozilla.com/en-US/kb/Safe Mode and see if Firefox is still slow with extensions not running. If it's faster in Safe Mode, there's a pretty high chance that an extension is causing the slowdown in 3.6.
      djst
      • I experienced slowness/clunkyness with 3.6 too

        @djst
        I agree with Takalok. 3.5 was just fine, but 3.6 has issues. I experienced FF 3.6 problems on more than one computer.

        I love my extensions, so I'm not going anywhere yet. If I were to start using a different browser on a regular basis, I'd probably use Opera predominantly.
        K B
      • RE: Is Firefox heading for a huge user decline?

        @KB: It's not an opinion -- 3.6 isn't slower than 3.5. :) There are no known performance regressions in 3.6 over 3.5.

        What I said above is that there might be an extension incompatibility that causes the slowdown. Starting Firefox in Safe Mode only disables extensions temporarily. It's a way to test if the slowdown is caused by an extension or by Firefox itself. When you restart Firefox again, it will go back to the normal mode again, so nothing's lost.
        djst