Is the geek love affair with Firefox waning?

Is the geek love affair with Firefox waning?

Summary: I remember a time not that long ago when most geeks agreed that Firefox was the best browser (oddly enough, I was still using IE because I wasn't impressed by Firefox's stability and resource usage). Since then things have changed a lot. All the major browsers have become a lot better, and as a result of this some who were previously loyal Firefox users are making the switch to other browsers.

TOPICS: Browser, Google

I remember a time not that long ago when most geeks agreed that Firefox was the best browser (oddly enough, I was still using IE because I wasn't impressed by Firefox's stability and resource usage). Since then things have changed a lot. All the major browsers have become a lot better, and as a result of this some who were previously loyal Firefox users are making the switch to other browsers.

Keir Thomas of PC World has the following to say:

This is an exciting time for Web browsers. Google Chrome is now available in alpha for Linux, and I downloaded it for Ubuntu. Despite the fact that I was running it on my rather underpowered Dell Mini 9, it started in the blink of an eye. Additionally, any JavaScript-heavy sites like Gmail or Google Docs were so responsive that it's almost unbelievable.

Does that sound familiar? That's right. It's just like how Firefox used to be.


Mozilla have several grand aims, and there's much to be admired, but they've forgotten how to make a decent browser. I feel plenty of loyalty for them, because they've done more than anybody else to further the cause of open source software in the real world. But when I tried Chrome, as incomplete as it was, I realized I'd found a replacement for Firefox. As soon as it gets to beta under Linux, I will switch to Chrome. No question. It's just infinitely better. It's like when we all switched from Alta Vista (or Yahoo!) to Google back in the early noughties. The king is dead! Long live the king!

[poll id="440"]

I was a long time Internet Explorer user (it came pre-installed on pretty much PC that I used, so it seemed like the most sensible choice). I kept hearing about Firefox and how fast and secure it was, but I was never really impressed enough to switch. Stability never seemed that great to me and while I was impressed by the number of add-ons available, I never really found anything that was a must have. In fact, I stuck with IE until Firefox 3.0 was released, at which point I found my new favorite web browser. I thought I was going to be happy with Firefox for a long time to come.

Problem is, things didn't stay that way, and two things in particular happened. First, I realized that switching browsers wasn't all that traumatic an experience, and once I'd made the first leap of faith to a new web browser platform, making another didn't seem anywhere near as daunting. I found that it was just as easy to make regular use of several browsers as it was one. At the same time existing browsers went through a rapid phase of improvement, and a new browser, Google's Chrome, became available.

The position I've ended up in is one where I'm using different browsers for different things. I have different favorites and different home pages loaded into IE, Firefox, Chrome and Opera and I shift between them regularly. Rather than shifting my allegiance from IE to Firefox, I've found myself adopting an agnostic viewpoint as to which browser is "best" and utilizing the strengths of the individual browsers to suit my needs.

The trend that I've noticed from the email, comments and TalkBacks I've received is that are quite a lot of users who do what I do and use more than one browser. Others are fiercely loyal to the browser they are currently using (these are usually Firefox or Safari users) and can't see any reason to either shift to a different browser or use more than one browser. Then there are those who would like to make a switch (which seem to be Firefox users wanting to switch to Chrome) but are rely on a specific feature of the browser they are currently using (very often this is an add-on or extension). I've also come across a LOT of people who simply won't try a browser like Chrome because they don't trust the company behind it. While I'm not really concerned about such things, I can appreciate why others might be.

My take on the browser arena right now is that things are changing. While I'm not for one moment going to suggest that Firefox is in any way doomed or likely to experience a fall off in users, it has to be remembered that it's taken Mozilla a long time to capture 20% of the browser market. There are now more browsers aimed at the PC (I'm thinking of Safari and Chrome) I think that we're going to see a situation where future gains are going to be slower simply because there's more competition.

One complaint I find that's directed at Firefox often is that the browser has shifted too far away from the early ideals of "fast and secure" and has become bloated. I think how you feel about this will depend on what you want from a browser, but as a rule pretty much every software project increases in complexity as time goes by as the project tries to be all things to all users. The beauty of open source is that if there's enough demand for a browser that's less bloated than Firefox, someone will modify the code and make one.

So, what do you think? Have you changed browsers? Have you thought about changing? Is Firefox in danger of being overtaken or is everything OK with the open source project?

Topics: Browser, Google

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  • I am with you on that.

    I would say that I use firefox for many things. There are several cool addons that I use to customize my experience.

    But I still use IE for many things as well, where on some sites printing is handled better by IE, because the web developer used IE as its target audience.

    I also use Safari, especially the new beta 4 that has been released. I really like the features that allow me to have multiple webpages up on a single screen. Although this feature is avialable in Opera, Safari 4 beta does it a bit better. I also like the scroll by feature too.

    I haven't used chrome since one of the early beta's. I wasn't impressed with it then, but it may be time to check it out again.
  • Principles

    I will NOT use IE because of MS's past (and continuing?) conduct in the browser/web area. This attitude extends to other products and companies. If consumers were more aware and principled regarding with whom they deal (and whom they idolize) I believe we would have a much better society. To deserve me as a friend/customer/user you have to have certain ethical standards. My memory is as long as the elephant's.
    • Well, since you brought it up...

      I'm perfectly willing to be undeserving of you as a friend, customer, or user. I certainly hope your sense of ethics doesn't extend to your food purchases, otherwise you're in for a slow, painful demise.
      • Well, since you brought it up...

        So you take it personally that he doesn't use IE?

        Good grief, that's one of the nuttiest responses I read yet...
        hasta la Vista, bah-bie
  • Opera mostly here

    I love Opera. I use it as my main browser on all my PC's. For my Mac's, I run Camino. Its a Mozilla based mac only browser. I have been using it since the first day it was released as a beta.

    I do use Safari for two websites that just don't work with Opera/Mozilla.

    I use IE only for accessing intranet sites at work (sharepoint, etc) as you basically have too or the credentials don't work.
    • Pretty much the same here

      Opera most of the time, but occasionally I use Chrome because it is a damn good browser (like Opera). IE for the sites that use ActiveX.

      Firefox? Never. It is a horrid browser with a UI that is ugly & cannot be customised. As for startup times? You could prepare, cook and eat a three course meal before Firefox starts up!
      • I wish it worked better

        I love a lot of the things on Opera but I find that about half the website I want to work with do not work right on Opera. They use a display function that just does not show up. I then find that I have to switch back to Firefox to see the pictures I need to see. Just not worth the shifting. If the various companies would meet the standards on web design then I would be able to use Opera across the board. Until then, I am a Firefox user.
        • I very seldom...

          ...find it useful to use Firefox with a page/site that won't work in Opera.

          Generally i have to go straight to IE.

          Firefox is on this machine partly because it's my wife's favourite browser (she's a DB manager fr the county), and a couple of special-purpose Firefox add-ons (FireFTP, particularly) are useful.
      • Opera is great, has annoying flaws

        For most sites, Opera is much faster than IE or Firefox, and everything renders fine. A few sites don't render properly; for instance, I can't play videos in Opera. Its printing functionality is arcane and wierd, and many times it does not print properly. On one banking site I use frequently, it spits out lots of pieces of paper for a single page and then logs me out of the site. Aside from that, Opera is great.
        • Yahoo video problem in Opera?

          It's the first time I'm hearing about that one, since I've watched Yahoo video on all my browsers, including Opera, without incident or issues. Maybe it's time for you to reinstall windows to refresh the registry...
        • Arcane settings

          What I find crazy is where some of the settings are in Opera. I think IE and Firefox prety much set the useability standard but it is hard to find the simple settings I need in Opera. I had to reinstall XP so am happy running IE6! Also use Firefox and Chrome. Depends on what I need to find.
        • Not Opera's fault...

          ...that those sites are badly-written.
  • My path: IE=>FF=>IE=>Chrome and perhaps back to IE

    I used to just use IE because I couldn't be bothered
    by all the sites which were clearly designed with IE
    in mind.

    Once websites started to get their act together I
    switched to FF1.5 and followed along. FF was never
    really stable, though, so I mostly switch back to IE.
    It didn't help that FF started to top IE in
    vulnerabilities and crashes. Mozillas steadfast denial
    of stability problems didn't do anything for my trust
    in the organization. Basically they blamed anyone
    else. That's a testament to a bad culture.

    Then Chrome came along. It offered the security of IE
    proteted mode, and even more so. Ironically it was
    most stable for me during the beta period. Lately I
    have been experiencing strange hangs and crashes which
    often require me to shut down and restart the entire
    browser. I *suspect* it has something to do with
    Flash, but I can not really put my finger on it. I've
    spoken to some co-workers who have similar

    I am now pondering going back to IE, now that IE8 is
    out. Time will tell.

    I don't have any real preference for any browser. The
    second I have greater trust in another browser, I will

    But I also find it ironically that Firefox which were
    once pitted as the "fast, stable and secure"
    alternative have now become the bloated, complex,
    buggy, unstable and insecure browser.
    • FF is fast, stable and secure...

      just not on your PC. It's actually quite amazing to hear all this talk about instability and bugs on FF. I have 3 Windows Desktop PCs (each is custom built with very different hardware specs; 2 are XP, the other Vista) running FF and the only time i had browser issues and crashes was when the registry on the PC i used for beta testing became filled with errors. A reinstall of Windows solved all instability problems. Meanwhile, the other PCs had no issues at all and had clean registries. Since installing FF3.0 on its release day last year, I've had only one FF crash on one PC - and that was due to an experimental extension i was trying out.

      In fact, the only browser that crashed regularly used to be Chrome, and that was always due to some incompatibility with the flash plug-in. Since Chrome left beta it has not crashed on any of my PCs. I think you're blaming the browser for your PC's problems.
    • IE has way more vulnerabilities, MS just hides them

      Active X = pwnd

      On the other hand OSS means that you can't hide the vulnerabilities so you have to fix them.
  • Does Chrome have an ad blocker?

    First of all, your question is "My favorite browser is ...". Allowing a voter to enter "I use more than one" is not answering the question. I HIGHLY doubt that for people like me who use more than one browser that the use is split *right* down the middle. The question asked "What was the FAVORITE". "I use more than one" is not an acceptable answer.

    It's possible Keir Thomas is clairvoyant and looking way ahead, but let's look at the #1 reason I use Firefox: It has a superior ad blocking add-on (Ad Block Plus). Do you seriously expect Google, which is an advertising company at its heart, to build an ad-blocker? If one equal to or superior to Ad Block Plus exists with Chrome, I stand corrected. But until then, Firefox is the guy. (IE7Pro for IE is inferior to Ad Block Plus.).

    • Or have NoScript?

      The addition of NoScript makes FF the one I turn to most often, though I'll use several different ones.

      In IE 6, I couldn't stand not having tabs. Now, not being able to store known, unverified SSL certificates in IE drives me away now...
    • IE7Pro.... inferior? Please

      I've never had any issues with IE7Pro's ad blocking. It's not difficult to use and does the job. Ad Block Plus is no different. I fail to see how one is inferior to the other.
    • Ad blocker #1 for me as well

      I use Firefox at home, forced to use IE7 at work. I use almost no features of any browser, I hardly ever click on the menu bar and any difference in speed is not noticeable for my normal usage.

      So I'm basically impartial - EXCEPT when it comes to Ad-Block Plus. I really miss not having Ad-Block Plus at work and will never change at home until some other browser comes up with an equivalent.

      I might change then because FF3 does take an age to start up.

    • Not just the ad blocker

      What about Google Analytics? Do we really want Google spying on your every mouse click? I already have the Customize Google plug in in Firefox to help minimize that.

      And no, I can't see Google putting an ad blocker into Chrome, since they rely heavily on advertisers and wouldn't shoot themselves in the foot.

      Those two issues keep me away from Chrome.
      hasta la Vista, bah-bie