Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

Summary: The release this week of Firefox 4 RC1 and imminent delivery of Firefox 4 presage a tougher battle for the No 2 player as IE and Chrome close in, squeeze browser share from Mozilla

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The completion of Firefox 4 Release Candidate 1 yesterday -- on March 9, as advertised --  sets the stage for a big battle of the browsers in 2011.

RC1, posted late yesterday, is available on Windows, Macintosh and Linux, and its stability and performance metrics suggest that the final Firefox 4 code should ship sometime this month.

With Chrome 10 and Internet Explorer 9 on tap, it will be an interesting year.

Firefox remains the No 2 browser behind only Microsoft Internet Explorer with more than 21 percent share, but it's no secret that the other open source browser -- Google's Chrome -- continues to gain sizable market share with each quarter. Chrome now has almost 11 percent share of the market.

And, according to market tracker Net Applications, Microsoft's Internet Explorer continues to chip away at Firefox as browser usage increases in China. In January, Net Applications shows IE's share at 56 percent, Firefox at 22.75 and Chrome breaking the double-digit milestone with 10.7 percent share.

Net Applications' take a month later, in its February 2011 report, shows a 1 percent drop in Firefox usage worldwide, to 21.74 percent, and a .77 percent gain for IE to 56.77 percent. Chrome gained but only by .23 percent.

"With the new C.I.A. numbers factored in, Firefox loses global share since many of the countries it is most popular in (Western European, in particular) now have a lower percentage of global internet users. Internet Explorer gains as browser usage shifts to countries with higher percentages of Internet Explorer users."

So, what does this mean? Is Firefox caught between a rock and a hard place and destined to die?

No. What is shows is a vibrant, competitive and growing marketplace, due primarily to the rise and growth of two open source browsers.

Not too long ago, Microsoft's Internet Explorer virtually owned the browser market. Now, the browser market is a viable three-way race with lots of other specialized browsers - several of them open source -- carving out their own niches.

Open source has leveled the playing field for Internet software and paved the way for innovation. Yet, there's no doubt that Firefox is under pressure and need to continue to innovate, attract more developers and users globally and stem losses in market share.

Financially, Mozilla claims to be strong. In its financial report posted in November, Mozilla chief Mitchell Baker spoke to increasing revenues and competition as positives.

"The browser world is now intensely competitive and products are improving constantly. Firefox continues to be at the forefront of technology and user experience. Firefox brings a great product and Mozilla's vision of openness and empowerment directly to more than 400 million people in more than 80 languages. We also spur these developments indirectly by serving as an honest broker showing what Internet life can be, and encouraging others to build products that incorporate openness and individual control. This is an immense success for Mozilla," she wrote, adding that keeping the Internet open was one of the primary missions of Mozilla -- not world dominance.

For the calendar year 2009, Mozilla's consolidated reported revenues were $104 million, up 34 percent from 2008 reported revenues of $78 million in the year before, Mozilla noted.

Most of Firefox's revenues come from search engine revenue. Some of it comes from financial support of corporations,  namely Google, whose continued funding is guaranteed through 2011.

It will be an important year for Mozilla and I'd look for the organization to make a big push for additional corporate funding, more marketing and increased global expansion, especially in Asia.

Rising out of the ashes of Netscape in 1998, Mozilla has accomplished more with Firefox than many anticipated and remains the only non-profit, open source vendor in the game. That's an advantage worth selling.

Topics: Browser, Microsoft, Open Source

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23 comments
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  • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

    "Most of Firefox?s revenues come from search engine revenue. Some of it comes from financial support of corporations, namely Google, whose continued funding is guaranteed through 2011."

    This is a misleading statement. Most of Firefox's revenue comes from the search services built in to Firefox. The default search service in most Firefox versions is Google so the lion's share of search revenue comes from Google.

    But Google does not "support" or "give money to" Mozilla. Mozilla earns money from Google and other search services through referrals from the integrated search features.
    asadotzler
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      I said this before and will say it again: Mozilla (or at least Firefox) is doomed. I said that when Google announced its Chrome browser but the Open Source pundits quickly rejected this. But it's no surprise. Firefox is a bloated browser and memory and CPU hog. The latest release of v3 made my computer freeze (a dual core with 4 Gb RAM running an x64 Windows 7) and it's usually the culprit when my computer suddenly slows down. To be fair, Chrome also causes some performance issues, but I have a far bigger number of tabs opened in it than in FF, and I can kill the independent tabs that are causing the issue (not sure if FF4 can do the same, but I hope so). When only IE6 was the main competition, the bloated FF looked agile in comparison (a true statement). Now, with really agile browsers out there, FF and Mozilla increasingly look like the dinosaurs of the past. Not only FF's day on desktop O.S.s are numbered, but they are DOA on mobile devices as well.

      R.I.P. Mozilla. I was happy you rose out from the ashes a few years ago, but it's just your fault you are getting back there now.
      nomorebs
  • After using FF4 beta, I grew to respect iTunes program much more

    iTunes software is critiqued for being a bloat, but it delivers when you try to manage countless apps as icons, re-arrange app screens for iPad/iPod/iPhone and so on. iTunes does it quite smoothly.<br><br>But when you try "grouping feature" in FF4 with quite a lot of tabs/icons to manage, it just lags and crashes (and it does not restore grouping after restart; I have 4 GB of RAM, by the way) -- whatever Mozilla did in over 10 versions of beta, it is always the same -- they just can not make it working (yet, hopefully).
    DDERSSS
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      @denisrs You need to enable Session Restore for that.<br>Firefox > Options > General > When Firefox starts: Show Windows and Tabs from last time
      abhinavkmr
      • This is turned on; I meant FF4 does not &quot;remember&quot; groups I was creating ..

        @abhinav.kumar.in@... when it crashes.

        So I have re-start all of grouping again. Or, sometimes, it "remembers" some grouping, but very twisted way -- with tabs/icons of pages being messed up.
        DDERSSS
  • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

    Well I am writing this in Firefox 4 RC1 on a laptop running Peppermint. The Firefox 4 works great much better than the older versions and I like it better than chrome. All I can say is keep up the good work!
    atmusky
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      @atmusky
      Yes, Firefox has improved a lot with Firefox 4 RC1. I too liked it. I feel it is better than chrome.
      adeekshith
  • Net Applications, with its pronounced USA bias,

    always underestimates Firefox's world-wide market share (and, for that matter, that of Chrome as well), while greatly overestimating that of IE, as can be seen by comparing StatCounter's Global Stats (http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-ww-daily-20080701-20110310) with the figures reproduced by Paula above. Still, her argument is valid - to maintain its position, FF is going to have to increase its appeal to users in countries outside Europe (where it presently is the leading browser), the user base of which is growing more quickly than that on this continent. Let us hope that FF 4.0 will contribute to such a development - after all, if it hadn't been for Firefox's success in challenging IE's dominance, we'd all still be using a slightly updated version of IE6 !...

    Henri
    mhenriday
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      @mhenriday "after all, if it hadn't been for Firefox's success in challenging IE's dominance, we'd all still be using a slightly updated version of IE6 !"

      So right! At least Google (GMail, Docs), Mozilla (Firefox, Thunderbird) and the dominant mobile platforms are finally holding Microsoft accountable for the user experience in products they have enjoyed their complacent monopoly in for years.
      nigebj
    • It's the StatCounter data that are geographically biased

      @ mhenriday

      There isn't a US bias in the Net Applications data. The StatCounter data, however, are severely biased. China, for example, has the most internet users of any country by a large margin, but StatCounter recorded ten times as many hits from US sites as from Chinese. StatCounter recorded more than 50 per cent more hits from German sites than from China as well. Even Thailand's 17 million internet users registered more hits with StatCounter than China's 389 million. Since StatCounter don't weight their estimates by country, these differences in hit rates imply their regional and global estimates are essentially meaningless. Their national estimates may have some validity, however, provided the samples are random.

      Like StatCounter, Net Applications also get disproportionally high and low hits from different countries, with hits from China also disproportionately low. However, unlike StatCounter, Net Applications correct the resulting bias in their data by weighting country estimates by the number of internet users in that country, as estimated by the CIA. China is the elephant in the room here, because there's an enormous number of Chinese internet users, and they overwhelmingly use IE. In fact, 88 per cent of StatCounter hits from China in the most recent period were from IE, with IE-based Maxthon coming second (about 4 per cent).

      The bias in the StatCounter data caused by a failure to correct for the under-weighting of Chinese internet users is probably the single most important factor in the difference between the StatCounter and Net Applications results -- and leads to a severe underestimation of IE's global share. However, another difference that favours Net Applications over StatCounter is what they actually count. StatCounter simply count hits, whereas Net Applications count unique users. This means that the StatCounter data are biased by intensity of web use: a user who browses ten times as much as average counts as much as ten average users in the StatCounter data, but not in the Net Applications data.

      Overall, the failure to correct for geographical and usage differences leaves the StatCounter data looking pretty dodgy. The one advantage is the larger sample size: more than 3 million sites, compared with about 40 thousand sites for Net Applications. However, the size of the sample is actually far less important than its representativeness. A more representative sample of 40 thousand sites gives a better estimate than a less representative sample of 3 million.
      WilErz
  • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

    Mozilla has always made a superior browser than IE or Chrome, even in the days of Netscape. Only the ignorant who are arrogant in their ignorance say different.
    ITOdeed
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      @ITOdeed
      arrogant much?
      jmeinhart
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      @ITOdeed
      Yes, I am now using Firefox 4 RC 1. It is too good and better than any other browser. However, I felt Opera 11 is also good.
      adeekshith
  • FireFox 4 Really Fine

    I've been using the FF4 BETA since version 10 and now RC1. I've also tried using Chrome 10 (starting in BETA). While Chrome 10 is significantly faster than FF or any other browser I've ever tried, it continues to be a browser that does not enhance productivity. All the seconds you save with Chrome loading up and loading pages is lost because it just plain lacks all the useful add-ons available for FireFox 4 (and 3). That's why I'm sticking with FireFox 4 which definitely is faster than its predecessors. Saving 3 seconds in loading the browser does not make up for Chrome lacking so many of the features that make FireFox a great browser to use for our business (a lot of factual research and data gathering). Chrome's add-ons are cute as can be -- but they are poorly organized and poorly explained. I really can't find any that match those available for FireFox.
    dl@...
  • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

    Near term FireFox 4 and Chrome will dominate because of WebGL. When Silverlight 5.0 comes out, things could flip back. Here are a couple WebGL demos.

    http://www.pcprogramming.com/noisecube.html
    http://www.pcprogramming.com/flight.html
    unicomp21
    • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

      @unicomp21

      Why won't these links work in Internet Explorer? :)
      biglama
      • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

        @biglama
        Funny! Are you still using Internet Explorer? Switch to Firefox 4. It is much better and everything will work well then.
        adeekshith
  • Firefox may fade away

    Firefox is very popular in Germany, and is rather or somewhat popular in many other countries, but its funding comes almost entirely from Google. As Chrome's market share grows, Google's reason for supporting FF (i.e. to reduce IE's market share) disappears. For those who'd like an open source (or just non-IE) browser, the fact that Chrome uses WebKit is also appealing.<br><br>If IE9 is the beginning of a real counter-attack by Microsoft, Google may conclude that it's better to let Firefox die than to split the non-IE user base between Chrome and FF. I'd rather see Chrome die than FF, because of Google's business model and privacy record, but the foundation FF is standing on look much weaker. If one of them goes, I think it will be FF.
    WilErz
  • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

    "What is shows is a vibrant, competitive and growing marketplace, due primarily to the rise and growth of two open source browsers."

    Which is one of the best things to happen. I applaud all three major browser vendors for working hard to make their latest releases better than ever.

    "Yet, there?s no doubt that Firefox is under pressure and need (sic) to continue to innovate, attract more developers and users globally and stem losses in market share."

    Yeah, agreed. They've been a bit slow in adding process isolation in Firefox. They really need to push that harder.
    CobraA1
  • RE: Firefox 4 launch presages tougher browser battle for Mozilla

    I don't understand why anybody would use Google Chrome when SRWare's Chromium-based Iron browser works like the Google version, but is optimized for privacy and security. At least on American tech sites, you would never even know Iron existed as an alternative.
    preilly2@...