Is Firefox toast?

Firefox's market-share is fading; the browser itself isn't that good anymore; and its money supply may be drying up. Is Firefox coming to the end of the road?
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Is Firefox burning out?

Is Firefox burning out?

I remember just how great it was when Firefox first came out. In 2004, when Firefox first appeared, Firefox was a breath of fresh air. Firefox 1.0 was far better and more secure than the already awful Internet Explorer 6. I loved Firefox then. We all did. But, that was then. This is now.

Today, Firefox is getting pummeled from all sides. Its performance is mediocre. Sure, Firefox 8.01 beats the stuffings out of "classic" Firefox 3.6, but that's not saying much. Compared to Chrome and Internet Explorer 9 Firefox isn't keeping up.

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As features and security go, Firefox no longer really offers anything that the other browsers don't. At the same time, Google is turning Chrome into not just a Web browser, but an integral part of its software as a service (SaaS) and cloud application stack. Yes, you can run Google Docs and Gmail on Firefox or IE, but the combination of Chrome's innate speed with Google's applications makes it the most attractive package.

In addition, Chrome is beating Firefox to second place in the Web browser derby. According to StatCounter, Chrome is already already number two. The other popular Web browser popularity NetMarketShare, Firefox still has a narrow lead, but no one expects it to keep its lead for much longer. Indeed, Mozilla's hyper-accelerated release schedule is losing Firefox's business customers.

Last, but never least, Firefox's parent organization, Mozilla hasn't been able to close a deal with its chief income source: Google. True, Mozilla tells us that, "Our search relationship with Google remains positive for both of us. We are in active negotiations and have nothing further to announce at this time. We have every confidence that search partnerships will continue to be a strong and growing generator of revenue for the foreseeable future."

If it wasn't for the fact that that's almost word for word what Mozilla said in its annual report for 2010, I've find that much more reassuring. Besides, as my comrade in writing arms, Adrian Kingsley-Hughes asks, "Does Google need Mozilla?" We both think the answer is no.

That's bad news for Firefox. Mozilla relies on search deals for 98% of its annual income, and it's a safe bet that most of that revenue comes from Google. Sure, Mozilla also recently inked a deal with its arch-enemy Microsoft to bring the Bing search engine to Firefox. That strikes me more as an act of desperation than a real source of substantial income.

Put it all together and what do you get? Well, Mozilla's brass had better work hard on landing some kind of continued support from Google. With that deal, Firefox can continue to struggle on. Without it? I think Firefox is toast. What do you think?

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Burning Firefox image by Teamstickergiant, , CC 2.0.

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