Why building a better browser doesn’t translate to a better marketshare
I posted a couple weeks ago about Chrome effectively having won the browser wars. The market share observations in the blog post were based on data provided by StatCounter. Several commenters criticized the StatCounter data as inaccurate so I decided to take a look at raw installation data Mozilla publishes to see whether it aligns with the StatCounter data.
Active Firefox Installs
Mozilla’s public data shows that the number of active Firefox Desktop installs running the most recent version of Firefox has been declining for several years. Based on this data, 22% fewer Firefox Desktop installations are active today than a year ago. This is a loss of 16 million Firefox installs in a year. The year over year decline used to be below 10% but accelerated to 14% in 2016. It returned to a more modest 10% year over year loss late 2016, which could be the result of a successful marketing campaign (Mozilla’s biggest marketing campaigns are often in the fall). That effect was temporary as the accelerating decline this year shows (Philipp suggests that the two recent drops could be the result of support for older machines and Windows versions being removed and those users continuing to use previous versions of Firefox, see comments).
Obtaining the data
Mozilla publishes aggregated Firefox usage data in form of Active Daily Installs (ADIs) here (Update: looks like the site requires a login now. It used to be available publicly for years and was public until a few days ago). The site is a bit clumsy and you can look at individual days only so I wrote some code to fetch the data for the last 3 years so its easier to analyze (link). The raw ADI data is pretty noisy as you can see here:
During any given week the ADI number can vary substantially. For the last week the peak was around 80 million users and the low was around 53 million users. To understand why the data is so variable it’s necessary to understand how Active Daily Installs are calculated.
Firefox tries to contact Mozilla once a day to check for security updates. This is called the “updater ping”. The ADI number is the aggregate number of these pings that were seen on a given day and can be understood as the number of running Firefox installs on that day.
The main reason that ADI data is so noisy is that work machines are switched off on the weekend. Those Firefox installs don’t check over the weekend, so the ADI number drops significantly. This also explains why ADIs don’t map 1:1 to Active Daily Users (ADUs). A user may be briefly active on a given day but then switches off the machine before Firefox had a chance to phone home. The ADI count can miss this user. Inversely, Firefox may be active on a day but the user actually wasn’t. Mozilla has a disclaimer on the site that publishes ADI data to point out that ADI data is imprecise, and from data I have seen actual Active Daily Users are about 10% higher than ADIs but this is just a ballpark estimate.
The graphs above also only look at the most recent version of Firefox. A subset of users are often stranded on older versions of Firefox. This subset tends to be relatively small since Mozilla is doing a good job these days converting as many users as possible to the most recently/most secure/most performant version of Firefox.
The first graph in this post was obtained by sliding a 90 day window over the data and comparing for each 90 day window the total number of active daily installs to the 90 day window a year prior. This helps eliminate some of the variability in the data and shows are clearer trend. In addition to weekly swings there is also a strong seasonality. College students being on break and people spending time with family over Christmas are some of the effects you can see in the raw data that the sliding window mechanism can filter to a degree.
If you want to explore the data yourself and see what effect shorter window parameters have you can use this link. If you see any mistakes or have ideas how to improve the visualization please send a pull request.
What about Mobile?
Mozilla doesn’t publish ADI data for Firefox for iOS and Firefox Focus, but since none of these appear in any browser statistics it means their market share is probably very small. ADI data is available for Firefox for Android and that graph looks quite a bit different from Desktop:
Firefox for Android has been growing pretty consistently over the last few years. There is a big drop in early 2015 which is likely when Mozilla stopped support for very old versions of Android. The otherwise pretty consistent albeit slow growth seems to have stopped this year but it’s too early still to tell whether this trend will hold.
As you can see ADI data for mobile is not as noisy as desktop. This makes sense because people are much less likely to switch of their phones than their PCs.
A lot of commenters asked why Firefox marketshare is falling off a cliff. I think that question can be best answered with a few screenshots Mozilla engineer Chris Lord posted:
Google is aggressively using its monopoly position in Internet services such as Google Mail, Google Calendar and YouTube to advertise Chrome. Browsers are a mature product and its hard to compete in a mature market if your main competitor has access to billions of dollars worth of free marketing.
Google’s incentives here are pretty clear. The Desktop market is not growing much any more, so Google can’t acquire new users easily which threatens Google’s revenue growth. Instead, Google is going after Firefox and other browsers to grow. Chrome allows Google to lock in a user and make sure that that user heads to Google services first. No wonder Google is so aggressively converting everyone to Chrome, especially if the marketing for that is essentially free to them.
This explains why the market share decline of Firefox has accelerated so dramatically the last 12 months despite Firefox getting much better during the same time window. The Firefox engineering team at Mozilla has made amazing improvements to Firefox and is rebuilding many parts of Firefox with state of the art technology based on Mozilla’s futuristic rendering engine Servo. Firefox is today as good as Chrome in most ways, and better in some (memory use for example). However, this simply doesn’t matter in this market.
Firefox’s decline is not an engineering problem. Its a market disruption (Desktop to Mobile shift) and monopoly problem. There are no engineering solutions to these market problems. The only way to escape this is to pivot to a different market (Firefox OS tried to pivot Mozilla into mobile), or create a new market. The latter is what Brendan’s Brave is all about: be the browser for a better less ad infested Web instead of a traditional Desktop browser.
What makes today very different from the founding days of Mozilla is that Google isn’t neglecting Chrome and the Web the way Microsoft did during the Internet Explorer 6 days. Google continues to advance Chrome and the Web at breakneck pace. Despite this silver lining it is still very concerning that we are headed towards a Web monoculture dominated by Chrome.
What about Mozilla?
Mozilla helped the Web win but Firefox is now losing an unwinnable marketing fight against Google. This does not mean Firefox is not a great browser. Firefox is losing despite being a great browser, and getting better all the time. Firefox is simply the victim of Google’s need to increase profit in a relatively stagnant market. And it’s also important to note that while Firefox Desktop is probably headed for extinction over the next couple years, today it’s still a product used by some 90 million people, and still generating significant revenue for Mozilla for some time.
While I no longer work for Mozilla and no longer have insight into their future plans, I firmly believe that the decline of Firefox won’t necessarily mean the decline of Mozilla. There is a lot of important work beyond Firefox that Mozilla can do and is doing for the Web. Mozilla’s Rust programming language has crossed into the mainstream and is growing steadily and Rust might become Mozilla’s second most lasting contribution to the world.
Mozilla’s engineering team is also building a futuristic rendering engine Servo which is a fascinating piece of technology. If you are interested in the internals of a modern rendering engine, you should definitely take a look. Finding a relevant product to use Servo in will be a challenge, but that doesn’t diminish Servo’s role in pushing the envelope of how fast the Web can be.
And, last but not least, Mozilla is also still actively engaged in Web standards (WebAssembly and WebVR for example), even though it has to rely more on good will than market might these days. The battle for the open web is far from over.
this probably just explained by xp/vista users that don’t get served the new releases anymore as their platform is no longer supported by firefox beyond 52esr…
52 was released on March ’17 so that could make sense. Any theories on the August ’16 dip?
summer holidays – recurring every year :-)
The graph looks at year over year so it’s relative to the lower summer holiday number exactly a year prior. I don’t think that alone is the reason.
Thanks for doing Mozilla a disservice and publishing misinterpreted data so that now MoCo need to shut off even more data from the public to not have even more such misinterpretations come to the public.
The site went behind a login several days ago, long before I posted this. I don’t think my post has anything to do with that. If you have corrections to the interpretation of the data please explain and the code is on github. Happy to take fixes!
My friends at Mozilla were probably vigilant and realized someone was pulling data in bulk, and we always knew it was data that was easy to be misinterpreted, even back when I originally created this specific dataset. It was important to me to present stability data in a way that the volunteer community could take part, and I could keep it that way for the years I was still involved there. If they realized it was you pulling the data, they probably were even faster to close it down though (and even NDAed volunteers can’t get past the ironically Google login there now), as all I have heard from you recently is data misinterpretations and preaching the demise of Firefox, which I have no interest in cooperating with.
Back in the old days, when you were known for being constructive and even a genious, before you succumbed to going into management, journalists and other diligent researchers were asking people familiar with data and information and tried to get enough details to really understand an issue before publishing articles.
Again, if you have any corrections or if I have misinterpreted something please let me know and the code and data are on github.
oh, the august date also looks like when another round of systems got desupported (osx before 10.9, very old cpus on windows).
OS X (especially older versions) is a tiny market share and shouldn’t move the graph. Non-SSE2 CPUs on Windows could possibly make up a larger share, so that could possibly be the case.
I think it may be a lot simpler than that. Version 48 (released Aug 2nd, 2016) was the first to require extension signing, which may have led to a significant number of users stalling their updates. Version 52 (released March 7th,2017) was the first version to block NPAPI plugins (other than Flash), again possibly leading to a significant amount of update stalling (along with the the XP support drop).
Good points. If you are correct 57 could cause another big drop unfortunately due to old style extensions getting blocked :(
It’s not only the dissupport, but also each release of FF brings its bunch of new bugs , more and more memory losses, more and more crashes, and crappiers tools.. frankly, they should focus on simplicity and efficiency to compete against the two others, but instead of this, they manage to make FF less and less usable.. needs serious review of the product specs… sort of technicall debt revien, in depth… I’m still using it on all platforms, but seriously consider moving to Chrome… and for these reasons, not for any other one…
Entirely agree! Firefox leaks RAM like no other & will happily bomb out on me multiple times a week. It’s become routine to kill the process & restore my previous session. I’ve used Firefox since before 3.0 where everyone got all excited when the release broke software download records, but I’m at the end of my tether and Chromium (non-google version) seems more appealing every day.
When you write:
“Firefox’s decline is not an engineering problem. Its a market disruption (Desktop to Mobile shift) and monopoly problem. There are no engineering solutions to these market problems. The only way to escape this is to pivot to a different market (Firefox OS tried to pivot Mozilla into mobile), or create a new market.”
You make these mistakes:
1. Mozilla is not Firefox, Firefox is not Mozilla.
Firefox does not need to “pivot” or create new markets, it needs to work well enough so people decide to use it instead of another browser. Which lead to the question “what is a browser” but this is another long discussion. Mozilla instead looks like they are trying to accomplish some mission from God while, by accident, among several other things that are announced to change the world, live for a while and then die, they develop a browser or two, maybe. I is very clear what Firefox is. I guess nobody, including Mozilla, knows what Mozilla is, does or stands for. Is it a political party? It is an U.N. organization? Is it some sort of corporation?
2. Decline started the very moment Google published their own browser and it was technically better than Firefox because it was “modern” code and engineering while Firefox had to move on from an old codebase and legacy design. Then Mozilla made some suicidal decisions:
– They could not have the same marketing firepower as Google, in the same time they did not need their community of “evangelists”, the people who in the past put a copy of Firefox on every computer they touched, friends, parents, colleagues, clients. Firefox is not a “power user” browser any more, lets move competition on the “the user is a dumb monkey” field.
– Mozilla had to “pivot” and create new markets, starting from the assumption that Mozilla is good in making something that already exists to be technically better and more convenient for human kind, like “lets make Android better with “Web technologies”, put it inside Firefox and call it “FireSomething”. Guess what, it was not the case, Mozilla did not “pivot” or accomplish anything but wasting lots of resources.
3. At some point Mozilla, having “pivoted”, was left with old Firefox only. Another wise decision, lets resist Chrome by making Firefox a copy of it. We are not going to see any “revolutionary” Servo, we are seeing Firefox implementing exactly the same features as Chrome by gradually patching the old codebase, looking like Chrome and using the same extensions and other stuff as Chrome. Like “pivoting” by following instead of making something different or (god forbid) innovate.
There aren’t engineering solutions for managing issues.
nothing more to add : )
exactly the goal. all the rest is marketobullshit…
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Reminds me of Microsoft aggressively pushing IE and other packages over rivals during the 90s. Is there grounds for anti trust? Eg Netscape?
Antitrust is a political process. I don’t expect the current US administration to do anything about Google. The EU is a different story. I am not a lawyer, but from my understanding of the material I definitely think there is enough smoke here to investigate a monopoly abuse. Last time that process took 10 years so I am not sure it would help Firefox much but it would help the Web long term for sure.
Just stop using Google. It’s not the only way to search, mail, manage docs and calendars…
I am not sure that’s realistic for most users unfortunately.
Of course it is. It’s already happening with initiative such as https://degooglisons-internet.org/
Also fosdem 2017 talk: https://fosdem.org/2017/schedule/event/de_google_ify/
I was a firefox fan until recently. I guess it was firefox 51 or so and I switched to chromium purely for usability and performance sake. The page loading and bookmarks management was horrible at that point. Not sure how it is now.
I used Chrome and Firefox both. Performance seems equal except on some Google sites (Google Docs is pretty terrible in Firefox, likely not Mozilla’s fault). Also, I use a pretty high end Mac laptop. Your milage may vary on different hardware.
This is obviously not what most people are going to be running, and even though e10 helped a lot, it does not change the fact that there’s a clear performance difference.
Bookmark management in firefox has been terrible since forever, there were a couple extensions trying to address the issue but they’ve been abandoned. Mozilla tried to push pocket on users as a workaround but pocket sucks while there are better and opensource alternatives such as wallabag. For some reasons instead of going with wallabag, mozilla went with pocket and tried to change its proprietary licensing and end the security vulnerabilities, ended up buying pocket for an undisclosed price tag (probably in millions or tens of millions).
So yeah firefox’s bookmarks suck hard and they’re not doing anything about it.
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I’m surprised to see there’s no mention of the hundreds of millions of Adobe Flash security plug-in updates that hit Firefox users over the past decade. Many of which (most?) included a negative option bundle which installs Google Chrome as the default web browser.
This is an excellent point. Google probably pays a lot of money for these drive-by Chrome installs.
I would not be surprised to learn they spent 9 or even 10 figures on that sort of negative option bunding. Some of the free computer security scanning software solutions also monetize via a negative option Google Chrome browser bundle.
Here is an Adobe forum thread where users express rage for the deceptive business practice
The thread has over 100 posts in it. It probably represents millions and millions of pissed off Firefox users.
A few comments on Firefox trying hard to game itself out (engineering reasons):
– “awesome” bar not working when popular extensions like LastPass installed. This can be LP fault but still. Who cares.
– YouTube freezing after a while on Linux (ESR, 54, Nightly): all of them. Stracing the thing not helping. Freeze. Chromium no better. But google-chrome works without a hitch. Ah!
– Endless recvmsg/futex/… loop taking lots of CPU away. Yeah, WTF/min at an all time high.
– Resolution of the local machine name eating tens of seconds if not properly configured in /etc/hosts and not even a window showing. WTF/min also reaching epic scales.
– In MATE desktop, Firefox highlights in menus are from outer space and unreadable
– Looking a bugzilla shows bugs as “duplicate” for the things above but when reaching the mother lode of the issue, there is no resolution apart from “it should work”. Meh.
– Firefox freezed the whole X session, requiring an Alt-F2 and login + killall firefox to regain control
None of this with Google Chrome where LastPass works, video works, etc etc. No wonder there is this cliff look. I spent close to 4 hours figuring out the reasons for the above but no sane end user would do the same.
I want Firefox to work and it works but without extensions and no YouTube.
Marketing reasons? Maybe.
I believe Firefox will be around a long time. Don’t underestimate Mozilla! Chrome is the best browser but, Firefox has been called the greatest browser. I guess it’s because of customization and a favorite with power users.
I believe Firefox will be around a long time. Don’t underestimate Mozilla! Chrome is the best browser but, Firefox has been called the greatest browser. I guess it’s because of customization and a favorite with power users.
I fully disagree with you. Firefox will be around because it’s (sort of) free software not because mozilla, my opinion is actually that mozilla is among the reason for firefox decline. Chrome is not the best browser, far from it, it has poor performance with large numbers of tabs and terrible privacy. The greatest browser was opera before it sold out to become a google chrome skin.
Firefox lacks in customization options and this will soon be worse when they drop their extensions, while power users favorite was again opera and now it seems vivaldi, while firefox is giving the finger to power users and long time supporters.
Chrome is useless for a high-count tab and window use case. I have 5 firefox *profiles* open (one process each), for different levels of auth sensitivity and so on. Each profile has 1 to 30 or so windows open (I have a 3×3 virtual desktop), with 1 to 20 it so tabs each. Normally, this amounts to about 500 tabs on 50+ windows in a single login session that lasts months.
Chrome, in this scenario, is a complete disaster. Unusable, machine-melting garbage.
So, the UX of the two isn’t comparable. Firefox utterly BURIES Chrome.
Why has Mozilla or Firefox NOT created a revenue generating search engine to compete with Google???
While Google has a huge lead, it seems to me that Mozilla or Firefox should look at that lead as a huge market opportunity. Microsoft under past recent leadership has displayed possibly the worst software design decisions the world has ever seen. I have only used “Bing” a few times. Google search is simply superior. I really like Firefox and it just mystifies me that Mozilla or Firefox has not gone after “search”? The world might just welcome, via $, a good Google search engine competitor!
Funny that you would say that. to me google the search engine has become worse to the point that it’s close to useless compared to what it used to be. To the point that I’ve ceased using it altogether 7 or 8 years ago.
It would incredibly costly to launch a google competitor, indexing the web is a huge endeavour nowadays, way more than when google started. Besides you’d have to compete with google and it’s the largest online advertising network (and actually funded mozilla for years).
DuckDuckGo leverages the Bing search index. According to Crunchbase DDG has only raised a single $3 million round 6 years ago.
The decline in search quality has been driven by some combination of:
– heavier ad load (especially on mobile devices)
– harsh algorithmic penalties toward smaller indy players which relied on aggressive link building to compete with bigger brands (many former ecommerce website owners shut down their sites & decided to sell on Amazon.com instead)
– algorithmic brand / entity emphasis which is driven in part by looking at aggregate click data (Panda) & re-interpreting search queries & searching for some perceived intent rather than matching the terms that were searched for (RankBrain)
The decline won’t be reversed until someone starts to seriously steal marketshare from Google. Yahoo! certainly failed at that. Perhaps Microsoft is waiting for the EU to fine Google for the Android bundling before pushing seriously into mobile search. DuckDuckGo is still growing fast, but off a tiny base.
Qwant raised much more than DDG… and this tends to prove it’s just thebeginning of an anti GAFA movement.. Instead of dreaming of the next big monster in the market, why not understand it’s time to re-open the web . The apps killed the web, and most of them are basically not much more than provate information browsers… not able to communicate with the rest of the content… Firefox want’s to regain it’s markert shares ? they have to build a set of tools allowing editors to build automatacally an app, by just templating Firefox with they own design scheme, and then allow eternal links, as it would then be back to the web.. editors will same huge cash amoount by using this unified method of development… and FF will regain their market shares.. of course, such a method would need to cut the engine in two, avoiding each app to be the size of the full browser, but just a wrapper of a unique library…
I am a long time Firefox user switching to Chrome because it is more stable. Firefox needs to be killed a least once a day. Since making the switch I now longer have to kill my browser.
I hope FF will get it together, but for now the technology gap is very real.
In my use Firefox is about as good as Chrome. Maybe our machines differ.
Firefox has a long history of performance issues, but I beg to differ with your opinion. Firefox can handle the 150+ opened tabs and 25+ required extensions to remove crap, restore missing and removed basic features I throw at it while chrome struggle to deal with more than a few dozens tabs with 2 or 3 extensions.
Maybe in a near future when firefox runs each tab in its own thread it will get as poor as chrome is, but until then for me firefox works where chrome does not.
Nowadays performance between browsers is pretty much without significant difference for a normal use (not hundreds of tabs).
Whilst I agree that the marketing challenge is a huge factor in Firefox losing, I’d say there really also is an engineering part to it. I’ve always rooted for Mozilla/Firefox for their independence, yet it really is technically an inferior browser to Chrome, at least in my experience.
I still use FF as my default. I follow many web development newsletters and front-end stuff. For any such newsletters, I instantly switch to Chrome because I know in Firefox half the stuff will not work, and anything interactive (animation, SVG, etc) will stutter and just plain suck. On a huge Alienware desktop machine with close to the fastest GPU. Firefox is constantly playing catch-up in emerging web standards, and general performance is just way worse. This is why I can’t wait for the new render engine, it is much needed.
There’s more. Highly subjective, but the UI of the browser itself is weird, has had many changes, and I’ve just given up trying to understand it. The developer tools of Chrome, and the pace in which it improves, cannot be matched by Firefox, not even close. And web savvy people are a sizable audience. The same is true for extensions.
Finally, I’ve experienced Firefox’s open source community as quite hostile, quite differently from Chrome, that welcome bugs from noobs and make real effort to solve even the most obscure findings.
So I still see quite a lot of reasons why Firefox is losing that are not marketing reasons. Reasons to which power users, savvy users are sensitive, and this is Firefox’s original audience. I cannot think of anything that it does better than Chrome, and lots of things in which it is worse. The only thing Firefox has going for it, it their genuine intention, but that doesn’t get you very far.
I’m curious to know where you got that their intentions are genuine, it seems to me than for a handful of genuinely well intended people there is a trove of don’t care / wontfix people, to the point that sometimes I wondered if mozilla got infiltrated by outside agents trying to destroy firefox. I mean the razor says to not attribute to malice what can be explained by plain stupidity but the amount of repeated stupidity over time seems to be too much.
Perhaps it is more about independence than being genuine. And largely historical, as I saw Firefox’ rise against Microsoft’s complete sabotage of the web. It has become routine for me since then to see it as my default, and after so many years, you just don’t think about it. I don’t think they have the competence or resources to compete with Chrome, so if I root for them, it’s for sentimental reasons.
I don’t know their organization well enough to rate how genuine they are. I do know that my perception of the open source community itself, is hostile. Not welcoming to non-insiders, hiding behind procedure, theoretical arguments, anything to reject actually acting on user feedback. I base this only on incidental exposure, can’t judge a whole community on it, but it left a sour taste. The Chrome/Blink community is a difference in day and night. Helpful, communicating, actually doing something.
What frustrates me most is that their decline feels so needless. They spread their resources thin on all kinds of stupid side projects of which you can predict their failure from day one.
> This explains why the market share decline of Firefox has accelerated so dramatically the last 12 months despite Firefox getting much better during the same time window.
> Firefox is losing despite being a great browser, and getting better all the time.
It’s funny how people involved with mozilla are adamant firefox is good and getting better over time while users think firefox has been getting worse and worse for years and mozilla do not care about them. Many unnecessary and unwanted change forced upon users: australis, mandatory signed extension, mandatory pulseaudio to only name a few. One of the recurring criticism is that firefox tries very hard to look and feel like chrome.
No wonders mozilla has a reputation for “making far-reaching and very short-sighted decisions in a vacuum.”, some self-reassessing would help but it’s not mozilla’s fault, firefox is so good that there are simply no way it could have shortcomings pushing people away.
Then there are those who have been warning for more than a decade that firefox future was bleak because all its money came from google over a privacy invasive advertising deal. The minute google released its own browser firefox was dead in the water, it just took longer for mozilla to take the obvious hint, but by the time it happened firefox was already close to irrelevant. And all this was foreseeable from the get go.
> firmly believe that the decline of Firefox won’t necessarily mean the decline of Mozilla.
If true then it’s sad, because it seems to me the decline and disappearance of mozilla would be the best thing that could happen to firefox as a browser. Without the repeated poor decisions from Mozilla, Firefox would have been better off. IMHO currently what hindered firefox is the lack of a leadership with a clear vision and understanding (or simply listening to user feedback).
What is certain is that after more than a decade of supporting mozilla and installing firefox at every opportunity, I will not do this anymore and will not engage in this ever again, Mozilla has failed and betrayed me too many times and caused me much trouble for advocating firefox. More marketing crap than actual user need covered and way too much misplaced attitude since early days, with a long history of having no way to reach out to mozilla and have your voice heard there is no reason to believe things are gonna improve. I do not trust mozilla and its poor reputation is well deserved.
To look at Firefox future, I think we probably also need to include stats from major forks like Pale Moon and Torbrowser.
It doesn’t really feel like the author listened to the comments from his other article even though he claimed he did.
The most telling part about the downfall of Firefox in my opinion is what has already been mentioned, people involved with Firefox think it is losing market share as it gets better while just about every person commenting (including myself) thinks Firefox has abandoned its original identity and is wandering lost in the woods. I’m sure there are other contributing factors to the market share decline but the fact that Firefox is nearly indistinguishable from Chrome at this point (and not in a good way) is the major problem in my opinion. If we wanted Chrome, we’d use…. Oh wait we are.
As for performance, I agree that desktop Firefox crushes Chrome with 20+ tabs open or more. A friend of mine routinely has 200+ tabs open in Firefox and rarely has to restart it (obviously he uses extensions to help the situation). Chrome chokes well before that even with extension help.
Stop trying to ape Chrome and perhaps the “evangelist” power users will return! What is there to lose, whatever you are currently doing clearly is not working. I, for one, still use Firefox in its current castrated form but I feel it is pointless to recommend to my normal users except as a second alternative to Chrome. I would love for Firefox to lead instead of following so that I can recommend it once again.
Google advertising Chrome is not what’s causing Firefox to lose market share. Chrome has some advantages, Firefox has different advantages, and as a result, some users prefer Chrome, others prefer Firefox.
The real reason is that for the last several years, Mozilla has been doing everything to cater to those who prefer Chrome in the hope to win them over (not going to happen when Chrome gives them everything they want), while telling those who prefer Firefox to take a hike. We have seen this with the user interface (Classic Theme Restorer is a must for anyone who dislikes Chrome), extensions (all those extensions that make Firefox better than Chrome will stop working soon), and most recently with Google Analytics fiasco. Mozilla engineers told people “trust us”, completely missing that we did trust Mozilla to not use Google Analytics, and they failed to live up to that trust. We don’t, however, trust Google. People who trust Google are called “Chrome users”.
I am long time FireFox user… Have running Firefox and Opera at the same time, and every time I do something in FF I feel how slower (compare to Opera) it is… When I start FF on my old macbook, whole computer starts to heat up, and I just quit it, continue using Opera, and then laptop cools down… So, definitely FF needs to do something about it..
May be they need to do what Opera did, just abandon their rendering engine and switch to Chromium, and make Firefox as fast and optimized as Opera :)
Reason why I switched my wife and my mother in law to Chrome from Firefox was performance. They are both on Windows and performance difference is significant. I am not sure how people who claim Firefox is faster with more tabs browse but Chrome has a process for each tab. Firefox uses one process for all tabs. My wife has 50+ tabs open all the time. On Firefox at least one tab would freeze the whole browser. And even if none of the tabs freeze the UI responsiveness is way better on Windows with Chrome compared to Firefox.
I still use Firefox as my main browser on Ubuntu. But Chrome is faster on my machine. Simple use case is: Open Outlook mail, Trello, Slack, Confluence and Jira in a separate tab. All are sites I use at work. And every hour cycle through tabs and hit CTRL+F5 to refresh the session and make sure I am not logged out. Chrome finishes faster and is responsive while tabs reload. Firefox freezes. Changing channels in Slack. For sometime last year Firefox would be so slow while switching channels on slack I had no choice but to use Chrome. Slack still work way faster on Chrome.
At the moment only things that are keeping me from using Brave as a default browser are lack of Okta plugin which I need for work and the fact that some basic functionality, like adding removing tabs, still don’t work. I hope release 57 will help with performance. As a person who relies on the browser and an IDE to complete most of his work I need my tools fast.
Hi Ivan — tab docking/undocking has been in Brave for a while, but perhaps you meant something else? I’m looking into Okta as an extension we can support (we’re getting broad swathes of the Chrome Web Store working as we go, but we do not want to load extensions from there or take on ones we haven’t QA’ed and inspected, which we then store in our own S3 with a cron job sniffing the CWS version so we know when to update).
Apologies I meant bookmarks. Non native English speaker hence wrong term used. There was a bug that when you do a right click on bookmark tab it takes a long time until you see the popup menu. With latest version that has been fixed but adding bookmarks is still broken. Now when you right click get a popup menu add bookmark add folder but what ever you choose browser freezes. I found like 20 functionality bugs using brave and all are already raised on brave-laptop github repo. Yes I went through all open issues on the repo to make sure issues have been raised and to raise all that are missing. :)
I really like brave and the fact it blocks all the spyware but at the moment I can not use it as a main browser. I am using brave regardless and hoping you guys continue to improve it. Brave is default browser on my android phone.
Regarding plugins. I understand your constrains. Unfortunately company I currently work for relies heavily on Okta for login on all our portals and VPN. So for work I need browser with Okta plugin.
With Brave it is probably only a matter of time while all the wrinkles are ironed out. With Firefox I am hoping version 57 will bring promised performance improvements. Hopefully these things would help turn the Google Chrome tide a little.
I was a Firefox-User since 2001 and I kept being a Firefox-User until 2016. Since then I switched to chrome. And I don’t like Firefox anymore although I used and loved it for fifteen fucking years.
There is exactly two reasons for it:
Reason 1) Who is responsible for this pile of junk that firebug became? The developertools are just not useful. Seriously. They are slow, they behave weird and everything just sucks. I tried to stick with firebug by setting many config-parameters but this is just bullshit.
Reason 2) Slow. Soooo slow. I don’t know when it happened but firefox HTML became really slow and the flow just broke.
Reason 3) DRM. As a linuxer this DRM-stuff with chrome just works. In firefox you have to do a config-marathon.
I really want firefox to become cooler and better but maybe the devs should make a cut and just create “a program that shows websites”
1. Google is currently the dominant player in web search, but it’s hardly a monopoly. There are some excellent alternatives to Google search. The same is true for Google Calendar, Gmail, and YouTube.
2. Yes, Google advertises their own software on their own web pages. It may be annoying, but it’s not like they’re doing anything wrong or even unusual. They’re just persistent.
3. My experience with Firefox as a user is that it occasionally gets better, but seems to be getting gradually worse in the long term. Its main apparent technical advantage over Chrome is lower memory use. Aside from that, Firefox seems worse in most respects, including stability.
4. Mozilla wasted resources on other (fruitless) projects when they should have been concentrating on Firefox. As a result, Firefox is lagging behind and catching up is going to be difficult.
5. I suspect that the popularity of Netflix streaming is a major contributor to the decline of Firefox. Although it seems to depend on the hardware involved, Firefox often has trouble streaming Netflix, with visual artifacts like ‘tearing’ prompting users to switch to Chrome, which streams Netflix perfectly.
Google search has a 98% market share in many markets. That’s most definitely a monopoly. And I agree. Video has been a sore spot for Firefox for many years but a lot of work was done there as well.
Characterizing Google’s advertising of Chrome as “free” is very misleading. Search, GMail, youtube etc.. are by no means free to Google. They earn their page views like everyone else.
Running the services is not free (but they make a lot of money in return). Placing ads on them is free, however.
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And the loss will accelerate, when Mozilla kills with Firefox 57 Classic Add-ons and Themes.
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I am an Linux user, and use firefox for so many years. But there are some extreme performance issues, they make the every day usage very difficult. All the time Firefox eats up my RAM, even with only few tabs. And if the tabs get closed, Firefox never freeing up resources. Never. Chromium do it, but is no option and a privacy/security disaster, and installs binary stuff past its users. This is truly inacceptable, and malware in my view. Also there are other massive performance problems on linux with Firefox. Firefox makes my system often unusable, that the only option is, to use ALT+F2 an to kill Firefox completely. And where is the hardware acceleration? Inexistent on Linux, while Chromium uses the same system drivers to give full hardware acceleration and more. So Firefox is the main problem here, not any graphics card or incapable drivers, who are blocked by Mozilla. This is extremly questionable. But its also impossible to force Firefox to use hardware acceleration, even with every existent option from about:config, nothing works here. Chromium works perfectly in this, but is an bad browser offside the performance, and no option.
So Mozilla when they read this: DROP GECKO INSTANTLY, FORGET IT, AND FORCE ALL DEV-ENERGY TO SERVO!!
It makes more problems than can be solved these days. Without big changes, Firefox will die in near future.
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FF tries to become Chrome. Just: I don’t want Chrome, that’s why I installed FF in the first place. It feels like there is no more FF, so either one switches to Chrome completely (obviously the majority do so) or go somewhere else (I prefer Pale Moon). But to stick to a kind-of-Chrome makes no sense.
“despite Firefox getting much better during the same time window”
For the past two years you’ve rendered dead more add-ons than you’ve done for your entire history. Many people used to use Firefox solely due to its add-ons and now a lot of them have ceased to exist due to your efforts.
Firefox 54 is painfully slow. I am using only two extensions: adblock and https everywhere. Adblock slowed down since they switched to the new browser.storage API. HTTPS everywhere isn’t ready for multiprocess because they didn’t yet find a way to sign their extension and still distribute it through their own site. And because webextensions doesn’t provide a way to access the Firefox password store the authors switched to saving passwords in cleartext, so I had to disable all these extensions for safety concerns. Briefly: Firefox became slow, insecure, and less extensible. Not sure what this evolution is good for.
I am using chromium on Linux and Android for stability reasons. And for quality of video display, especially youtube HQ. But the performance hog on linux is the lacking wayland support IMO. The kids use and know firefox very well for gaming sites, like http://www.mariogames.be. While it works, i find Firefox not stable enough. If firefox developers would browse gaming sites, and porn sites more often it might be good for stability of the browser, on android and PC :)
I find it poor reasoning to just boil it down to marketing – at the end of the day the product decides not the marketing. For Google a second browser is very important for monopoly reasons. Also on mobile facebook is nearly alone which really forces the persons into using their app instead of using a browser. But i must admit i love the blog post because it gets firefox worldwide presence in the news.
Firefox lost the browser war, because Chrome is faster, lighter and smoother. Also the better integrated favorites managment is pro Chrome. A hard hit was also the addon changes, which damaged the the only real advantage of Firefox. Even the Firefox-update isnt TODAY as smooth as on Chrome.
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2 words: web extension.
I recently switched from Firefox to Opera, because the screen on Firefox would randomly go black about 3-4 times a day. Other than this terrible absolutely ridiculous bug, Firefox was absolutely ok with me.
You should file a bug at bugzilla.mozilla.org. Sounds like a graphics driver issue. I am sure they would appreciate the report and try to fix it.
To me it’s pretty simple: Firefox has not been a good browser for some time. I don’t know what the company thinks is going on, but for most users it simply stalled and crashed too much and wasn’t worth using anymore. I haven’t used 54 much yet so I can’t comment on recent changes. I don’t use Chrome because I don’t want to play in Google’s playground, but I don’t consider Firefox a contender for my main browser.
Give 54 a try. Its pretty rock solid for me. 57 will be even better from what I hear.
It’s saddening to see this situation with Firefox, and – with the beauty of hindsight – it’s clear there are many reasons why its usage has declined.
A Linux user myself, something that recently irked me about Firefox was the dropping of ALSA sound system support. I get the reasons why, sure. But supporting only PulseAudio on Linux (and therefore *requiring* systemd) I felt really went against the grain of what has marked Firefox out in more recent years – it’s fierce independence from “big vendors”. Linux users who do not wish to run systemd now face a daunting prospects. Pale Moon is probably the best bet.
Firefox seems increasingly aimed at what’s popular, which sometimes contrasts with the values of the Mozilla mission. I think it’s many of these little changes – supporting DRM, Chrome-like UI changes, dropping ALSA, Web Extensions, etc, etc .. that have chipped away against Firefox’s popularity with its core supporters, and performance/reliability issues haven’t helped it one iota in the face of the big G’s advertising reach.
A drastic change of course is needed, and quickly, if it is to survive.
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See https://michaeleriksson.wordpress.com/2017/07/26/on-firefox-and-its-decline/ for a criticism of Firefox prompted by this post.
A good read, thank you.
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I do try to use Firefox again at times (it was my default browser some years ago), but I unfortunately always get back to Chrome thanks its UI and features. I am a Mac user and Chrome is much better integrated to the system:
– No need to download additional language dictionaries for typing (a really bad UX thing)
– I can pinch to zoom (really a blocker for me in Firefox, and I don’t want to use a non-standard add-on for this)
– It *feels* faster (no slow “new tab” animation, etc…)
– No touchbar integration in some foreseeable future
I often have the impression that Firefox is stuck in endless difficult tasks (I remember how long it took to reimplement the new MacOS 10.7 Lion scrollbar look into Firefox, by reimplementing them totally, or how long it took to implement the HTML5 input date type field UI (I would say about 10 years)). I know my 2 examples are tech things but I have the impression that a lot of user-interface things (what the uses actually sees) take ages to get released.
On the other side I know a lot of efforts have been put on the memory usage and speed, which is a good thing.
On the developer side both provide very good developer tools but Chrome was better at some time, and people got used to it and now sticks to it.
I know this is open source and that “you should contribute to enhance things instead of complaining”, but this is not something easy at all.
I do hope that I will get back to Firefox some day, but I don’t manage to use it should be the one I use (more openness, etc.).
Poor Mozilla. Most of the people confidently proclaiming how slow and bloated Firefox is must be using crappy extensions (I’ve used it for five years on desktop and Android without any such issues), yet when Mozilla tries to force a better extension model, so many complain about the change. Your beloved old extensions are the problem!
I think the decline is a culture problem.
I had 100,000+ users of my addons, but gave up on it because the Mozilla employees were such jerks. Many people at Mozilla ignore user complaints, developer comments, etc etc. Other developers commiserated with me. Employees would frequently mock people who vote on bugzilla. They blame anybody but themselves – not surprising this guy claims it’s because of marketing. They literally blamed version numbering before. They took the only advantage they had – platform network effects created by developers (and their extensions), and dumped it in favor of rapid release to break everything. Notice that Google never did that with Android! Mozilla even changed the element Ids of some UI components for no reason whatsoever – all that does is break addons. But who cares? Let’s alienate as many developers as possible – what could go wrong?
I’ve caught them explicitly lying to journalists about “phone home” functionality in interviews. They devoted more people to moving the gas pedal (or implementing useless features) than to fixing bugs. Features that were useful, they got rid of: “this should be an extension *wontfix*”. Now with a crippled addon system, Firefox will be just a clone of Chrome managed by a smaller developer team. The jerks running AMO will have less work too!
If I have something constructive to say, it’s that Mozilla Corp should appreciate their community more – starting at the top. Thank people when they find and report bugs – Fennec still crashes and erases your bookmarks and tabs regularly, year after year on multiple versions of Android – that should never ever ever happen. Backup with the NSA (via Firefox Sync) isn’t viable. Prioritize the platforms people are actually on – Windows and Android. Acknowledge when features are lacking, and stop blaming users – clearing your downloads on Fennec deleted the actual files because some guy at Mozilla thought that’s how it should work. This is what has kept Linux so unpopular with consumers – some dude with a personal fiefdom of code, in love with his workflow, or with some ideological ax to grind, who doesn’t care at all how people use the product. Fennec will peak early if this continues. I only use it because it has extensions – but even there, so does Dolphin.
Beyond that, there are few options left for Mozilla. Ironically the one thing Mozilla didn’t copy is Blink/V8, and that war is over (and not because of marketing). Devote everybody else into usability features. There’s alot you can’t do with Chrome because Google prioritizes its spyware business model. That’s where Mozilla might regain an advantage – an alternative to the Google/Facebook/Amazon stack. Tor Uplift is a step. Spidermonkey and Servo are a waste of time, imho, but maybe I’m wrong. Ditto for Rust. Whatever your problem, a new programming language probably isn’t the solution. Brave should have been a Mozilla project. The only time I can remember Mozilla responding to user complaints was perhaps the one time they should have been ignored.
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Unfortunately for Mozilla, they don’t have the resources to compete – a rewrite of Firefox is long overdue along with the injection of new programming talent. Another privateer, Opera, hit wall in 2013, switched to Chromium and was later sold in order to ensure additional funding.
Here is some background info on why Chromium based browsers are currently the most widely used, and the intense competition between Google and Microsoft over the last 10 years to dominate client side computing.
1. In the beginning, before the advent of the PCs, users interacted with host applications using dumb terminals (monitors) which were directly controlled/driven by the host application. Think of a large IBM mainframe application connecting to a network of IBM 3270 terminals. The 3270 terminals had no processing capability. The desktop PC replaced this architecture as it enabled processing capability on the client side as well as the host side. With some help from IBM and Xerox, Microsoft Windows became the dominant Operating System for PCs.
2. It was difficult using HTML & JScript to produce complex sophisticated client applications on the desktop computer browser. Developers were looking for a new platform that would allow complex apps to run on the client machine, both standalone mode and also in the confines of the web browser. JAVA allowed developers to write complex applications on both the client side and server side. JAVA application (applet) references could be embedded within HTML code and loaded directly from the host/server computer to the client and run from the browser. JAVA had performance problems.
3. One of the first common uses of the JAVA platform was to package and process records/information from a database (server side) for presentation on a user screen (client side). This is the platform that allowed Oracle database to make a lot of sales. Oracle was one of the main backers of JAVA in the tech industry. With Microsoft pulling in another direction, there developed two camps. Firefox/Java/Unix-LinuxServer/Oracle and IE/.NET/WindowsServer/SQL Server.
4. Other tech companies like Google didn’t want to be tied to either platform, so they pushed for the extension of JScript to allow complex apps to be run from the browser without the need for Java or .NET. This helps the explain why the development of an advanced high performance browser (chromium/chrome) was considered important by Google in providing the functionality and speed required to develop the Gmail web app at the client end. The key aim was to provide a better user experience than Microsoft’s Hotmail.
5. 30 years ago, if you wanted to book a flight on an airline, you’d go to a travel agent who would use a dumb terminal connected to the airline mainframe to make a booking. If you wanted to transfer money from your bank account, you’d go to a bank teller who would use a dumb terminal connected to the bank’s mainframe to make the transfer. Today, you can make the booking or money transfer yourself, using your PC/Smartphone and browser app connected to the same host application via the internet.
6. Thousands of organisations providing host services on the internet such as banks and airlines also desire to provide the best experience for their clients, however they do not control the client side of their service. They’re reliant on the client side browser and underlying Operating System – client side software stack. They need to pay attention to client side developments led by industry heavy-weights Google and Microsoft.
7. As an Internet Service & Content Provider, Google is best placed to capture browsing data and to serve ads to the browsers that it is connected with. Google strives to leverage its position as a ISCP to provide more services to it client user base. The fact that today ~60% of desktop internet users use a Chromium based browser is an astounding achievement. Chrome allows Google to improve and optimise the experience its client user base receives when they use Google services such as Gmail and Youtube. This is a major commercial advantage that some other ISCPs such as Facebook lack.
8. Opera’s aim as a privateer was to make an advanced browser that would attract a large user base. Opera would make money by aligning their user base to an ISCP. i.e. Google Search and Advertising.
9. Where Google is vulnerable is at the Operating System service level. Microsoft, with Windows holding ~85% of the desktop OS market, is in the position to optimise and enhance the Edge user experience for Microsoft services and degrade and stymie Google services. Chrome and other Google affiliated browsers interface with and are dependent on Windows. The aim is for Windows/Edge to provide the best user experience for Microsoft operated and affiliated services. This explains the strong drive by Microsoft to upgrade all of their user base to Windows10/Edge (enticed with free upgrades). Does LinuxMint/Chrome or MacOS/Chrome provide a better user experience for Google services than Windows/Chrome?
10. This article demonstrates the battle that’s being waged by ISCPs to control client-side computing. Opera foiled Google’s move by making its browser identify itself as Chrome.
11. To date, Microsoft has been a heavy-weight player that has thrown its weight around and used brute force to achieve its aims. IE was a reaction to Netscape. .NET was a reaction to JAVA. Bing.com was a reaction to Google Search. Outlook.com was a reaction to Gmail. Edge was a reaction to Chromium/Chrome.
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While some of this may be true, I, and many others, abandoned Firefox when the ghastly Australis redesign was inflicted on us; the real problem is that Firefox tried to mimic Chrome and thus lost the crucial marketing tool of being distinctive.
I, and many Front-End, abandoned Firefox because of lack of html5 resources. Chrome is in front of Firefox.
Check out these features and compare with Chrome.
You need to pay more attention to Firefox on these new features not implemented.
Mozilla leadership has gone off the cliff with this new “Information Trust Initiative,” which is more accurately called Big Brother Mozilla. I’ve been a Firefox user for years, but ever since they lost Eich they’ve been fumbling around in the dark trying to be a political/social lobby that also makes software. It’s like they’re begging to alienate half their audience. I want my browser to be secure, private, and functional; I don’t want it trying to push a loaded political agenda. Mozilla is becoming no better than Google. I plan on leaving for Brave as soon as it’s out of beta.