Is the Firefox Era About to End?

By  |  Friday, September 30, 2011 at 9:19 am

Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer reports that Web analytics company StatCounter thinks that Google’s Chrome will pass Firefox to become the world’s second most popular browser by December. (Internet Explorer remains the top dog, but its share, which once surpassed ninety percent, continues to drop.)

If the trends established thus far this year continue, Chrome will come close to matching Firefox’s usage share in November, then pass its rival in December, when Chrome will account for approximately 26.6% of all browsers and Firefox will have a 25.3% share.

Those numbers are eerily close to the stats at Technologizer for the past month: 26.05 percent of you have used Chrome to visit us, and 25.06 percent have used Firefox. Chrome is already the top browser amongst youse guys: Safari is #3 at 20.31 percent, and IE is #4 at 19.07 percent. (We’re small enough that there’s plenty of flux in the rankings; things could be different next month.)

As Gregg points out, StatCounter isn’t the only company that tracks browser usage, and NetApplications, another big player, shows Chrome further behind Firefox. But no matter which numbers you look at, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that Chrome will pass Firefox at some point, absent some major change in market dynamics.

When it happens–if it happens–Chrome will have earned the honor: Overall, it’s a really neat browser, and the one I use most often. But I’ll still feel a twinge of sadness. The story of how Firefox reignited browser competition is one of the most delightful, inspiring ones in all of PC history, and it’s more fun to root for Mozilla’s army of volunteers than for Google. The good news is that competition in the browser market is so vibrant that anything could happen–and an outstanding version of Firefox could steal market share back from Chrome.

 

 

 
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27 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve Says:

    One of the big advantages to Chrome is the superbar. One bar for web addresses or search is a great feature.

  2. Steven Fisher Says:

    The story of Firefox re-igniting the browser wars is wonderful, but how quickly they gave up innovating in meaningful ways is very sad. Firefox was a wonderful idea with lots of promise, which quickly became something special only in relation to Internet Explorer. Striving for slightly better than the competition isn't going to result in a meaningful, useful product.

    I won't shed a tear for Firefox's dominance, since they did so little with it. Maybe once eclipsed, they'll realize they need to become a better (not just more featured) browser. But maybe not.

  3. MJPollard Says:

    One of the things that saddens me the most about the direction Firefox has been headed recently is the dev team’s insistence on slavishly aping Chrome’s UI, a look that I think is absolute crap. But, at least with Firefox, I can alter its look with extensions and such that brings it back to the way I think it’s supposed to be. :-)

    The other thing that’s angered me is their aping of Chrome’s rapid release schedule, and the way they’ve gone about it. Breaking extensions left and right has become a complete fiasco, and rapid releases aren’t going to lead Firefox to be adopted more quickly into corporate environments (most of whom have extensive evaluation periods before letting a new version loose into their ecosystems).

    So, basically, by aping Chrome in a misguided attempt to make things “better,” they’ve pretty much slit their own throats by pissing off their user base. If Firefox is going to become Chrome, some will argue, why not just run Chrome in the first place? I won’t, because I don’t like Chrome’s inflexibility (and I hate its UI), but it does sadden me to see Mozilla continuing to squander the goodwill Firefox built up over the years. If Firefox becomes a marginalized, niche product, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves.

  4. Rob Says:

    @Steve

    Firefox can offer the same, though I guess it isn’t that way out of the box.

    @Steven Fisher

    Why do you assume Mozilla “gave up innovating”? Could it be that they couldn’t think of new ways to innovate the rather mundane thing that is the browser? Another group, from Google, thought of a few more things, but they hardly set the browser world on its head.

    Both groups had the advantage of starting after their competition had already established their feature set, so it was easier to envision new ideas by building upon what the others had done. For example, tabbed browsing was a real boon as were addons. Google improved on the latter by using standard web technologies. Mozilla is playing catchup on that front. Improving the performance of JavaScript was a real boon and Mozilla could have foreseen that, but only if they had appropriate language experts in the fold.

    The biggest problem for Firefox has been several years of sluggish and memory hogging releases. If Mozilla had addressed those problems early, the other problems would have seemed less irksome.

    Despite the problems, I really don’t like to give Google any more information on me than I must. They are very much Big Brother now. Therefore, I prefer Firefox, which still gives me the ability to customize my experience as I prefer.

  5. Steven Fisher Says:

    You're misquoting me a bit there, Rob. I said they gave up innovating *in meaningful ways*. Making things simpler, easier and faster would have been amazing innovations. Instead, with each release they added a few nice things, a few things that made it worse to use, and made the performance a bit worse.

    That's just no way to write great software, and it's no wonder people are turning away.

  6. ricardo.dc Says:

    Just hide the search bar in Firefox, the address bar in Firefox is capable of searching.

  7. Mike Cerm Says:

    Every keystroke you type into the "superbar" is sent to Google. I don't see that as a feature. Sure, I use Google for most of my searching, but I'd prefer Google not track every other site I visit.

  8. jasnz Says:

    Ironic really, since Chrome for me (on multiple systems) is now slow, in particular in the loading of background tabs, where the page i’m on won’t scroll or function until the background tabs finished loading.

    The insane amount of memory it uses doesn’t help either.

    Switched back to Firefox, which is much better for me. Opera is very very nice also, but just not enough in the way of must-have extensions sadly.

  9. mike Says:

    Chrome already is the most popular browser in several countries. For a world map of most popular browser by country check http://www.browserrank.com.

  10. Steve Says:

    How about that. I didn't know the address bar could do searches, too, because I never tried it. Question…Firefox seems to be doing a Google search, so isn't google getting my search info whether I use Firefox or Chrome?

  11. Steve Says:

    Didn't know the address bar could search because I never tried it. Thanks for the tip.

  12. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    Mozilla killed Firefox when they announced it would not support ISO MPEG4 audio video. That is like a browser from 1993 refusing to support ISO JPEG photographs. That browser would not still be in use today.

    Every mobile and PC comes out-of-the-box with ISO MPEG4 support in hardware, but if you install Firefox, then that stops working. Your device's video player can no longer play video off the Web. That is like replacing your TV with one that can't work with a Blu-Ray Player, which is also ISO MPEG4.

    In my Web development work, we moved Firefox from "modern browser" to "legacy browser" a while back. That means our content works in Firefox, but you basically see a very simplified view, and to play audio video you need a helper app like iTunes. Meanwhile, we already support "Internet Explorer 10 for Metro Style (Windows 8 Developer Preview version)" as a modern browser, and it already runs all of the features that iPad runs, even HTML5 animations, except that Windows has no typography, so the type looks like a Selectric exploded. But it actually made jaws drop when we saw our very sophisticated HTML5 apps come to life with so much fidelity in a Microsoft browser.

    Firefox made its bones by providing IE6 users with a standardized browser. Now, IE10 is more standardized than Firefox. So what reason is there to use it?

  13. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    If you are using Chrome, then everything you do is being tracked by Google, whether you use Search or not.

    If you don't want Google to track you, you have to stop using the Web. They don't respect the "do not track" header that Mozilla and Apple browsers have, and many (most?) websites use Google Analytics because it is free, and so every click you make does both what you think it does and also tells Google what you just did.

    If you want an alternative to Chrome, the best one is Safari, because that is the browser Chrome is based on. You will still be using the same rendering engine (Apple WebKit) and you still have a browser optimized for speed, and you will also have the "do not track" header. And Safari has better typography and multimedia support, which is increasingly important.

  14. Mike Cerm Says:

    Because of Google's instant search, Chrome's address bar sends everything you type back to the mothership, even URL's. So, if you type "amazon.com" and hit enter, Google knows where you're doing your shopping.

    In Firefox, instant search recommendations only happen in the search box. If you type an address into the address bar, nothing is sent to Google. If you type a non-URL into the address bar, then it does get sent to Google as a search, but only after you hit enter. It's not sending every letter you type to Google in real-time.

  15. Hamranhansenhansen Says:

    The problem was that Mozilla threw out the bloated Netscape rebuild and copied Safari for Mac, which had the fundamental feature of being extremely lightweight and fast, but then Mozilla added more bloat to Firefox over the following years and is now back to the same problem from Netscape: crufty and slow and not modern enough.

    Meanwhile, the WebKit team who make Safari's engine had a policy that after they add a new feature, they do a speed test, and if the new feature slowed the browser down at all, they pull the feature out and the people who made it have to optimize it until it can be added to the browser without sacrificing speed. That is why Safari was able to run effectively on a 2007 iPhone with ARM 400MHz and 128MB of RAM. That is why bloated Firefox still isn't happening even on today's dual-ARM 1.5GHz with 1GB of RAM.

    So the Firefox you remember fondly was the brief period where it was Safari-like. You should definitely at least try Safari. The philosophy of being a very lightweight, fast browser is still alive there.

  16. Mike Cerm Says:

    Safari is pretty terrible (on Windows). Maybe it's acceptable on Mac, but I doubt it. If you want to use Chrome, but hate Google, you can use Chromium. It's basically all the open source bits of Chrome, but without the Google brand (and tracking).

    Or just use Firefox. It's perfectly fine, and even out-performs Chrome (and other browsers) in many areas. Obviously, not all benchmarks are created equal. Nevertheless, Firefox still has features that other browsers can't match.

  17. MJPollard Says:

    Shorter Hamranhansenhansen: “Everything Apple is wonderful, everything not Apple sucks.” Lather, rinse, repeat, ad infinitum, ad nauseam.

  18. Quick Brown Fox Says:

    The SRWare Iron browser is a Chrome lookalike without Google to track your searches.

  19. doogie Says:

    Seriously? You believe what you're posting? Have you tried the newer versions of Firefox?

    People like you drive me nuts. You keep using the word "bloat", but don't identify what that means. Firefox is quick, and it's resource utilization is outstanding these days. Maybe you're running Firefox 2 and comparing it to Safari 5, but I am so effing tired of people who throw "bloat" out there, and don't back it up.

    Please, do me a favour, explain what you mean by bloat.

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  21. fvsdfxcvSD Says:

    opera has been doing it by default

  22. Brandon Backlin Says:

    Safari is acceptable on OS X but indeed terrible in Windows. Coming from a dual-boot Hackintosh user.

  23. Amelia@IT Management Says:

    It's Firefox all the way for me. For some reason, I just can't get into Chrome. I admit that Chrome is pretty neat but I'm just not comfortable of Google tracking all the sites I visit.

    As for ISO MPEG4 support, it can be remedied by Mozilla.

    Google does have a very strong brand name though which helps in promoting Chrome.

  24. Gustar Says:

    I'm fairly certain that Chrome's increasing popularity is due to Google's aggressive campaign. In US, Russia and Indonesia (just to name a few countries), for example, Google has put up some Chrome commercials on local channels. There's been no such Firefox commercials. This is really the classic case of effective marketing more than anything.

  25. foljs Says:

    You might have a reading comprehension problem…

    Never ONCE in his comment he mentions Apple as better. He even goes so far as to say that IE10 (a Windows only browser) is better (more standardized) than Firefox and that the new Metro is impressive and "has all the features that the iPad (has)".

    So, either a reading comprehension problem, or a neurotic anti-Apple tic. Get it checked.

  26. blogc2011 Says:

    Your device's video player can no longer play video off the Web. That is like replacing your TV with one that can't work with a Blu-Ray Player, which is also ISO MPEG4. Dillards

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