25 July 2017

Andreas Gal: “Firefox marketshare revisited”

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.

Andreas Gal

Google’s banners promoting Chrome throughout their apps are certainly annoying, but they are the least of Firefox’ problems (as a side-note, I find it very amusing that the screenshots from the above tweet were taken in Edge). The truth is, ever since Chrome launched (nine years ago!), Firefox was behind in almost every aspect that matters: Chrome had a faster rendering engine, regularly beating Firefox in tests; a clean, consistent interface; a better, more secure extension model, that most browsers have adopted in the mean time; better overall security thanks to sandboxing – which Firefox is still working on today; it switched to 64-bit fast and painless, while Firefox is still dragging its feet; and, of course, better integration with Google services and being the default browser on Android have helped.

Desktop Firefox Daily Active Installs 2014 - 2017
Desktop Firefox Daily Active Installs (2014 – 2017). The Y axis is not zero-based. (click to enlarge)

What has Mozilla done with Firefox, other than playing catch-up? One of its strengths was always privacy, but they abandoned many initiatives on this front, slowly ceding initiative to Apple. Over the years, resources have been wasted on failed projects like Firefox OS instead of being focused on something meaningful for the web or Firefox, the browser.

In the long run, the better product always wins, and pointing fingers at the competition for ‘not playing fairly’ is a sure way to fall even further behind. Instead of blaming others, take a good, hard look at your own product and realize what’s missing, find and build upon its strengths. Mozilla doesn’t seem to be capable of that, and hasn’t been for years.

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