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Winners Losers and Dodo Birds
I constantly track the browsers used by the visitors of this site and compare and contrast them with the "at large" statistics. One of the things that I have been noticing (in both figures) is that tech community darling FireFox’s meteoric rise has not only stopped, it has retracted.
I have been the biggest proponent of FireFox since the pre 1.0 days. I strong-armed all of my family, friends, and colleagues into converting with the zeal of a missionary. I always thought that it was great to see that so many visitors on this site were among the "enlightened ones".
Initially, I thought that Google’s Chrome was nothing special and would go nowhere. It was this stripped down, featureless toy that didn’t do much other than crash. Chrome’s market share was virtually nil, even on this site.
Then, a funny thing happened. FireFox started getting bigger, slower, and buggier with each update. All of the features that I love(d) so much were giving it a case of morbid obesity. When a stable build finally came out for Mac, I decided to give it a try. (I’m not a fan of Safari.)
While all of these FireFox problems built up, Chrome slowly, and steadily added more features. While the features and stability grew, the speed (mostly launching, not rendering) never wavered.
Why FireFox Lost the Browser War
Here are the main factors that are contributing to FireFox’s demise (IMHO):
Google – Having the biggest site on the web pushing a good, free product down the world’s throat at every turn is pretty good for market growth. Also, Google has always been one of Mozilla’s main benefactors. When they turn their attentions (and money) inward it’s a lot harder to fight the good fight.
FireFox – Their code bloat and bugginess have turned what was once the reinvention of the web back into the World Wide Wait.
Microsoft – As lame as this sounds, the fact of the matter is that Internet Explorer 7 & 8 are A LOT better than the now infamous I.E. 6. If new computers come with a "pretty good" browser built in, most people don’t feel the need to add additional ones.
Mobile – The amount of browsing that has shifted to mobile devices is pretty significant. FireFox has taken forever to get its mobile act together. Everyone is either using Safari (iPhones), Chrome (Android), BlackBerry (RIM), and Opera (just about any phone). I love me some FireFox, but it aint on my phone.
What can Mozilla do to Right the Ship?
Stop working on features at once! Put every single developer they have on one thing – LEANESS. Stop gobbling up so much damn memory. Seriously, I have a Macbook Pro with 4 gigs of ram and it runs like a dog.
Maybe ridding the app of the memory hogging processes will also iron out the flaky performance too.
Then, the need to get into the mobile game for real! Put a good browser out that will run on all of the major smartphone platforms. While they’re at it, they should innovate in the same way that they did on the desktop.
Where the Browser Market is Going
Chrome – They will probably be the biggest player out there in a few years. Not Internet Explorer circa 2003 big; more like 40% big. They are on every desktop OS, and the fastest growing mobile platform (Android). I’m sure that they will figure out a way to get onto iPhone/iPad, BlackBerry and Palm soon too. I initially missed the boat on Chrome, but I won’t make that mistake again.
Internet Explorer – Market share will continue to decline. Windows is at 90% and it’s still losing ground. They will probably end up in either second or third place.
FireFox – They will slip into a second place / third place battle with Internet Explorer.
Safari – Same as I.E. Facts are even Apple faithful prefer the company of others. It’s available to 99% of the world and they have ZERO market share. It looks like they finish out of the money (fourth or fifth place)
Opera – They’re like Apple of 10 years ago. Constantly making a better product that nobody wants. Problem is, they can’t even give it away. And I don’t see them having an iMac, Macbook, iPod, iPhone, and iPad up their sleeve either. It’s over Johnny!
The Rest – Give it up. Why would you keep pounding your head against the wall?
What I’m Currently Running
I have several machines between Home and Work. Here is what I run by operating system in order of usage.
Windows – FireFox (Most non-work stuff), Chrome (on my old, slow machine), Internet Explorer 6 & 8 (believe it or not, my work is still on I.E. 6).
Mac – Chrome (most stuff), FireFox (checking analytics and stats), Safari (Private Browsing comes in handy for certain things.), Opera (almost never), Flock (curiosity)
Linux (Ubuntu & Mint) – FireFox (most stuff), Chrome
iPhone – Safari (by force, not choice), Opera (5 %,just for comparison purposes)