Mozilla’s open source Firefox browser essentially saved the Internet by breaking the hegemony of Internet Explorer. But over the past 18 months, I’d say it’s become noticeably obsolete. Safari and IE have both upped their game, Google’s Chrome which I use is an outstanding product, and in the fast-growing mobile space it’s not at all clear where Firefox can play. And the future outlook for Firefox is quite bleak. Over eighty percent of their 2010 revenue came from a deal with Google, in which Google paid them to make Google the default search option on the browser. But that deal expires this year, and since Google is pushing a competing product in this space it seems unlikely to be a lucrative source of revenue in the future. It’s at least conceivable that Microsoft would step in to generate traffic for its Bing search engine, but here too it’s hard to see why they wouldn’t just stick with pushing the latest version of Internet Explorer.
Meanwhile, as the chart indicates, Chrome is catching up with Firefox.
Google’s Chrome browser rose from 25 percent of the browser market in October to 25.69 percent in November, while Firefox declined from 26.39 percent to 25.23 percent over the same month, according to StatCounter.
…So Chrome is only a hair’s-breadth ahead of Firefox, but still enough to vault it into the silver medal spot, a significant development given that Firefox had held the number two position for the entirety of Chrome’s existence up until now, and for most of Firefox’s seven-year history as well.
It’s worth noting that only StatCounter’s statistics show Google Chrome in the second place spot. Another tracking firm NetMarketShare, puts Chrome still in third place in November, with 18 percent global desktop Web browser market-share compared to Mozilla’s 22 percent and Microsoft’s 53 percent.
Nonetheless, the trends are clear: Chrome is coming for Firefox, and fast. The trend is even reflected in TPM’s latest browser-visit statistics, which show a rapid uptick in Chrome and drop-off in Firefox use over the past three years.
I’ve been a loyal Firefox user almost since version 1.0. I’ve branched out a bit. Right now, I use Chrome for work-related stuff, because I like to keep some of my work-related online space separate from my personal online space. But when Chrome started acting up on me, I decided to give Opera a try. I found that Opera had come a long way since I tried it out many versions ago. I also tried OmniWeb (which is now a free browser) and Sleipnir (which I’d never heard of before).
I even tried Flock, the social media browser, when it was first introduced. As I recall, I found it interesting, but wasn’t overly impressed with its blogging function. Alas, according to Wikipedia, Flock is no more. It’s support was discontinued in April 2011, after being acquired by Zynga. It’s website is long gone, but you can still download copies of it from sites like FileHippo. Otherwise, there’s RockMelt, another social media browser.
Oddly enough, though I’ve turned into a loyal Mac user over the past decade or so, I’ve never had much use for Safari, as I’ve always found it much slower than Firefox, and it didn’t play well with some of the content management systems I use. regularly.
All of these browsers have attractive features, many of which Firefox didn’t have at one time or another, but added in later versions. On the other hand, I’ve always had Firefox tricked-out in every way imaginable, with extensions that completely customized to my liking, with features I’ve become used to over the years. Many of them I used to save me a few steps here and there at work.
Firefox has caught up with almost all of these browsers in terms of features, and many of these browsers no also have extensions that customize the user experience. But, at least in my experience, Firefox still wins that contest. I’ve searched Google Chromes extensions, as well as those of a few other browsers, for extensions that were identical to my favorite Firefox extensions, or what would still give me the features I’ve gotten used to in Firefox, and each has come up wanting.
There’s always at least one important extension or feature the other browsers can’t duplicate. I don’t know if that’s because their user/developer communities are not quite as developed, but that’s what I’d guess. If so, maybe Chrome will catch up to Firefox in that department. But until them, it looks like I’m sitting with Firefox.