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Umesh Tharuka
Umesh Tharuka

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Why Firefox Deserves Its Sad Decline…

Firefox was a legend. It’s of course, still used by millions and millions of people, but not the way it was before. It was without a doubt one of the most dominant browsers before. But, personally, I think that they got what they deserved.

Part1: The Rise of the Software

The Hard Work Involved

It all started with an app called Netscape Navigator, which was then bought by AOL. This is believed to be one of the very first web browsers ever, and this took off since nobody had seen an app like it before. But after some time, it stopped getting traction after the announcement of Internet Explorer, since it was viewed as a “third-party app” when compared to Internet explorer. Therefore, the market share of Netscape went from almost 92% to about 15%.

Back in the days, Internet Explorer(…yeah… this is how people lived) was the most used web browser ever. It was pre-installed, easy to use, and worked without hassle.

This was when Netscape decided to make the boldest of decisions in its history. It open sourced its code.

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Now it might not seem so bold if they did the same thing now, since there are many open source apps at present. But, things were very different before and there were very few.

On the same day, Jamie Zawinski, who was a Netscape Developer, registered Mozilla, which was originally a codename of the version of Netscape. The name came from a combination of Mozake and Godzilla.

Mozilla was initially aiming to be an application suit. A collection of applications to provide good internet navigation and communication experience. But then, this was not ideal and profitable, considering that they were making everything open source.

In October 1998, the Mozilla team finally decided to wrap up everything and start from scratch by building a cross-platform browser based on a native framework. For this, they were already building the gecko engine.

In 1998, they released a preview version. Although it was simple and generic, people seemed to appreciate the work and expected the main release. But sadly, this was heavily procrastinated since Mozilla planned to add an extra suit of apps at the last minute.

Finally, in June 2002, the first release of Phoenix Browser was announced. It was called Phoenix because of the tough history it had.

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But when everything was going well, AOL decided to drop off support for the browser. But Mozilla, at this point, got VERY lucky to actually start its own foundation called the Mozilla Foundation, which eventually replaced AOL’s job, under the leadership of Dave Hyatt, Joe Hewitt, and Blake Ross.

So Phoenix continued to rise from the ashes. It was then threatened by another company called Phoenix Bios for trademark similarities and therefore was renamed Firebird (not Firefox yet).

As time passed by, the browser also started officially supporting macOS. The name was finally changed to Firefox due to the community hating the name of the browser.

Part 2: The Drastic Evolution

Mozilla Firefox was the very first web browser to popularize the idea of “tabs” (you’re welcome, Chrome). It also started implementing other ideas like popup blocking (now ad blocking), extensive security and privacy to not track the system when not needed, holding off potentially harmful trackers, and so on, not to mention it was also the first browser to start its own download manager, independent of what the operating system used.

The Guinness World Record

The software team then hyped the community for the next release Firefox-3.0. The exact date of releasing this was announced to the community.

On 17 June 2008, Firefox released version 3 and set the world record for having the most “unique downloads” in one day, with the number being around 8 million in 24 hrs, setting the Guinness World Record, which looked almost unbeatable at the time.

Innovation

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It just kept adding features on top of features, which were so unique and non-identical to other competitors, with almost all the modern features innovated into its own spin.

It finally reached its peak of 34% of all users using Firefox around 2010. This was a huge accomplishment considering that it used to be just 5% back in 2005, with its major competitor being… Well, Internet Explorer.

Part 3: The Beginning of Going Down Hill

The major reason Mozilla got this was because it was no longer seen as a “Third Party App” to Internet Explorer, but more as a better-extended version of Internet Explorer with all the features it needs to have.

But things really change when you have more than one software like that, backed up by a more popular company.

At the time, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt was not interested in the web market. But, people like Larry Page decided to hire some developers directly from Mozilla and develop a better version of Firefox, forcing the CEO to change his mind. And there started the journey of the current dominant browser, Google Chrome.

From Innovation To Just Trying Hard

This was when Firefox noticeably changed its pace and the feature patterns it added. It seemed to be this software that tried to keep up with the pace of Google Chrome more than a software that actually had its own ideas. This led to Firefox introducing its mobile version of the web browser and similar features, almost mimicking the exact features of Google. This led to Chrome having a higher ground since the features added by Chrome were only advantageous to itself. For example, the mobile version of Chrome integrates well with Android and is the default browser in Android because both Android and Chrome are owned by Google.

The Competition

Since Google Chrome started giving good competition, and also making itself the default for Android, the marketing and popularity of Chrome flew through the sky. While on the other hand, Firefox seemed to mimic the features of Chrome instead of adding its own unique features and use cases and implementing different marketing strategies.

The Obstacles

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The Firefox team from Mozilla then started their own operating system in the which was already taken over by its good old competitors, Google and Microsoft. They started a heavy development schedule for FirefoxOS.

The main reason this utterly failed is that there is literally no reason for people to use this, considering that most phones came with Android pre-installed and nobody was mad enough to install FirefoxOS instead, which came with no software support and had no unique selling point. This further slowed down the development of ACTUAL projects like Firefox itself, not to mention the increase in hate and critics in the community.

Mozilla had a HUGE… I mean HUMONGOUS advantage over Google by having a very large community of 34% of people using and trusting Firefox. They were just not quick enough to grab their audience back from Chrome.

I mean… the above quote is what I said. But, let’s hear what the CEO of Firefox himself wants to say.

Firefox did not keep up with the market and what people really want. A lot of hardcore Firefox fans are now happy Chrome users. — Chris Beard

Part 4: Too Late :(

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In 2017, Mozilla released its new version 57 doubling down on almost everything, with a more modern logo, a very modern-looking UI, a new rendering engine, a better user experience, better animations, and so on. This release was codenamed “Photon”.

It also released many new products, actually being more useful and also focusing on its actual audience (unlike Firefox OS) — like clockwise, containers, tracker blocking, a premium VPN server, a better appearance, and a themes store for browser themes.

But, the problem was that it was too late. When Firefox first started, it had an advantage where most people using the computer were technical and knew what were doing, unlike the present where even babies are making Tik Toks… If you know what I mean.

This means that people prefer to have long-term, less bloated apps. If Chrome is already installed by default and works well, why install another browser on your phone? And since Chrome is used in Android why not the PC? The game further changes when other browsers like Opera and Vivaldi start doubling down on the audience it has and being more specific, like Opera GX which gives a free mini-VPN — something which Firefox gives after paying.

Finally, we see a further decrease in the users using Firefox when the Brave browser came in, targeting a similar audience, but with better marketing and feature implementation.

Why It Deserves What It Gets?

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The above image is the salary demanded by the chairperson of Firefox, compared to the annual loss it has faced in the number of users, and NO… The graph is not exaggerated or approximated.

Although I’m not supposed to talk about the person's paycheck, come on… The “Mozilla Team” is now a huge company, although the work and effort put in have just not been what it needs to be. Rather than continuing to focus on its audience by implementing new ideas and innovating, they preferred to keep up with Google and compete with its audience on Android and Windows. This led to the present where the only place where Firefox is dominant is on Linux, where it seems like the community is trying hard to give another chance to them, but even there, browsers like Brave and Vivaldi are picking up in distros like FerenOS.

I’m not gonna lie though, Firefox has started trying hard in the past few years. Again, it boils down to the fact that it’s too late. They should’ve done this when they were dominant and actually had an advantage over Chrome.

Conclusion

Firefox continues to triple down to nothingness. It released its version 100, which could be a banger considering that people are gonna try it due to its version number, but they did nothing visible to the eye of a normal user.

Personally, I want Firefox to succeed. It’s really bad when one corporate entity like Chrome has such a big market percentage, not to mention, its open-source version-Chromium also has created a lot of its forks like Brave.

If there is an open-source browser not based on Chromium, able to regain some traction and dominance, it has to be Firefox. I hope… it understands its position.

I’ll surely make a complete video on my suggestions, opinions, and steps to take in the future on YouTube. I’ll also be making more tweets and reels/stories/posts over on Instagram and Twitter. That’s about it for this article, I hope you enjoyed it, I’ll meet you in the next one.
@umeshtharukaofficial

Top comments (4)

 
liftoffstudios profile image
Liftoff Studios

You clearly have been caught by Google's campaign lol

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liftoffstudios profile image
Liftoff Studios

Wow, that's harsh for a company that pioneered open-source :sad:

🌚 Friends don't let friends browse without dark mode.

Sorry, it's true.