Has Firefox Lost Its Edge?

Once an emerging darling, the open source browser is now beset by a troubling handful of issues.


You Can't Detect What You Can't See: Illuminating the Entire Kill Chain

Posted January 16, 2012

Matt Hartley

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Firefox is a web browser with some very strong roots. Its history dates back to when Netscape was battling for users against the almighty Internet Explorer.

Back in those days, web sites actually had small banners on them stating which browser the site was best rendered in. Those were simpler times, and despite some hefty odds, Netscape did pretty well against the much more powerful Microsoft corporation.

As Netscape's popularity declined, the evolution of what would become the Mozilla Suite began. The developers sought to decrease the perceived bloat factor by introducing what was then called "Firebird." After some legal snafus, the Firebird browser was then renamed Mozilla Firefox. From version 1.x to 3.x, Firefox was an unchallenged 2nd choice browser that quickly ate up the market share of pre-installed browser competitors. Well, it was largely unchallenged until Google elbowed into the browser market with its own offering.

Chrome on Linux

Despite the past success of Firefox, Google Chrome has been catching up to it ever since the browser made itself available to OS X and Linux users. The addition of these other platforms, in my opinion, put Chrome into a position to compete directly with Firefox on a level playing field.

Like many past Firefox enthusiasts, I was content with Firefox on the Linux desktop until Mozilla released Firefox 3.0. The entire 3.x series made Firefox painful to use on every distro I tried it on. During this period, I found that the problems I was experiencing were largely only affecting Linux users. And this was showing little chance of being corrected anytime soon.

While I was dealing with this nightmare, the new Google Chrome browser was receiving solid reviews on the Windows desktop. This led Firefox users such as myself to try out Chrome to see how it compared.

Needless to say, the experience was fantastic. Chrome was faster and simply provided a better browsing experience. Unfortunately for those of us using Linux, we had to wait a bit before having access to Chrome natively on our own desktops. But once it was finally available, Firefox users – me included – jumped ship without looking back.

Firefox 5.0 and beyond

During the period I was getting used to using Chrome as my primary browser, Firefox 5.0 came along. Said to be the first within Firefox's new rapid release program, v5.0 didn't offer up anything compelling that made me want to switch back. Quite the opposite, actually, since the add-ons I had used previously hadn't been updated in time for the 5.0 release.

Meanwhile on Chrome, I had zero issues with my add-on compatibility despite the browser maintaining a similar release schedule. This would become a common theme of frustration, as Firefox's add-on pages are littered with comments indicating many add-ons are no longer working.

To make matters worse, even after the developers tried to update their extensions, another Firefox rapid update came along and broke the compatibility again. It's really unfortunate as I am left feeling like I should avoid updating my browser. Obviously, this is a security mishap waiting to happen.

However, the desire to bypass this annoyance remains. It's no wonder Firefox is losing their once famed user-base.

Firefox slips in the market

There have been various news stories published claiming that Firefox is losing its market dominance to Chrome. The motivation for people making the switch likely has to do with the fact that Chrome appears to be faster, at least with some commonly used websites. While I would say that both browsers appear to be running with roughly the same performance these days, the damage done against Firefox's speed reputation isn't likely to heal anytime soon.

On the flip-side of the coin, it's common knowledge that Firefox is considered more trustworthy than Chrome. While both browsers offer private viewing modes, only Firefox is believed to be truly 'safe' to use from a privacy standpoint.

Then again, it appears that Mozilla may be using Firefox to access more of your data in upcoming releases. Could this issue cause another downtick in Mozilla's overall market share?

Firefox support remains strong

Considering how Firefox has managed to drop the ball with perceived performance and now potentially user privacy, one may find themself wondering: how Mozilla can recover from all of this?

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Tags: Firefox, Google, browser

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