At the end of 2008, Firefox was high. 20% of the 1,5 billion people who went online used Mozilla Browser. In Indonesia, Macedonia and Slovenia, more than half of those connected to the Internet used Firefox.
"Our market share in these areas is growing like crazy," wrote Ken Kovash, then president of Mozilla. in a blog post.
15 years later things are not so rosy.
On all devices, Firefox has fallen to less than 4 percent of the market - on mobile it is almost 0,5 percent.
"Looking back five years at our market share and the numbers we publish, there is no doubt about the decline," said Selena Deckelmann, senior vice president of Firefox.
Mozilla's statistics show a drop of around 30 million monthly active users since its inception 2019 until the beginning of 2022. "The last two years, what we have seen is a significant leveling," adds Deckelmann.
In the two decades since Firefox was released from the shadows of Netscape, it has been the key to shaping privacy and web security, with staff pushing for more web transparency and better standards.
However, the decline in market share was accompanied by two rounds redundancies by Mozilla during 2020.
Next year, the lucrative deal with Google - which is responsible for most of its revenue - will expire. Meanwhile, other privacy-focused browsers have emerged that compete with Firefox, and new feature failures threaten to alienate users who support it. All of this makes industry analysts and former executives very concerned about the future of Firefox.
For years, it was the best alternative to maintaining control over Google Chrome. Since its release in 2008, Chrome has become synonymous with the web: it is used by approximately 65% of all Internet users.
"Chrome has won the desktop browser war," said a former Firefox staff member who worked on Mozilla browser development but did not want to be named as he continues to work in the industry. His hopes for a revival of Firefox are not high.
"It does not make much sense for Firefox to wait to win again."
Another former Mozilla employee, who also asked not to be named for fear of being affected by his career, says:
"They just have to accept the fact that Firefox is not going to be born from the ashes."
Mozilla and Google have a complicated relationship.
Although they are competitors, they are also business partners. Every year, Google pays Mozilla hundreds of millions of dollars in royalties (reports say that amount is currently around $ 400 million a year) to use its search engine as the default in Firefox.
In the 2020 financial results, Mozilla reported total revenue of $ 496 million, and royalties from search deals amounted to $ 441 million. Firefox has other search engine partners, such as Yandex Search in Russia.
Η Google-Mozilla agreement last updated in 2020 and will expire in 2023. Statistics show that Firefox's market share fell by about 1% during this deal. The company's data show that its monthly active users have remained stable at around 215 million. But there is no guarantee that Google will renew the deal for the same money.
However, Mozilla and Firefox recognize that for the foreseeable future they need to differentiate the ways in which they make money.
These efforts have increased since 2019, with the read-it-later service Pocket, which also includes a paid subscription service. He has also released two similar press products VPN. However, the company is increasingly promoting advertising by placing ads on the new tabs that open in the Firefox browser.
Mozilla's combined subscription and advertising revenue has risen from $ 14 million in 2019 to $ 24 million in 2020, and the company says it expects growth in 2021 financial results.
Yes, independence from Google is the key to creating a better and healthier business model.
However, some of these new bets do not seem to work and also run counter to Firefox's broader privacy goals. A encrypted file sharing service terminated after being used to spread malware. The phones Firefox OS since the mid-2010s, have not progressed.
The pressure to make new money comes at a time when Firefox is facing more competition from other browsers.
Browsers Firefox, DuckDuckGo, Brave, Vivaldi and Safari join Tor (which is considered a privacy option) to block surveillance.
However, there are many privacy features that are not enabled by default, which is not good, but at least gives you the option to enable them if you think you need them.
Former Firefox executives say Mozilla should follow a separate strategy for its browser.
"It's basically a more optimized privacy browser, but at the same time they're trying to make the most of it and generate revenue by going in different directions," said one former employee, who of course cited ads as an example of conflicting priorities.
"If users are lost they will hardly return until there is an compelling reason and what would be that compelling reason?" says Bart Willemsen, vice president of analytics at Gartner.
For Deckelmann, the key is to make Firefox more personalized. He says Firefox will continue to look for ways to keep people browsing online.
"I'm not sure what will happen will be what people expect from a browser, but the intention is to always put people first."
This week, Firefox announced a partnership with Disney for a new Pixar movie, which includes changing the color of the browser and ads that will allow the public to earn Disney + subscriptions.
We do not know if Deckelmann meant this kind of personalization of Firefox, but we certainly see the strange ways that the pursuit of revenue can lead.
Deckelmann says Firefox doesn't have to be as big as Apple's Chrome or Safari to succeed.
"All we really want is to be a viable choice. Because we believe that a better Internet needs different options. ”
Despite its failures, using Firefox still makes sense. Mozilla is pushing companies to be more private and its product is different at its core.
The browser market is dominated by applications based on Google's Chromium code. Microsoft Edge browser Brave, Vivaldi and Opera use custom versions of Chromium. Apple makes developers use the WebKit browser engine on iOS. So Firefox's Gecko browser is the only alternative out there.
"This market needs variety," says Willemsen. If Firefox usage is further reduced, there will be less competition for Chrome.
"We need this difference for open Internet standards, and for preventing monopolies," says Willemsen. Others agree.
The trick is to find a way to achieve this.
- Posted in wired.com.
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