Is Firefox in a Fix?

It’s been difficult to hear ourselves think here in the Linux blogosphere lately, what with all the distractions that have been thrown our way.

We’ve had the NSA casting aspersions on Linux users; we’ve had the IRS looking askance at FOSS. We’ve even had the well-respected Tor Project sucked into a lawsuit over revenge porn, of all things.

Ready for the latest? None other than this: “Is Firefox dying a slow death?”

‘Definitely Waning!’

Linux Girl

That, indeed, was the headline over at ITworld, and variations on the theme could be heard elsewhere in the blogosphere as well.

“Firefox web browser popularity wanes” was the version over at ZDNet; “the popularity of Firefox is definitely waning!” was the opinion of another blogger.

Numerous anxious discussions soon popped up throughout the Linux blogosphere — including two (here and here) on LXer alone — so Linux Girl knew it was time to learn more.

‘The Anti-IE Browser’

“The numbers tell the story here,” offered Google+ blogger Kevin O’Brien. “Firefox is losing market share, and it is losing it to Chrome — Safari and Opera also lost a little, and IE is stagnant (in more ways than one, I suspect).”

One big reason is that “Firefox was the ‘anti-IE’ browser for a number of years, but now Chrome does that to a satisfactory degree,” O’Brien opined. “Add in the easy integration with all of the Google services, Chromebooks and Android, and I have trouble seeing much of a future here.

“A lot will hinge on whether Google renews the deal with Firefox,” he added. “They might, since it is pocket change to Google, and if I were in charge there I would do it because Google has enough problems without getting blamed for killing Firefox.”

‘Stop Messing With the Formula’

This is what happens “when you try to force changes from on high instead of listening to your customers,” SoylentNews blogger hairyfeet said. “MSFT found this out with Windows 8 and Metro.”

In a competitive environment, “if you don’t give the customers what they want, they go somewhere else,” hairyfeet added. “In this case, the consensus on Soylent is that Pale Moon is the big winner, with many FF users jumping over to PM after the devs stated they will NOT be going with the new GUI.”

Indeed, “I wish they’d stop messing with the formula and just put out a quality Web browser,” Hyperlogos blogger Martin Espinoza agreed. “If they want to play with new functionality, try that out in a preview release and then actually listen to the community. The facelift is a textbook example.”

The DRM Debacle

There are two factors causing the apparent decrease in Firefox’s popularity, Google+ blogger Gonzalo Velasco C. asserted.

First is “the ‘problem’ with CEOs — one accused of sexism and the other bending over to DRM,” he said. “The first issue was kind of forced into the community heart, since that person never brought that into the community, really; the second issue is there for all of us to see: FF is not the 100 percent FLOSS friend and flag-carrier it used to be. There is still time to review this decision, Mozilla!”

The other key factor, though, is “the almost continuous growth of Chromium/Chrome popularity,” Gonzalo Velasco C. suggested. “The number of desktop and laptop computers is not growing that much, while more portables and smartphones are on the rise. These last ones use Android apps… and there it is, Google Chrome! So 2+2=4.”

The day Firefox OS comes out “for real,” however, “numbers will change a little in its favor,” he predicted.

Firefox also could end up as the default browser on the Ubuntu Phone, he added.

In any case, “I still use and prefer Firefox or Iceweasel,” Gonzalo Velasco C. said.

‘We Really Need a 3rd Option’

“I believe Firefox is in trouble, but less for the Web browser and more for outside problems,” Google+ blogger Alessandro Ebersol agreed. “The ousting of Eich, the DRM problem — all those imbroglios have tarnished the image of Firefox.”

So, on one side, “agnostic users left Firefox because they were told its new CEO was a conservative bigot,” he said. On the other, “the folks who care about freedom, privacy and open Internet left Firefox because of the DRM module to play Netflix. So, on both fronts, Firefox’s image was burned.”

Yet the latest version of the browser is “the best in a long time,” Ebersol opined — “fast, and with a beautiful interface. The previous Linux GTK interface was horrid.”

Meanwhile, “how I wish Firefox phone could take off and fly high, because we really need a third option which is not Windows Phone,” he concluded. “So, I’m hoping for the best but expecting the not-so-best to happen.”

‘Huge Danger in Trusting Google’

Firefox “has a reputation of being a bit bloated and slow, which hurts it relative to Chrome,” noted Chris Travers, a blogger who works on the LedgerSMB project.

On the other hand, “there are a number of reasons to be skeptical of Chrome in security-critical environments,” Travers said. “Firefox, for example, has more options to deal with SSL certificate validation, while Chrome can only either soft fail or just get a list of ‘important’ expired certificates from Google.”

In fact, “there is a huge danger in trusting Google — or any other single large company, particularly one with interests in U.S. defense contracts — with the responsibility to determine whether a certificate revocation is important enough to tell you about,” he added. “With Chrome, you give up a lot of control over your own security.”

‘It’s Good to Have Choices’

Firefox is “still a great browser,” blogger Robert Pogson agreed. “I use both Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox in my home.”

The key feature that distinguishes them in terms of usage is the search window, Pogson said.

“I like the fact that Google’s Chrome uses the same window for both search strings and URLs,” he explained. “That saves time and pointing.”

Of course, “letting Google know what we are searching for is a vulnerability for some and an accelerator for others,” he acknowledged. “Google’s search is sublime when it knows your search history…”

In any case, “both browsers are Free Software except that Chrome includes Flash Player,” but “there’s Chromium if you don’t want that,” Pogson pointed out. “It’s good to have choices — unlike that other OS and its browser. What are those people using Internet Exploder thinking?”

Katherine Noyes is always on duty in her role as Linux Girl, whose cape she has worn since 2007. A mild-mannered journalist by day, she spends her evenings haunting the seedy bars and watering holes of the Linux blogosphere in search of the latest gossip. You can also find her on Twitter and Google+.


  • Agree with others here who noted the totalitarian Left at work in harassing the CEO and causing him to resign.

    After that occurred I de-installed Firefox from all of my computers.

    The intolerance of the Left is just one more reason I am a recovering Democrat.

  • "agnostic users left Firefox because they were told its new CEO was a conservative bigot."

    What a lie. No one quit Firefox because of that. The CEO was forced out by intolerant liberals after just a few days.

    The truth is that conservatives boycotted Firefox over the way the CEO was mistreated. All he did was donate a small amount of money years ago to the same cause that over 50% of Californians supported. For that, the intolerant left forced him out.

    The author and those mentioned in this article (hairyfeet?) are so blinded by the liberal bubble they dwell in that they could not even realize conservatives use browsers too. Either that or they are all dirty little Marxist liars.

    • Because this is a perfect example of free speech and voting with your wallet. the CEO was a douche, users CHOSE not to support douche and used their free speech to encourage others to do so, users dropped like a rock and Mozilla decided having a douche CEO wasn’t worth the bad press and declining numbers so encouraged douche to leave…free markets in action!

      And I’m sorry but he FAILED TO DO HIS JOB, don’t try to cover for the fact that he was a failure of a CEO. part of a CEO’s job is DEALING WITH THE PRESS and not once, not twice, but on multiple occasions the press asked him to clarify his position on the subject, his answer? it wasn’t even "no comment" he simply ignored them.

      BTW if he would have "given a small amount" to one of the several pro segregation groups would you still support him? You DO realize that the exact same arguments the churches use against gays is almost word for word the same ones the churches used against blacks in the 50s and jews in the 30s, yes? Look up "the curse of ham" which gives you a religious reason for Jim Crow. That is what happens when you try to base modern life on a book written over 2000 years ago, you find yourself to be a racist and bigot.

      • Let me explain how free speech works, mmkay? You are allowed to say anything you want, including how much you hate blacks, gays, Mexicans, or whomever is the boogeyman of the week on the right and the GOVERNMENT can’t do anything about it.

        But here is the part the right wingers fail to grasp, just because the GOVERNMENT won’t do anything when you say "Ew I hate blacks, they are dirty and smell bad" this DOES NOT MEAN that the general public HAS to support your bigotry and in fact they are 100% within their rights to vote with their dollars and boycott your company or products!

        When it came out the CEO was a bigot? I dropped Firefox from my new builds, simple as that, because i don’t support bigots. instead i now use Pale Moon and Comodo Dragon in my new builds because that is what it means to live in a free country, you are free to be a bigot and I’m free to boycott your party and your companies…isn’t freedom great?

        • Are you the same "hairyfeet" quoted in the article?

          Do you not acknowledge that there was a conservative boycott of Mozilla? Because you completely ignored that point.

          "part of a CEO’s job is DEALING WITH THE PRESS and not once, not twice, but on multiple occasions the press asked him to clarify his position on the subject, his answer? it wasn’t even "no comment" he simply ignored them. " – hairyfeet

          Nonsense. He donated a few grand several years ago to support an issue the majority of Californians supported. Should every Californian who supported the issue be required to testify to the press? Why did the press even inquire about it? Should everyone have to defend themselves for their job based on political stances? Do you not respect privacy? Should all employment be subjected to a political litmus test. It sounds like that’s what you are advocating.

          "That is what happens when you try to base modern life on a book written over 2000 years ago, you find yourself to be a racist and bigot." – hairyfeet

          What happens for what? You get fired? Forced out of your job for a belief that leftists will not tolerate? That quote really gets to the heart of the matter. You’re an intolerant, angry, leftist,atheist who wishes to crush dissent at any cost.

  • Regardless, the first thing I do on an Android phone or tablet is install Firefox for Android, then I install all the same privacy enhancing addons I use on my laptop.

    The "new" UI works fine as a mobile UI, but it’s terrible as a leoptop/desktop UI. Thankfully I am able to (also unfortunately) restore the old UI by use of addons and edits to the configuration through about:config.

    It would be much better had they kept the old UI for desktops instead of creating a clone of Chrome… if i wanted to use Chrome I’d already be using it.

  • There are sexual and religious bigots hiding everywhere. I don’t particularly care about that. I’m sure Mozilla will sort that out like a good corporate citizen. What I do care about is that I don’t trust Google with my browsing experience. I don’t want Google knowing everywhere I go and using that information to sell ads, or worse yet, handing it over to the NSA.

    I don’t have much to hide. I’m sure reading my internet history would be fairly boring, and I’m not the tinfoil hat kind. I don’t buy into too many conspiracy theories, and I don’t surf on a vpn like my brother does. I just want a fast browsing experience, and if I want to buy something, I’ll do some research, read up on it, and make that decision for myself. I don’t need ads trying to read my mind and tell me what I need and want.

    I hate the way Google is making Chrome an opt out installation choice on many products. I’ll take Firefox over Chrome any day of the week. The addons I want play better with Firefox – they work more reliably, and slow down browsing less.

  • "conservative bigotry". I don’t think so! The only bigotry I saw was from the witch hunt created by the as-called "liberal progressives" (cultural Marxists) who showed complete and utter contempt for the freedom of expression of what is the majority view in California and of anyone who cares about family values. Such "liberal" bigotry was in complete contradiction to the values of freedom that Mozilla tell us they stand for defending, and if you read much of the feedback from people abandoning Firefox it’s overwhelmingly from people disgusted at the treatment of Eich.

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