Firefox has had better days. In its latest Public Data Report, Mozilla’s browser has reported that the number of active users of its service has dropped 20% in three years: from 244 million per month at the end of 2018 to 198 million at the end of the second quarter of 2021. About 50 million users have switched to one of the competitor’s browsers. In these circumstances, the company has launched the latest update to its browser, Firefox 91, this month. A move to alleviate its abysmal loss of popularity and try to consolidate itself as the resistance against the undisputed king of the sector: Google Chrome.
The last two years, coinciding with the coronavirus pandemic, have taken a heavy toll on Mozilla. In 2021 alone, the browser has lost about 12% of its user base. The leak occurs at a very critical time for the company, taking into account that until last July Firefox constituted only 6.75% of the market for web browsers in the world. Against this meager percentage, Chrome accounts for 70.33% of the market, according to the latest market share data for web browsers published by NetMarketShare
The competition doesn’t seem to tickle the Google browser. Its most immediate pursuer is Microsoft’s Edge, which has just 9.98% of the market – although it grew almost two percentage points from last year – three points above Firefox. Explorer, which is just days from extinction as announced by Microsoft, reaches 4.10%. Safari joins the top 5 very discreetly with 3.46% market share. Browsers like Yandex, Opera, Vivaldi or Brave are hardly even listed.
Chrome’s huge percentages are no accident. Behind its figures there is a strategy little known by its users. It is the open source base on which this and many other competing browsers operate, a secret called Chromium.
Chromium is an open source database for developing a web browser created by Google, but accessible so that other companies can use it to create their own version of the browser with additional features. Something like what the Android operating system means in mobile phones, but applied to the development of web browsers.
While Android —with an 83% dominance of the market— is used by Samsung, Motorola, Xiaomi, LG, Nokia, among others, Chromium is the basis for other browsers such as Opera, Brave, Vivaldi and recently Edge. This means that between these browsers there are many similarities and that they share functions, which makes them more accessible and universal compared to browsers with another code system, as in the case of Safari – as a good Apple product – and Firefox.
In addition, the Google Chrome browser is pre-installed on many phones that use the Android system – 83% of the market share – and Edge, based on Chromium, is the default browser for Windows. Faced with that competition, Mozilla has seen its market share decline year after year.
Firefox 91, as an alternative
Mozilla is the non-profit organization responsible for Firefox that was founded in 1998 by Netscape. The organization has developed multiple products, such as the email client Thunderbird, Firefox OS mobile operating system, bug tracking system Bugzilla, the rendering engine Gecko, the “reading lists” service Pocket and the most popular, the Firefox web browser. In 22 years it has been making its way with the tech giants and main competitors. Now, in 2021, what does Mozilla have left?
According to the latest strategies of the company, the bet is to modernize and decorate your browser more and more and to sell itself as the alternative to Chromium. More or less as Apple’s iOS has done against Android power, but for now without the same luck. That is why Firefox has been releasing constant updates. The last one, Firefox 91, presents some interesting novelties to organize the resistance against Chrome.
- Downloads: Internet files will no longer be downloaded to a temporary folder, but will instead be saved in the default or selected directory (as with other downloads)
- Printing: simplifies the page to be printed to eliminate elements such as sidebars and menus. Important: This option must be enabled manually.
- Interface: Introduces a new Proton user interface, incorporating floating tabs.
- Privacy: several improvements in the protection of privacy and in the management of electronic cookies (cookies), respectively, with SmartBlocks and Total Cookie Protection.
- End of support for two technologies perceived as obsolete: Adobe Flash and the FTP protocol.
- Windows – Now easier to sign in to Microsoft and work and school accounts using Windows credentials. Important: This option must be enabled manually.
- HTTPS: As a privacy strategy, Firefox will try to use HTTPS for all connections in a private browsing window, and HTTP connections will be used only on pages that do not support the secure HTTPS connection.
Mozilla tries to win back lost users and solidify its loyal fans with frequent browser updates. At the end of the day, the value of Firefox is that it resists almost alone against the Chromium empire and that, in itself, is already an important achievement.
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