How Firefox can outlast other browsers?17 Dec 2008
It’s probably not news by now, but you should know up front. I really like Firefox. I favor it over IE, Chrome, that Apple thing, Opera, and even Oprah (these are the only links I could find, really). But my favorite software is in – shall we say – “danger”. It’s being attacked by all the other competitors who are planning its end. Okey, that’s a little over-dramatic.
With the release of Google Chrome and replacing Firefox in Google package (who is the idiot who didn’t see that coming?), everybody knows that the browser war is far more interesting now than ever. Even though that IE is the front runner which everybody should be after, but with its 70+ % market share, it’s more realistic to consider the Firefox-Chrome race more interesting.
Even though the difference in market share between the Firefox 20% and the 3-months-old Chrome is significant, the weight of Google and its control over Mozilla cash-supply (after 2011) closes the gap between the two. Google’s deal with Mozilla to share advertisement revenues offers Mozilla a big share of its annual revenue. Shutting down this deal might significantly affect Mozilla and it will cause a big reaction from the community against Google until the next time they decide to google something (I wanted to say ‘search’, but.. c’mon). Mozilla has to figure this out starting now, and I hope they’re doing that.
Meanwhile, the market share battle is on between the two browsers. Chrome could enjoy a temporary spike in its market share (it did) by all the power users who are curious about the brand new browser (I was one of them). But when the dust settle, Firefox users return to their browsers just to avoid missing the not-so-secret weapon of Extensions.
When was the last time you tried a bare Firefox with absolutely no extensions? it’s really awkward experience. Extensions are what makes Firefox a really special software. It’s all the little things that saves you seconds but really brings the web to your finger tips. It’s going to take Chrome along time to build a community that can match the effort of the Mozilla community.
But for Firefox to really survive, it must go on the offense. Tackle the IE market share rather than worrying about Chrome.
Since it’s extensions that distinguish Firefox, they somehow should be available to the average user as they are to the power user. Most average users don’t use advanced tools because they simply don’t know they have the option. I watched a guy using Edit > Copy because he doesn’t know about Ctrl+C and context menus (seriously). Mozilla should make an effort to somehow offer the average user the blessings of extensions. Maybe they’re already doing that by ‘Fashion your Firefox’ but it’s still a web page that the average user needs to go to first. Try to put extensions more front and center.
Then, there’s the distribution problem. Most average users don’t really user IE, they use the ‘internet’ through the blue ‘e’ icon. The whole concept of browser and better browser is missing for these people. So, these are like 20% of IE share (I’m totally making those numbers up). 40% don’t care about the browser to choose the better one. 35% don’t know why they should switch, they really think that this is the best browser. and 5% are stupid because they know it’s a bad browser but they’re using it anyway (of course, I’m excluding IE testers). What I’m trying to say is a large share of IE users are using it because it’s pre-loaded and this is a problem not only for Firefox but also for Chrome. Apply tried to go through the back door and push Safari through iTunes. I don’t think that this has made a huge difference but it’s worth the shot.
Frankly, I don’t know how to solve the distribution problem. But I know this, until Google figures about a way to solve it, Chrome is not going to make a lot of progress in Firefox market share. I hope ;)