June 09, 2012, 7:41 AM — Several years ago, Mozilla was a real up-and-comer -- its Firefox browser was the first serious challenger to Internet Explorer in a long time, and the company's identity with open source enhanced its public perception as a worthy upstart.
Of late, however, Mozilla has had a tough time. The recent news that Google Chrome has -- by at least one measurement -- done what Firefox could not and unseated IE at the top of the browser market underlines the disastrous effect that the search giant's late entry has had on Mozilla's flagship product.
"Open source is less of a novelty," says 451 Research senior analyst Jay Lyman. He also notes that IE itself has become better, meaning that Firefox had been forced to confront both formidable open source and proprietary rivals.
As Chrome's popularity grew, after its official release in December 2008, so too did the scale of the problem facing Mozilla. Even though StatCounter data seem to indicate that the Google browser did much more damage to IE during its early ascendance, Firefox market share began to drop off near the beginning of 2011, as Chrome's rise continued.
What's more, some of Firefox's attempts to recapture its momentum have caused problems of their own. Business users weren't pleased by Mozilla's abrupt detour into a Chrome-style rapid iteration policy in 2011, given the extra work required to ensure the compatibility of plug-ins. (The company eventually decided to start offering a long-term support version of the browser.)