Is Firefox dying a slow death?

In today's open source roundup: Firefox's market share numbers are way down. Plus: Alternatives to Skype for Linux, and Marvel Heroes may be coming to Linux

Glory is fleeting on the Internet. One minute a service or application is riding high with more and more users, and the next minute its appeal begins to wane as other offerings take center stage. According to ZDNet, the Firefox browser may have entered a long, slow decline that it cannot reverse.

According to ZDNet:

When you take a look at Net Applications' web desktop browser market share reports over the long run two things stand out. One, there's the rise of Google's Chrome to second place, and two, Mozilla's Firefox's steep decline.

How bad is Firefox's fall? In June 2014, Firefox hit a new five-year low of 15.6 percent market share. Back in October 2009, Firefox was on the rise and had reached 23.75 percent. Life was good. Since July 2012, the browser started trending downward. Indeed, since May 2013, with Firefox at 20.6%, the once popular browser hasn't risen above 20%.

More at ZDNet
Firefox market share declines
Image credit: ExtremeTech

It's sad to see Firefox reduced to this situation. I remember the days when its market share was increasing and more and more people seemed to be discovering it each day. It was a great alternative to existing browsers, particularly Internet Explorer for those who still used Windows. But that's all behind Firefox now, and it seems to be facing a bleak future of slowly declining usage.

The decline of Firefox has been happening for a while now. Back in 2012, ExtremeTech noted that Firefox was already losing market share, and explained the devastating effect of Google's Chrome browser on Firefox's usage numbers. So the ZDNet article is really just an update on Firefox's continued loss of popularity among browser users on the Internet.

One thing that the ZDNet article didn't seem to mention was Firefox's interface changes in version 29 of the browser. The Australis interface angered many Firefox users, and some simply switched to Chrome or other browsers. The changes in Firefox 29 left a bitter taste in the mouths of these users, and they left Firefox behind with feelings of disgust and betrayal.

I shared my thoughts about this in a column a while back called "Did Mozilla jump the shark with Firefox 29?" and I got more than one hundred comments from readers who didn't pull any punches in their feedback. People were very angry about the changes in Firefox 29 and some simply wanted nothing to do with Firefox ever again.

Firefox seemed to be on a downward trajectory in terms of market share even before the Australis changes. But once Firefox 29 was released things seemed to go from bad to worse for Mozilla's browser. At this point I'm not sure that the situation is salvageable by Mozilla. The users that switched to other browsers are probably not going to come back even if the interface is changed back to what it was before Firefox 29.

I wish I had some words of wisdom to share with Mozilla about this that would help them get Firefox back on track. But I think it may be far too late for them to do anything to change this situation. Firefox's days of glory are over and what's left to it now is probably a slow fade into oblivion like Netscape.

Update: Jacob Barkdull thinks that Firefox's decline has more to do with it being slow in rolling out new web technologies:

According to Jacob Barkdull:

Firefox's decline in popularity is most likely due to Mozilla's tendency to be slow to adopt and implement new web tech. For example, Mozilla promptly implemented WebRTC, however, it remained cumbersome to use for a very long time, requiring developers to set up a fake audio or video stream in order to even initiate a DataChannel.

In addition to being slow to implement new web technologies, in many cases Mozilla doesn't implement them fully on non-Windows operating systems for a very long time.

More at Jacob Barkdull

I think Jacob raises a good point that hadn't been mentioned before. But I wonder how many average users are even aware that new web technologies exist, nevermind Mozilla's slowness in adding them to Firefox. To me that seems like something that geeks would be much more aware of than non-geek users.

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