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    Compounding this news was also a link floating around stating that Mozilla Firefox was staring at a market share of below 9%.

    Does anybody else think it’s really impressive that 9% of the world uses a web browser that isn’t installed by default and isn’t advertised every time you visit your search engine?

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        I think it’s less impressive when you see where it used to be (which was seriously impressive).

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          I find it hard to interpret market share over a period when the overall population of users and devices grew and changed so dramatically. Mobile was hardly a factor during the mid-2000s heyday of desktop Firefox. Is there a different statistic that we could use?

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            I think the 9-10% stat is for desktop browsers; when mobile is factored in, Firefox drops to 5-7%. Worldwide, slightly more than half of all Web traffic is from mobile devices (I was surprised too; I would’ve assumed it was the vast majority these days…),

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          I’ve seen a few things on the internet (including here at Lobsters) saying, essentially, “Please, use Firefox out of concern for the ecosystem, even if it’s worse than the alternatives at <thing you care about>.” I do use Firefox, and have for the last year, but this rankles me a bit. I realize that Mozilla is (partially) a non-profit, and that even a for-profit corporation can’t do everything, but if you visit Firefox’s Bugzilla you can find tickets for obvious features that have been open for years. Here’s one that’s been open since April 2013 and which is still unassigned.

          Part of this is a PR/communication problem; Firefox is at a bit of a disadvantage in that we can all see a list of the things they are or aren’t working on right now. But every time Firefox gains a new feature that I don’t care about, I think about all of these tickets that have been open forever and have lots of comments and duplicates but which Mozilla has chosen not to work on.

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            Honestly, if we’re concerned about the web ecosystem, people should use Lynx more. The web would be better if most pages had to work in Lynx.

            Edit: Which, after checking, Lobste.rs is very readable on Lynx, and you can login just fine. Unfortunately, the reply/edit links don’t work.

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              I do actually know people using the web with lynx frequently (It’s a very nice browser for blind people used to the command line).

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                Just so people don’t get the wrong idea, I should mention that the majority of blind people who use computers have been productively using GUIs for a couple of decades now. Yes, there are blind people who are more comfortable with the command line and even screen-oriented terminal-based applications like Lynx, but they’re a small and shrinking minority of a minority, and I would guess that even they have given in and started using a JavaScript-capable browser when needed. There is certainly not an economic barrier anymore. So don’t feel that you need to accommodate them.

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                  So a blind person who uses lynx should not be accommodated, because the barriers to switching to GUIs are not economic? If it’s harder for them to learn to use a GUI than to keep using lynx, why shouldn’t they be accommodated?

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                Yup. I read lobste.rs in links and have to pop over to Firefox to reply. You can post a new comment, though.

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                  Lynx (and Links in text mode) are great options. If you still want graphics, but not the latest JS / CSS fads, maybe try Dillo or NetSurf. All these have independent rendering engines. The parts of the web that don’t work in simple browsers are largely the ones I can do without.

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                  I know its a pain when your pet issue doesn’t get fixed but really, bookmarklets.. I have never heard anyone irl ever mention one. 99.9% of web users probably don’t know what they are so I am betting when a mozilla dev has to choose what issue to work on there will be a lot more high priority tasks than fixing bookmarklets. I have had some real blocking issues with some new web features not working exactly to spec in firefox and I have seen a lot of them get fixed in reasonable timeframes because they affect more users.

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                    Yeah, but that’s not what they were doing. Mozilla invested all kinds of time into projects people weren’t demanding while not fixing problems their existing users were reporting. That’s not a good way to run a business if you have one product with serious competition. Gotta keep making that product the best it can be along every attribute.

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                    Heh, I should have guessed that was the bookmarklet bug. It is weird that a browser that supposedly empowers the user allows remote sites to dictate what code you’re allowed to run.

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                    Most of the marketing done by Firefox is precisely of the form you describe here. I’m not sure why you feel that’s not the case.

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                      Yeah I didn’t mean Firefox’s own marketing but more the community word of mouth message.

                      Added a footnote outlining as such, thanks for making the ambiguity clear to me.

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                      Conventional belief is that a new product needs to be around 10 times better for users to consider switching from their old ways.

                      When Firefox was gaining market share it had good extensions, which enabled you to do a lot more things with the browser than the alternatives.

                      When Chrome launched, it was better than it’s competition. It launched faster, it ran faster, it was more stable ( if a tab crashed it would not take down the whole browser ), it automatically updated and it had a simple and well thought out user interface. It qualified as a 10x improvement compared to existing alternatives. It probably also helped that the IE team was asleep at the wheel.

                      Can we realistically expect the Firefox team to bring about a 10x improvement over Chrome ? Google has deep pockets. They are laser focused on making Chrome even better. I think it is unlikely.

                      For personal use, I have switched to Firefox for the same reasons I use Linux : to have a little more control over my computing. Yes, I know I give up some goodies, but I think it is a fair trade considering the upside.

                      Realistically, we can only expect Firefox to remain as a niche browser. The problem is, will Google be willing to shell out the millions of dollars to Mozilla which it needs to pay its people so that Google can be the default search engine for <10% of the market. Hopefully, yes.

                      The best play for Mozilla would be to cozy up to Microsoft which may have some apprehension about the tightening control of Google over the Internet and the World Wide Web

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                        Opera was the 10x browser in 2006-2008. Chrome was a downgrade from that. Heck, both Chrome and Firefox still feel like a downgrade from decade-old Opera in terms of UI features.

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                          Your “conventional belief” ignores both the network effect and the effect of marketing. Web browsers, being a consumer product that acts as an intermediary to other service providers who deliver the real value, are heavily governed by both.

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                          I think about Chrome’s usurping of Internet Explorer (IE), and I wonder (antitrust and all aside) would Chrome have usurped IE if it wasn’t for IE stagnating?

                          Don’t credit Chrome with forcing Microsoft to resume development of Internet Explorer. That is blatantly ahistorical.

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                            Worth noting that the IE and Firefox teams used to (still do? I dunno) each send the other a cake every time they had a major release. https://limpet.net/mbrubeck/2012/10/26/mozilla-ie10-cake.html

                            I’m not sure if this is really true but: I got the impression part of the reason for that tradition was that Firefox’s releases were necessary for the IE group to get funding inside Microsoft. Without the visible competition spurring them try to make IE compete, Microsoft could have just left it stagnate.

                            edit: to give the article’s author credit, I don’t think they were claiming that Chrome’s release was wholly responsible for spurred development of MSIE. I think that bit is rather suggesting that Chrome might not have been able to overtake MSIE in usefulness if MSIE had continued improving the whole while instead of stagnating for five years.

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                            As a Firefox user I feel like Firefox is really not playing up to its strengths. The recent releases have tried to make it more Chrome, thus alienating people who have used Firefox for a long time. One example is the deprecation of classic extensions replacing them with web extensions. This is largely fine and it is nice to be able to run Chrome extensions but I would’ve wanted it to provide a way of porting the functionality of old plugins (via extensions to webextentions) instead of saying “yeah, that’s it”. Then I might as well use Chrome.

                            Similarly, I would’ve liked them to add more privacy focus. There are plenty of extensions doing things that a privacy minded person needs to evaluate and install and hope that the developers don’t do a bait and switch.

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                              One example is the deprecation of classic extensions replacing them with web extensions.

                              The biggest problem with extensions is that they were dragging down Firefox. Classic extensions were allowed to eff up many things in Firefox in a big way.

                              Similarly, I would’ve liked them to add more privacy focus. There are plenty of extensions doing things that a privacy minded person needs to evaluate and install and hope that the developers don’t do a bait and switch.

                              One of the arguments against the old extensions API was that no privacy concerns could be enforced, which kind of makes this a contradicting post.

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                                I am aware why they were removed. But I would’ve liked if Firefox added sensible extensions to the webextension interface that would allow to do at least 80% of what the previous extensions were able to do. If Firefox extensions have to cater to the lowest common denominator (aka what Chrome supports), there is less reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome directly.

                                And the improved privacy support could be added into Firefox proper, instead of letting users have to figure it out, thus requiring users to use fewer extensions in the first place and moving the trust anchor from random developers on AMO to Mozilla proper. Similarly how pop-up blocking was added in early Firefox which was one of the reasons people liked Firefox before every other browser copied this.

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                                  I am aware why they were removed. But I would’ve liked if Firefox added sensible extensions to the webextension interface that would allow to do at least 80% of what the previous extensions were able to do. If Firefox extensions have to cater to the lowest common denominator (aka what Chrome supports), there is less reason to use Firefox instead of Chrome directly.

                                  Webextensions are - in contrast to other standards - allowed to implement Browser-specific things. And they indeed do provide that. There is definitely the issue that things are still being reimplemented.

                                  And the improved privacy support could be added into Firefox proper

                                  Firefox does have such features, like content-blocking and a privacy-conscious sharing setup.

                                  TBH, I feel like this way of interacting with Firefox is exactly what this blog post is against: we are supercritical of Firefox, but cut Chrome a lot of slack. Indeed to the point where even Chrome bugs are considered expected behaviour, but FF is not allowed to misstep at any point.

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                                    Firefox does have such features, like content-blocking and a privacy-conscious sharing setup.

                                    To some degree, but the amount of privacy-improving extensions show that there is clearly a demand for more. And many of these extensions have existed for a long time, so there was a long time to be integrated. Of course Google Chrome will never add a built-in adblocker…

                                    I feel like this way of interacting with Firefox is exactly what this blog post is against: we are supercritical of Firefox, but cut Chrome a lot of slack

                                    This blog post itself has a hard time to figure out what the advantages of Firefox are at this point. And thinking about it I can’t come up with much either. It is not extensibility anymore, it is not performance, it is not standards compliance. This is about the same in Chrome these days. Maybe it would be time to concentrate on very specific things, like many fringe-browsers do and do massively better in this regard.

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                                      Of course Google Chrome will never add a built-in adblocker…

                                      It has one https://www.blog.google/technology/ads/building-better-web-everyone/

                                      This blog post itself has a hard time to figure out what the advantages of Firefox are at this point.

                                      Firefox has a different user interface from chrome, it has a sync functionality that does not require a Google account, it has integrated tracking protection (to the point where some news pages see stock Firefox as an ad blocker!). It’s performance is pretty fast after Quantum, often faster than Chrome. It’s memory usage is usually getting lower nowadays. It has a vastly different UX (and IMHO better), especially around the address bar. Also, it’s not unusual that Chrome actually adopts Firefox UX patterns, but we still paint FF against the wall for being a Chrome-like.

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                                        not unusual that Chrome actually adopts Firefox UX patterns

                                        I wonder if they’ll ever adopt the scrollable tab bar :)

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                                        It is not extensibility anymore

                                        It is, still.

                                        Of course it’s not “any addon can mess up the whole UI” extensible anymore, but everyone in internet comments has latched onto the idea of “it’s exactly like Chrome now”, which is just not true. Firefox provides a lot more APIs for WebExtensions, constantly adding more and more. Just in the latest release: custom context menus for extension pages, among other things.

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                                          Want a killer app? Good web videoconferencing. Make that beautiful in firefox and you get a massive chunk of the market.

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                                  A thing that’s open ignored in this context is that browser numbers are usually not reported by platform. While Desktop Chrome and Firefox may be a tough sell, but IMHO, Firefox for iOS and Android are terrific products. Especially FF for iOS has a much better interface over Safari. Also, Klar (Focus in some areas) is also a really good product, rethinking mobile browsing a little.

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                                    I use Chrome for work, Firefox in my personal browsing (that is, not at work), but there really isn’t a noticeable difference between Chrome and Firefox for me. I use Chrome on my phone, and it actually would make more sense for me to use Chrome on desktop if for no better reason than to sync my recommended pages. So why do I use Firefox? I don’t really know. I guess the built-in blocking is nice, but I use ublock origin on Chrome and it does just fine.

                                    I agree with the author here that the “use it because it’s different” is a really bad argument. That’s pretty much all we heard from non-Mozilla people after Microsoft decided to switch its engine. It doesn’t really do anything for me. If Firefox starts feeling worse to me, I’ll switch from it again. A better browser is all people want, they don’t care about appeals to emotion. Chrome won out because it was far better than IE and slightly better than Firefox. I can’t use Firefox for dev work because it is missing features that Chrome has. So if we really want Firefox to be adopted, we need to make it better (or at least advertise the bits that are better).

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                                      Personally, I’m using next-browser as much as possible lately, and as soon as it gets an ad-blocker it’ll be my default. It’s still a rough around the edges, but it’s improved a bunch recently.

                                      Firefox and Chromium are equally crappy, IMO, and I don’t see Mozilla taking up any of the issues I care about (tracking, privacy, ads, etc.) while they depend on Google for most of their revenue.

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                                        It’s built with the webkit engine, which is driven by google for chromium, so if google decides to implement new non-standard features (or privacy-killing stuff) in webkit, all these “alternative” browsers will be impacted. The discussion here is about firefox, only because they use a different engine than Chrome (Gecko), thus “enforcing” webkit to remain as close to standard as possible.

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                                          Google uses and develops blink [1], a webkit fork. Apple develops webkit [2], a KHTML fork. KDE develops KHTML [3].

                                          [1] https://www.chromium.org/blink

                                          [2] https://webkit.org/

                                          [3] https://konqueror.org/features/browser.php

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                                            Thanks for the clarification. Which brings the following question: Would using webkit/khtml prevent Google from reaching the browser supremacy?

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                                              No. It already had about 55% market share at the time.

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                                                Google, yes, they don’t have direct control over webkit - which is why they put their effort in their own fork, just like Apple did when forking KHTML. What it does not prevent is the move from a standards-based web to a webkit-based one. In that respect it is best to use a mix of rendering engines, from gecko (Firefox) to blink (Chromium/Chrome, Vivaldi, Edge (in the near future), many Android browsers) to webkit (everything on iOS, Safari, Konqueror (as an option), Epiphany, Arora plus many others)) to the home-grown engines in programs like Dillo. In theory any engine which supports enough of the standards should work, in practice we’re getting closer to the bad old days of ‘the site is best viewed in Internet Explorer’ as far as standards-compliance goes.