Mozilla has one of the finest stories in the tech space. Facing a seemingly insurmountable competitor that had vanquished bigger firms, Mozilla delivered a browser that offered superior performance to Internet Explorer.
Over time, its browser’s popularity grew as word-of-mouth helped the company market the software more effectively than any advertising campaign. Today, Firefox is the world’s second most-popular browser behind Internet Explorer. It’s widely regarded as superior to Microsoft’s alternative.
But over the past few months, something concerning has happened in the open-source world of browsers. Mozilla’s Firefox has lost about 2 percent of its market share as Internet Explorer, once thought to be on the decline, has gained. Google’s Chrome browser is also increasing its influence since the beginning of the year. For now, Mozilla supporters believe that it’s a short-term problem and Firefox will regain lost share. But that might not be the case. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Firefox is well on its way to becoming an also-ran in the browser market. Here’s why:
1. It’s on the decline
There is no debating that Firefox is on the decline. Just a few months ago, the browser had 24 percent market share, according to research firm, NetMarketShare. The company’s latest findings for July claim Firefox has 22 percent market share. Meanwhile, Internet Explorer enjoys control over 60 percent of the space, and Chrome, still far behind both browsers, is gaining with more than 7 percent of the market. Google’s browser started the year with just 5 percent share. It seems that users are moving from Firefox and going elsewhere. That must be kept in mind whenever it comes time to evaluate the browser market.
2. Internet Explorer’s resurgence
Speaking of growth, it’s worth noting just how surprising it is to see Internet Explorer stage a comeback in the browser market. Not long ago, Microsoft was thought to be dead in the water. The company’s browser was still causing users trouble. It ceased support for Internet Explorer 6, and alternatives such as Firefox and Chrome offered a better value proposition for customers. In short order, Microsoft has regained its share, thanks to the value Internet Explorer 8 is offering. Admittedly those gains aren’t much. But they underscore the average consumer’s willingness to ditch Firefox and other browsers for Microsoft’s alternative. That can’t be good for Mozilla.
3. Google Chrome, anyone?
Google might be one of the newer companies to break into the browser space, but already its impact is being felt. As noted, the browser is growing rapidly in the space. And by the looks of things, that growth will continue going forward. Unfortunately for Mozilla, the more Chrome gains, the fewer users will employ Firefox. For the most part, people use Firefox because it’s a better alternative to Internet Explorer. If they find that there is an even better alternative on the market from a company that they know, it could spell serious trouble for Mozilla’s browser.
4. Mobile plays a role
The mobile market is quickly becoming a key battleground for most browser makers. Apple has its mobile Safari browser running on the iPhone. Google offers its mobile Chrome browser in Android-based devices. Recently, Opera broke into the space with its own mobile browser. Currently, Firefox’s mobile efforts leave much to be desired. Considering more and more people use mobile browsers, the last thing Mozilla should want is for those users to get comfortable with a different company’s mobile browser and opt for the desktop version. The Halo effect is strong in the browser market. Mozilla must remember that.
Mozilla Must Make Firefox Appeal to Enterprise Users
5. The value game
When deciding on a browser, users will need to opt for the software that provides them with the best value. For a long time, Mozilla provided the best value. It was typically faster than Internet Explorer, more secure, and its extensions made the browser far more viable. Today, that just isn’t the case. Chrome is faster; other browsers have extensions; and security on Firefox is about equal to every other non-Microsoft browser on the market. Consumers are starting to realize that. And it will continue to hurt Mozilla going forward.
6. Notoriety means something
Notoriety means the difference between success and failure in the tech business. In the browser market, it has helped Microsoft’s Internet Explorer grow. And it will likely help Google Chrome become a top contender in that space as well. For Mozilla, that’s bad news. As popular as Firefox is, Mozilla isn’t a household name. And for the average, novice Web user, using software that comes from a trusted name, such as Microsoft or Google, is important. Going forward, look for more and more customers to opt for Chrome for one simple reason: it’s an Internet Explorer alternative from a company they know and trust.
7. The competition is bigger and stronger
Mozilla was able to grow in the face of the world’s most powerful tech company. But whether it can do that again-this time against two of the world’s most powerful companies-is decidedly up for debate. Google has a lot riding on its browser. If it beats Internet Explorer, Google can increase usage of its search and thus, maximize its advertising revenue. Realizing that, the company is more than willing to throw as much money and influence into its browser as necessary. Microsoft, fearing a more powerful Google, will likely do the same. All the while, it will be Mozilla, with its relatively smaller cashflow, that will need to keep up. That seems rather unlikely right now.
8. The corporate world plays a role
Mozilla might not focus much of its efforts on the enterprise, but maybe it should. The main reason why Internet Explorer is so popular today can be directly attributed to its success in the corporate world. Companies both big and small rely upon Internet Explorer to get work done. In fact, some Web-based enterprise solutions only work on Microsoft’s browser. If Firefox wants to keep its success alive and fend off Google, it needs to make a significant play for the enterprise. If it doesn’t, things will only get worse.
9. Playing catch up?
Mozilla finds itself in a strange position. The company was once far ahead of the competition, thanks to its extensions and page-loading times. But all that has changed, due to improvements made by the other browsers in the space. The time has come now for Mozilla to play catch-up. Whether it can is anyone’s guess. The organization delivered Firefox when it was much better than Microsoft’s browser. Today, it needs to find a way to better other software. And based on the features in Firefox 4, it seems like the company is having a difficult time at it. In fact, most reports say that the new browser still isn’t able to match Chrome’s speeds. That’s not a good thing if Mozilla wants to regain lost market share.
10. Opera is hurting it
Opera might command a small portion of the browser market, but it’s arguably hurting Mozilla just as much as Microsoft and Google. The reason why is simple: Opera appeals to the advanced users who don’t want to get caught up in the Microsoft-Google struggle. And with Opera becoming a force to be reckoned with in the mobile market, it’s entirely possible that the company’s browser will be gaining desktop market share as more people pick up its mobile version. It’s important that Mozilla doesn’t underestimate Opera. Such underestimating could prove troublesome for its future growth.