If you look at the current desktop browser market share, Chrome takes up almost 70%. That is 70% of the web is controlled by just one company, a company that makes money by selling your user data and pushing ads. They also have a huge incentive to get as much control of web standards as possible to increase their profits. Google’s dominance over browser market share gets even more scary when you include other Chromium based browsers such as Edge and Opera. When this is done, Chromium based browsers make up more than 80% of the market share. It gets even worse when you include mobile web browsers. The non-Chromium based Safari does take up 25% of mobile market share when you include iPhones. But, if we take out iPhones and include only Android based devices, Firefox (and its forks) are the only mobile browser that doesn’t use Chromium’s engine and it only has 0.5% market share. This is a problem because we have one company, Google, controlling every web standard going into our browsers. So, Firefox is our last hope for a non-Chromium based browser if you aren’t running an Apple product. Keeping that in mind, Firefox has been in a lot of hot water, which is causing it to lose its ground fast.
One huge issue is that Firefox brands itself on being privacy friendly, and not collecting data user data. The problem is, out of the box Firefox does collect some data. For example, Firefox pings Google for safe browsing to make sure that the website you’re trying to visit is safe. It also pings Google to find your geolocation which is especially stupid because Mozilla has its own geolocation service that isn’t used in Firefox. On top of that, Firefox currently has a feature called Firefox Suggest where it can suggest websites while you’re typing in the URL bar. This sends every keystroke you type to Mozilla.
Another more recent issue is that most people did not well receive Firefox’s recent redesign well. In fact, people hated it so much that people were making memes about it and this redesign is the logo redesign that sparked the oversimplified logo meme that was popular in February 2021. However, looking at Firefox market share during June of 2021 when the redesign was added, Firefox’s market share only went down by .2% and then actually went back up another .5% the month after the redesign. So, this doesn’t seem like it affected Firefox much, and the issue was overblown.
However, an issue that isn’t overblown and should be talked about more is Mozilla’s main source of funding. Their biggest source of funding is also from their biggest competitor. Despite layoffs in 2020 they have been growing their revenue. The issue is 86% of Mozilla’s revenue comes from Google being the default search engine on Firefox, which isn’t good considering that Google is against everything Mozilla stands for. Another way Firefox makes money is through Pocket, however Pocket for users is annoying because it fills up your new tab pages with recommended articles you probably don’t care about and sponsored posts. This is easy to disable but it makes Firefox feel more like Microsoft Edge out of the box than it does an open-source browser.
Back to the Google partnership, the Google partnership is bad because it’s a conflict of their principles. It’s those principles that make me dream of a day that Mozilla will regain its market share of the late 2000’s. These principles are listed on the Mozilla Manifesto, and they mostly go through how the Internet is now an integral part of life, and how the internet needs to remain open and accessible to anyone, and how things like security and privacy are a right and shouldn’t be treated as optional.
Even with all the issues we just went through, Firefox is a great browser, and has many features. For example, Firefox has a lot of privacy features that are just disabled by default. It currently has Total Cookie Protection which isolates cookies into specific websites to prevent cross site tracking. On top of that, while it does collect a tiny amount of data and it doesn’t sell your data at all, the data it collects is purely used to improve Firefox, (except for the pings it makes to Google). It also has a lot of modern features that make it better than every other browser including account syncing, picture and picture modes, pocket for saving articles if you don’t mind the ads on the homepage, several customization features, and even a built-in screenshot utility that can capture entire web pages which I use very frequently for my videos.
Another awesome feature that almost no one talks about is the multi account containers that Firefox has. This is an extension you can download from Mozilla that allows you to isolate websites. This is great if there’s a certain website that you have multiple accounts for. You can also use these containers to isolate certain tasks. For example, one thing that some shopping sites do is change prices based on your information to maximize their profits. Well, you can use one of these isolated browsing containers to prevent that type of tracking from happening. Firefox even has another separate extension to specifically containerize Facebook so you can prevent Facebook from collecting any data connected to you outside the Facebook container.
But the main benefit of Firefox right now is that you aren’t contributing to Google’s monopoly on the internet. With the amount of market share Firefox has right now, it’s not a guarantee that web developers will target their websites to work on Firefox. This is why common web apps like Microsoft Teams have several performance issues and bugs that are exclusive to Firefox. This makes it our job as open-source enthusiasts to not be critical of every single way Mozilla tries to make money. A silly example of this was the drama about them accepting crypto currencies. This is a way for them to make money regardless of what you think of crypto. For more information about this, I recommend checking out Nick’s video about why Firefox is essential to the future of the open web, but the TLDR of that video is that Google has too much control over the internet, Safari has been stagnant on web standards causing it to be the new Internet Explorer, and Firefox is now our last hope.