Mozilla has a Firefox problem.
The open-source app is one of the better browsers on the market but has been hemorrhaging market share for years. As of today, Firefox only has 3.66% of the web browser market share. If I were to guess, the majority of those users are on Linux.
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That figure alone should tell you how much trouble Firefox is in. We’re talking “Danger, Will Robinson”-level trouble. A 3% market share is hard to bounce back from. So with Firefox so dangerously close to complete irrelevancy, what can Mozilla do to recover?
I have a few suggestions. Four, to be exact.
Let’s just dive in.
1. Improve workspaces
This may surprise you, but I think if Firefox would finally get a clue with tab management, they could attract some new users. Opera and Safari have come out on top in this space, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better solution than either Opera’s Workspaces or Safari’s take on tab groups.
What does Firefox have? A few addons that are honestly more trouble than they’re worth. Not one of the Firefox tab management addons comes close to what Opera and Safari have to offer.
This is a problem. Why? Because each day that passes, more and more people wind up having to use more and more tabs in a running browser window. I constantly have so many tabs open in Firefox that it becomes quite unwieldy to use. If I were in Opera or Safari, this wouldn’t be a problem.
To that end, the Firefox developers seriously need to look at how those two browsers deal with tab management and do something similar.
2. A regular release schedule
This is a real problem, one that needs to be addressed asap. At the moment, the Firefox release schedule is chaotic. There is absolutely zero consistency. Instead of taking this haphazard approach, the developers need to create a regular release schedule, one that users can count on and know that at X month, a new version of the browser will be made available. And once they develop this calendar, stick to it.
If Linux distributions (which are exponentially more complex than a web browser) can stick to a regular release schedule, a web browser can as well.
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I’d say that there should be monthly vulnerability patches (because that’s crucial) and maybe quarterly minor releases (for various bug fixes and minor feature additions) and biannual (or annual) major releases. This would also make it exponentially easier for people like me to cover the browser. As is, I have to hope I don’t miss the next release notification.
A regular release schedule would make it easier for users to trust the browser and that the developers are constantly working to improve the application.
3. Keep it lean
Firefox has a history of getting bloated to the point of becoming unusable. Right now, the browser feels lean, so it works very well. But the pattern has been clear:
- Firefox gets lean.
- Firefox starts to bloat.
- Firefox gets too bloated.
- Users complain.
- Firefox gets lean.
Rinse, wash, repeat. Firefox cannot afford another iteration of this pattern. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that if the browser starts to grow oversized and slow once more, it’ll signal the end.
Mozilla must make sure Firefox remains trim, fast and free from bloat. End of story.
4. Marketing, marketing, marketing
Like so much of open-source, Mozilla doesn’t know how to market Firefox. I understand that you can’t market without a budget, but if you don’t market no one knows about your product. Once upon a time, marketing a web browser wasn’t necessary. Less than a 4% market share is a clear indicator that time has long past. And creating new services like Firefox Relay or a VPN isn’t going to help the cause. Sure, those shiny new things might help Mozilla the company (although I doubt it), they’ll do absolutely nothing for the web browser.
Mozilla needs to develop a serious ad campaign for the browser that’s been its bread and butter for years. And that campaign needs to show the public that Firefox can do what Chrome can do, without tracking and using their data. Chrome is the most widely-used browser on the planet and it’s not only constantly under attack, but it also tracks users’ data more than any other browser. Standing in opposition to that is a major selling point Firefox could use to its advantage. It’s almost as though Google is happily handing that bullet point to every other browser on the market, and Mozilla should capitalize on it immediately.
If Mozilla doesn’t do something soon, Firefox will become irrelevant. I’d hate to see that happen, because (other than the poor tab management) the browser has become one of the better options available. And although it might feel like a monumental task to undertake, Mozilla can turn the tide. Fix tab management, hit a regular release cycle, keep the browser lean, and let people know why Firefox is better than the competition, and Mozilla could right the ship before it sinks.