Mozilla Firefox Losing Market Share?
The market share of Mozilla Firefox browsers is slipping for the first time according to a study by NetApplications. The study shows that Firefox’s market share has dropped to 8.07% in July after an all time high 8.71% in June. Microsoft IE browsers grew from 86.56% to 87.2% during the same time period. Before we all throw up our arms and declare August the month Firefox fizzled, let’s keep in mind this study was performed by one statistics/web analytics company – so don’t hold your breath.
However, the study does bring into question the ability of Mozilla’s Firefox to continue its growth once its most loyal base of tech oriented users and businesses have adopted the browser. Or will it plateau? To date, Firefox’s selling point has been security and simplicity – two strong differentiations from Microsoft IE until IE addressed their security problems and some hackers started looking for holes in Firefox’s armor. Is Firefox losing the security battle? Has Firefox lost its positioning as the anti-adware browser now that AdWare comanies are the targets of Congress and also Microsoft acquisition?
Jeremy Wright of Ensight.org believes that Firefox is simply following the track of the open source development cycle which goes as follows : Start software which deals with “gripes” of major competitor, Match existing software, Add features, and then Plateau.
There’s an optional fifth stage (Innovate) that rarely happens. Most OSS software goes through this: PHP, Apache, MySQL, FireFox, Linux, Desktops, etc.
The issue is that most of these projects are designed to only get to point 2. Once they reach that point (if they ever do, most OSS projects simply deal with point 1), they have no idea what to do. Most simply don’t have a long-term vision.
I mean, once you’ve provided a secure, manageable web platform that’s easily extensible and adheres to all W3C specs what else is there to do? You either just provide monthly patches and minor updates, or you add feature bloat or you try and innovate (read: do things your own way).
This is the first time FireFox has faced this challenge. Anyone who’s watched them could see it coming (features slowing with every release, security slipping, UI slipping, etc). It’s been minor. It’s been slow. It can be corrected, and FireFox could still become the dominant browser.
But they need to do more than beat IE6. They need to be looking at the future and creating markets. If they don’t create markets, all they’ll ever do is play catch-up.
I agree with Jeremy 100% that Mozilla’s Firefox team has to expand their product to new markets and shed the underdog label. Didn’t work for Kerry, won’t work for Firefox either. Until that time, Firefox will generally maintain a 5-10% share of the web browser market and always be playing catch-up to Microsoft – hoping that some new virus is launched to target IE7 so Firefox can capitalize on its weaknesses too.
Wright adds that being the little guy isn’t always so bad. “Apple plays quite happily in that world and enjoys massive, massive influence. It’s not such a bad thing to be the Apple of the browser world, if that’s what FireFox wants to be. If it wants to be more, the team really needs to step up.” Although, with over 80,000,000 downloads (according to SpreadFirefox.com) this little guy ain’t so little.