02 June 2021

Firefox 89: Can this redesign stem browser's decline?


Mozilla has released Firefox 89, proclaiming it a "fresh new Firefox," though it comes amid a relentless decline in market share.

Firefox matters more than most web browsers, because it uses its own browser engine, called Quantum, and its own JavaScript engine, called SpiderMonkey. By contrast, most other browsers, including Chrome and Chromium, Edge, Brave, Opera, and Vivaldi use the Google-sponsored Blink engine, while Apple's Safari uses WebKit (from which Blink was forked). The existence of multiple independent implementations is important for web standards, helping to prevent a single vendor from pushing through changes without consensus, and ensuring that the standards are coherent.

A glance at a statistics site like W3Counter is telling. In April 2008, Microsoft enjoyed a 63 per cent market share with Internet Explorer, and with Firefox performing strongly behind it at 29.3 per cent. By April 2010, IE was down to 48.6 per cent, Firefox up to 32.7 per cent, and Google's newer Chrome was starting to make an impact, at 8.3 per cent.

In April 2012, the three were almost on a par, though Chrome (26.8 per cent) had overtaken Firefox (25 per cent). Today, Chrome is at 65.3 per cent, Safari second at 16.7 per cent, IE and Edge has 5.7 per cent, and Firefox has just 4.1 per cent share. 

Despite numerous updates, Mozilla's browser has declined from 6.1 per cent share a year ago. Statcounter tells a similar story, reporting a 3.59 per cent share for Firefox, down from 4.21 per cent a year ago.


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