Firefox – is the fire out?

As a developer, I’ve always been a great fan of Firefox, for quite a few reasons, but here’s a couple:

  • It wasn’t Internet Explorer.
  • It came from an open-source mindset and had thousands of great plugins.
  • It was great to use as a de-bugging tool.

But when the mobile revolution really took hold, it didn’t seem to catch on as much for me. Chrome became my browser of choice on my Android devices, and Safari was already well entrenched on my iOS devices.

The latest news that Brendan Eich has departed as CEO after a tumultuous ten-day tenure has been met in some circles with relief, but left other Mozilla staff uncomfortable with the public airing of dirty laundry.

Notwithstanding, retains some major problems:

  • Its desktop browser is quickly losing relevance in a rapidly mobile-centric world.
  • Firefox OS has yet to be demonstrated as a viable option.
  • It is almost entirely reliant on Google, a rival browser maker, for its income.

Mozilla  isn’t the default browser on any of the main mobile platforms, nor is there a version for the iPhone or iPad because Apple won’t allow its Gecko browser framework (or any rival’s) on iOS.  Although the Android app has been downloaded more than 50m times, and has half a million five-star reviews, it doesn’t show up at all in the mobile browser data on either of the two main measurement systems, Statcounter and Netmarketshare, where Apple’s Safari and Google’s  Android browser rule.

Mozilla is acutely aware of this and has been working on its own mobile OS, Firefox OS, for a couple of years. This, though, will be the crunch time. At Mobile World Congress it showed off a range of devices from manufacturers including ZTE, LG, Huawei and Alcatel. It says there will be a $25 phone, aimed at emerging markets. Part of the reason for the low price is that it only needs 128MB of memory – substantially less than the 512MB typically required even for low-end Android phones.

Meanwhile, I’m still using chrome on my Androids and Safari on my iOS devices.