Reasons For Decline In Firefox Usage

Deyan Georgiev
Deyan Georgiev

Updated · Nov 05, 2022

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Mozilla’s Firefox was once a big player on the web in the early 2000s. When most started to move to Chromium-based browsers, Firefox became the default browser for Linux and privacy-conscious users.

But, despite all of its perks, its number of users continues to plummet, with a market share of a little over 3%.

This begs the question: what are the reasons for the decline in Firefox usage

Read on to find out.

Reasons Why Firefox Usage Is Declining

Here are the main reasons why Firefox is seeing a never-ending decline in user numbers.

Removal of Features

One of the main reasons why many users decided to flock to other browsers is that, at one point, Firefox started removing features that were popular among the majority of its users. 

To their credit, Mozilla made efforts to sometimes point users to alternatives, which essentially means users had to jump through extra hoops to get the tool that made them stick with Firefox in the first place.

In most cases, users could only revert the change via CSS.

Some changes, in particular, were a major blow to a good chunk of Firefox users. 

One recent example is Mozilla’s removal of the useful "Compact density" option from the Customize panel, which reduced the size of the user interface. 

The reason given for dropping the feature from the menu was that it was “hard to find.” This was true– the option was hidden in a drop-down menu in the Customize panel. At the same time, the feature was popular among Firefox users.

Mozilla still allows them to activate the feature in the about:config page, but many weren’t happy with the change.

Tab Placement

Mozilla was never afraid of throwing some ideas to the wall and seeing if they stick. 

At its peak, Firefox regularly saw new features and designs being added to keep things interesting for its then-vast user base.

And in the Firefox 4.0 version, Mozilla brought a couple of changes that essentially made it look a lot like its biggest competitor at the time– Google Chrome. This included the same tabs-on-top look that Google pioneered, primarily for mobile use.

This design is now pretty standard, but it stirred up quite a controversy among Firefox fans who were used to the tabs-on-bottom design. The tabs were still there and functioned in the same way, but their move up top broke the workflow of other programs and ruined users’ experience.

Bad Memory Optimization

Those that didn’t care as much for Firefox’s design or missing features, gave up on the browser for a much faster alternative.

For quite some time, Mozilla faced a barrage of complaints from users who noticed that Firefox was using too much RAM memory, essentially slowing down their computers. 

The reason why this happened varied from one user to another but it came down to Firefox’s design at the base level – its code paradigm. 

Mozilla tried to fix the issue on its end and it now claims that it’s using less RAM than Google Chrome for its operations. But, users are still divided on the issue. 

For most, the Firefox browser is snappier than Chrome and delivers a good overall performance compared to other top browsers.

Bad Coding Paradigms

The Mozilla source code isn’t exactly user-friendly. The browser is 21M lines of code that use multiple languages.

But, more than that, it works in a way that doesn’t strive to make things easier for coders.

For instance, Firefox combines multiple variables located in separate files for a single function.

Aspects of the browser like visited pages, bookmarks, post compiling, and history for downloads are all bunked together into obfuscated files. This makes things slow for users and complicated for coders.

Also, changing and adding icons (including for custom search) takes a lot more time, compared to their browsers, since users would have to install an editor program that can handle an omni.ja file and then recompile it with every change.

This and many other “hurdles” prompted users to look for alternatives.

Google Dominance

Google didn’t just win the desktop browser game. It built a vast monopoly that made it difficult to navigate the online space without stumbling into its products or services.

For example, Google Chrome is the default browser on Android devices because Google makes these devices. 

And there’s a product that Google doesn’t own (and can’t just put their browser in it), they just pay that company to do that instead.

Firefox is part of that strategy too.

Despite being Mozilla’s biggest competitor more than a decade ago, Google is responsible for 90% of the revenue that Mozilla makes by reportedly paying it around $450 million to keep Google as the default search engine in Firefox. 

Privacy Issues

Mozilla raised some privacy concerns when it announced that it will allow users to request to delete stored telemetry data that it tied to them. 

Specifically, when a user asks Mozilla to remove their telemetry data, they send a “deletion-request” ping. Pings include an IP address, a unique client ID, and a timestamp – which is enough to tie your telemetry data to your specific browser instance. 

Mozilla doesn’t consider this a privacy issue because the data is stored separately, but this still means that the company maintains this data in a way that can be matched to an individual’s IP address.

FirefoxOS

The Firefox OS was Mozilla’s attempt to break the grip that iOS and Android have on the mobile market.

The product emerged from Mozilla’s Boot to Gecko project. The company played up its open-source component (and rely on the community to improve it) and approached the market with a web-based operating system that, according to Mozilla, was scalable and would allow it to run on a wide range of devices.

The company made an effort to find a foothold in low-cost phones, but at this point in time, the competition was too strong and the market too divided for Mozilla’s project.

Plan B was to encourage enthusiasts to install the Firefox OS on their phones, but not many devices were compatible and the installation process was harder compared to that of other apps, and even then, there were some apps, like WhatsApp, that were missing.

In the end, Mozilla had little choice but to nix it. The same thing happened with the Firefox VR browser that shut down earlier this year.

Bottom Line

Mozilla’s Firefox continues to be a somewhat popular option for Linux-based users who prefer the customization freedom that the browser has to offer. Still, the numbers show that Firefox is unlikely to return to its former glory anytime soon (or at all).

The reasons for the decline of Firefox usage are multiple, but the main one seems to be that the browser is not as user-friendly (or user-accommodating) as its competitors.

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Deyan Georgiev

Deyan Georgiev

Deyan has been fascinated by technology his whole life. From the first Tetris game all the way to Falcon Heavy. Working for TechJury is like a dream come true, combining both his passions – writing and technology. In his free time (which is pretty scarce, thanks to his three kids), Deyan enjoys traveling and exploring new places. Always with a few chargers and a couple of gadgets in the backpack. He makes mean dizzying Island Paradise cocktails too.

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