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Firefox falters, falls to record low in overall browser share

Gregg Keizer | July 7, 2014
Apple's Safari also sheds combined desktop-mobile share, while Google's browsers gain impressive ground.

Firefox's user share on all platforms -- desktop and mobile -- has plunged in the last two months as its desktop browser continued to bleed and its attempt to capture users on smartphones failed to move the needle, new data shows.

Apple's Safari fared almost as poorly since April, also losing significant user share, with a continued decline on mobile and a sudden slide on the desktop to blame.

During June, 17.3% of those who went online surfed the Web using a mobile browser, according to Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications. Mobile browsing's climb of nearly 6 percentage points in the last 12 months represented a growth rate of 52%.

As in April, when Computerworld last analyzed desktop + mobile browser user share, June's numbers put the hurt on Mozilla most of all: Firefox's total user share -- the combination of desktop and mobile -- was 12.9% for June, its lowest level since Computerworld began tracking the metric five years ago, and 1.2 percentage points lower than just two months before.

Mozilla's problem remains an inability to attract a mobile audience. Although the company has long offered Firefox on Android and its Firefox OS has begun to appear on a limited number of smartphones, its mobile share was just seven-tenths of one percent, about three times smaller than the second-from-the-bottom mobile browser, Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

Firefox hasn't helped itself of late, either. For the eighth straight month, the desktop version lost user share in June, falling by 1.3 percentage points to end with 15.4%. In the last year, Firefox's desktop user share as measured by Net Applications has dropped 3.6 percentage points, representing a 19% decline.

The timing is terrible, as Mozilla's current contract with Google ends in November. That deal, which assigned Google's search engine as the default for most Firefox customers, has generated the bulk of Mozilla's revenue. In 2012, for example, the last year for which financial data was available, Google paid Mozilla an estimated $272 million, or 88% of all Mozilla income.

Going into this year's contract renewal talks, Mozilla will be bargaining from a much weaker position, down 43% in total user share since June 2011.

Apple remained behind Mozilla in desktop + mobile browser user share, with a cumulative 12.3%, down from 13.1% two months earlier. Nearly two-third of its total was credited to Safari on iOS.

But the browser was hit by a one-two punch in June: Safari on iOS continued to shed share in June -- it's dropped 7.8 percentage points of mobile-only share in just the last 90 days, a 14% decline -- and the desktop version fell by four-tenths of a percentage point. Even so, the gap between Firefox and Safari has narrowed in the last two months, with the latter, even as it lost share, making up ground on the former.

 

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