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An incredibly shrinking Firefox faces endangered species status

Gregg Keizer | March 6, 2015
Mozilla's Firefox is in danger of making the endangered species list for browsers.

Mozilla's Firefox is in danger of making the endangered species list for browsers.

Just two weeks after Mozilla's top Firefox executive said that rumors of its demise were "dead wrong," the iconic browser dropped another three-tenths of a percentage point in analytics firm Net Applications' tracking, ending February with 11.6%.

That was Firefox's lowest share since July 2006, when the browser had been in the market for less than two years.

Firefox 1.0 was released in November 2004, at a time when Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) had a stranglehold on the browser space, having driven Netscape — Firefox's forerunner — out of the market. Mozilla has been credited with restarting browser development, which had been moribund under IE.

But Firefox has fallen on hard times.

In the last 12 months, Firefox's user share — an estimate of the portion of all those who reach the Internet via a desktop browser — has plummeted by 34%. Since Firefox crested at 25.1% in April 2010, Firefox has lost 13.5 percentage points, or 54% of its peak share.

At Firefox's 12-month average rate of decline, Mozilla's desktop browser will slip under the 10% bar in June, joining other third-tier applications like Apple's Safari (with just a 4.8% user share in February) and Opera Software's Opera (1.1%). If the trend continues, Firefox on the desktop could drop below 8% as soon as October.

The numbers for Firefox were even worse when both the desktop and mobile data are combined.

Firefox's total user share — an amalgamation of desktop and mobile — was 9.5% for February, its lowest level since Computerworld began tracking the metric nearly six years ago, and 3.4 percentage points lower than in July 2014, the last timeComputerworld analyzed the data.

Mozilla faces a double whammy: Its flagship desktop browser continues to bleed share, while the company has been unable to attract a significant mobile audience. Although the company has long offered Firefox on Android and its Firefox OS has landed on an increasing number of low-end smartphone makers' devices, its February mobile share was less than seven-tenths of one percent, about four times smaller than the second-from-the-bottom mobile browser, Microsoft's IE.

Apple, which had long trailed Mozilla in desktop + mobile browser user share, has leapfrogged its rival because of Firefox's decline: Safari on desktop and mobile had a cumulative 11.8% user share, down half a point from July 2014. More than two-thirds of Apple's total was credited to Safari on iOS.

Google has been the biggest beneficiary of the losses suffered by Mozilla and to a lesser extent, Apple, adding to its lead over both in February. Last month, it had a combined desktop/mobile user share of 27.6%, 5 percentage points higher than seven months ago.


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