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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.

Together, the aged stock Android browser and its replacement, Chrome, accounted for 41.5% of all mobile browsers by Net Applications' count. Google's pair remained behind Apple's Safari on mobile, but has narrowed the gap.

Two weeks ago, Johnathan Nightingale, vice president of Firefox, argued that the browser had a "fierce momentum," citing Mozilla's internal data. Nightingale said that January's desktop download numbers had been "the best they've been in years" and claimed that Mozilla's own numbers showed a tick upward that had not yet been confirmed by third-party measurements.

Neither Net Applications' data or that from StatCounter, an Irish analytics vendor, supported Nightingale's contention. According to StatCounter, which measures usage share — how active each browser's users are on the Web — Firefox on the desktop stood at 18.2% in February, down half a percentage point from the month prior.

Mozilla, of course, remains committed to Firefox. Last month, Mozilla's CEO Chris Beard announced that the company had combined its cloud services group with the one responsible for Firefox. "We have been exploring how we can integrate client software on desktops and mobile with cloud service approaches to evolve what Firefox can do for people," Beard said.

Like Nightingale, Beard asserted that Firefox was in good shape. "In the last year, Firefox turned a corner. We achieved positive growth again and dramatically reset our global search strategy," he said, referring to the move late in 2014 when Mozilla dropped Google as its global search partner and signed a five-year deal with Yahoo to make its search engine the default for Firefox in the U.S.

But third-party measurements, the only available because browser makers don't disclose the number of active users on a regular basis, do not back up Beard's claim that Firefox experienced "positive growth" in 2014.

Mozilla has also said it will develop an iOS version of Firefox that will run on Apple's iPhone and iPad, but the project has not yet produced a browser suitable for public testing.

 

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