Once a web superstar, Firefox is now a browser increasingly neglected by the general public, who prefer Chrome or Safari. Not necessarily encouraging news for the diversity of the web.
Firefox is out of shape. The Mozilla Foundation’s browser struggles to keep users up against Google Chrome and Safari. Since January 2019, the red panda has lost more than 50 million users according to official figures provided by Mozilla.
Chrome and Safari big winner
Just over three years ago, the browser had 253 million monthly users. According to the records of August 2, 2021, the browser now has 196 million. A severe fall that does not seem to have been stopped by the major aesthetic overhaul that Firefox operated last April.
It is obviously Chrome and Safari that benefit from this loss of popularity of Firefox. Google’s browser accounts for 68.5% of all surfing sessions worldwide, while Apple’s takes 9.4% of the global market. Next is Microsoft Edge at 8.2% and Firefox at 7.6%. These figures correspond to computer use, but the trend is the same on mobile, with Safari still taking a quarter of the market share in the world. Firefox, which has never exploded on our smartphones, collects the crumbs at 0.51%.
This is a snub for the Mozilla Foundation which, in the early 2000s, had made a name for itself by shaking up the unparalleled domination of Internet Explorer. But beyond the numbers and the browser wars, Firefox’s loss of speed isn’t necessarily good news for the web as a whole.
What is a rendering engine?
The three major browsers (Chrome, Safari and Microsoft Edge), which account for 86% of surfing sessions alone, all use the same HTML rendering engine. The engine of a web browser is the software component that will transform the HTML code into a visual interface understandable by the user.
There are 7 or 8 on the market, but in recent years most mainstream browsers have adopted Webkit and its derivative Blink. This means that almost 90% of Internet users use the same tool to decipher web pages. If this is not noticed most of the time, because the interpretation of HTML is more or less standardized, it can pose security and compatibility problems.
Security and compatibility issues
If a security breach is detected in the rendering engine, 90% of global Internet users are potentially exposed. Such a situation has already arisen not so long ago since in May 2021 a flaw in WebKit was talked about.
Putting all your eggs in one basket can also pose long-term compatibility issues. The dominance of Webkit could push webmasters not to optimize their sites for other engines and only make them fully functional on Chrome, Safari or Edge. The older ones will no doubt remember the sites “optimized for Internet Explorer Which used code that was not always very clean and excluded Internet users who were not using Microsoft’s tool.
To put it simply, the dominance of an actor or a tool does not encourage evolution or innovation. Seeing Firefox tumble is not good news, as it risks creating a two-speed web where Google, Apple and Microsoft will be privileged.