There are multiple debates as to why Mozilla’s Firefox browser has seen its user base decline in recent memory. Those against the browser cite everything from memory leaks to frequent Flash player crashes but one developer that worked on the browser thinks he has the answer.
Jono DiCarlo says that the organization’s poor implementation of their rapid release schedule has ultimate led many users switch to Google Chrome as an alternative to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.
The developer noted in a recent blog post that Firefox now looks like an inferior version of Google Chrome, partly because they pushed a never-ending stream of updates to users who didn’t want them.
He says that after years of trying to improve software usability, he’s come to the realization that the single best thing to do is to leave the UI unchanged long enough for users to become familiar with it and get good at using it. “There's no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn,” DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo says that when someone learns that he works for Mozilla, he typically gets an earful with regards to the browser’s constant updates with intrusive dialogue boxes and broken add-ons.
But for what it’s worth, he says that Mozilla has improved the update process but worries that it might be a case of too little, too late. After all, it could be extremely hard to regain users that have already switched to a different browser.
After this story went live, Mozilla sent us the following statement regarding DiCarlo's take on Firefox:
"Jono's analysis is interesting, but outdated. Regular Firefox updates are good news for users and for the Web but only when they don't interrupt what you're doing. Today's Firefox updates are applied in the background with no interruptions; they even keep your Firefox Add-ons compatible between releases. The result is that our users always have a fast, beautiful and secure browsing experience. Regular releases also let us get new features to our users faster than ever before, and we can listen to their feedback to improve things, just as we did with updates in 2011."
Editor's note (Julio): And I tend to agree. Firefox's update mechanism and schedule have been considerably improved. However it also remains true Firefox nearly pulled off "an Internet Explorer" around the time Chrome entered the browser market blazing. Google caught Mozilla offguard touting huge performance improvements while they kept delaying Firefox 4.0 over and over. The somewhat unorganized rapid release schedule came shortly after that, in response to Chrome's growing popularity.