As Firefox's user numbers decline, Mozilla seeks out new revenue streams

Polycount

Posts: 3,011   +589
Staff member
The big picture: Firefox is a fantastic web browser. It's fast, efficient, and privacy-focused with support for a wide range of third and first-party plugins that enhance various features or add new ones altogether. However, as Google's Chrome browser continues to dominate the browser world, and chip away at Firefox's already-limited market share, the Mozilla Foundation has found itself at a crossroads.

According to a new report from Wired, Firefox only services a mere four percent of the Internet's browser users, a far cry from the twenty percent it boasted over a decade ago. Though Firefox is still speedy and an excellent option for anyone who cares about minimizing their digital footprint, it's evident that it simply cannot outperform Chrome (and Chromium-based browsers) in terms of user numbers.

As Firefox's market share declines, so too does its revenue and staff numbers. And the possibility of recovery is looking less and less likely: former Mozilla employees that spoke to Wired feel the organization has already lost the browser war and stands little to no chance of regaining its former market share.

Whether that's truly the case or not is difficult to say. I enjoy using Firefox and find it superior to Edge, Chrome, and Opera for my purposes. But clearly, most internet users feel differently, or perhaps just haven't considered a switch lately. Either way, it's tough to blame them.

Chrome is (generally) stable and receives frequent feature updates that improve (or try to improve) the end-user experience. Imagine you're a casual Internet user: all you need is a user-friendly browser that can access your favorite websites without grinding your PC to a halt, Chrome is a valid option. Most of your friends are using it, too, and can help with troubleshooting or locating specific features.

How can Firefox overcome that sort of dominance and word-of-mouth? It's not impossible, but it's clear that Mozilla is putting less emphasis on trying to topple the Chrome empire lately. Indeed, the harsh realities of its situation have forced Mozilla to consider new revenue streams to stay afloat and continue pursuing its mission.

One of its key revenue streams at the moment is the ongoing marketing deal Mozilla honors with Google. Though the companies are opposites in many ways, they reached a compromise of sorts that nets the former hefty royalties for making Google the default search engine in Firefox. According to Wired, that deal is worth around $400 million annually and makes up the vast majority of Mozilla's total revenue.

Obviously, that's a precarious position for the Foundation to be in. Relying on the grace of your competitor to survive is not a sustainable business model, especially as your own user numbers continue to tumble (thus making your product less deal-worthy to begin with). As such, Mozilla has tried to create new paid products and services to reduce its reliance on Google.

The Mozilla VPN is the Foundation's first real crack at a revenue-generating service, coming in at $10 per month. The VPN offers device-level data encryption, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a strict "no logs" policy, all of which line up well with Mozilla's mission. But will it be enough to allow the Foundation to sever ties with Google? Probably not yet or anytime soon, but it's certainly helping: Wired says new products could make up 14 percent of Mozilla's 2021 revenue.

I haven't used the VPN and don't intend to anytime soon, but for the sake of all Internet users, we hope Mozilla manages to stabilize and thrive; whether it's through services like its VPN or even a miraculous market share surge. Competition is critical to a healthy marketplace, and nobody benefits -- least of all consumers -- if one of the biggest digital privacy advocates out there crumbles to dust.

Masthead credit: Michael Vi

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psycros

Posts: 4,155   +5,798
Firefox first became popular by getting packaged with a lot of other software. It still couldn't beat IE's numbers because IE was included with Windows and fought tooth and nail to be your default browser. Chrome came along and proceeded to do what Firefox had done but with the amps cranked to 11. Since about 2008 its been hard to find a single program or website that doesn't try to install Chrome. The hard-core contingent of power users that once kept Firefox's small market share alive were sickened when Mozilla went woke and most turned to forks of either Firefox or Chromium. Everyone else just did whatever the dialog on their screens insisted they do, which was install Chrome. Most people aren't geeks and know virtually nothing about the actual workings of their computers and software. For them a browser is just that thing that lets them get to Youtube on their PCs. Intense marketing will always win, so its no surprise that the browser that spies on you the most to make money from marketers is #1. Microsoft has tried to fight back by forcing Edge on users but Google is so big they are the only company whose browser actively blocks Windows from switching you to Edge. And there's not a thing Microsoft can do about it.
 

s3thra

Posts: 38   +50
TechSpot Elite
I've been with Firefox ever since about 2004 when Mozilla shifted its efforts from the Mozilla Application Suite. Firefox made IE6 look decidedly archaic at the time (IE6 didn't even have tabs!) when Microsoft had the majority of the market share. Firefox has always served me well on either Windows or Ubuntu ever since. I'm sure FF will always continue in some form, and unless things totally go to hell in the future I'll continue to use it.
 

Tuxie

Posts: 41   +31
I still use and love Firefox. I will stay with them as long as they don't completely remove compact density (which for some reason is "deprecated" and must be enabled in about:config). I also don't get why they don't implement most of Waterfox's performance optimizations upstream. There must be some low hanging fruit there.
 

umbala

Posts: 605   +1,011
Still better than Chrome which IMO is a rubbish browser. What's Vivaldi's share currently? I will switch to Brave if I have to use a Chromium based browser.
You know Firefox is now based on Chrome, right? The same as Microsoft Edge.
 

dragosmp

Posts: 68   +74
Could be in a small minority on this forum, but I work overseas and I don't speak the local language. Of course everyone speaks English, but government tax websites, medical stuff, are in the local language. Chrome is the only browser that somewhat reliably translates the pages into English.

I'm still using FF for 90% of my browsing due to inertia, but Brave looks better and better (screen-off youtube FTW on the phone), and duckduckgo has that nice app addblocker on Android. I think 10$ is too much for the FF VPN, needs to be 1$, and needs feature parity with duckduckgo on android.

Getting the feeling FF leaders are more interested of lining their own pockets than any kind of innovation
 

maladaptiv

Posts: 9   +16
You know Firefox is now based on Chrome, right? The same as Microsoft Edge.
Firefox doesnt use Blink engine (Chrome - Chromium). So no. Firefox is not based on Chrome. Based on Chrome (use of Blink engine) are for example Brave, Opera, Vivaldi,...
 

messy

Posts: 30   +52
TechSpot Elite
I'd donate more often to the mozilla foundation if they didn't require recaptcha type crap to do so. I'm just not going to allow those domains to run.
 

Revolution 11

Posts: 135   +173
Still better than Chrome which IMO is a rubbish browser. What's Vivaldi's share currently? I will switch to Brave if I have to use a Chromium based browser.
I would avoid Brave if I were you. I was attracted to Brave a few months back because of its built in ad blocker and privacy measures and all the extra features it offered over Chrome. But try opening more than 20 tabs and keeping those open over time and Brave slows to a crawl. Even slower than Chrome was.

If you must use Chromium browsers, Edge is the fastest and most stable under heavy tab usage. Firefox is also great with lots of tabs.
 

PEnnn

Posts: 772   +878
"it's evident that it simply cannot outperform Chrome (and Chromium-based browsers) in terms of user numbers." And that's the only instance where Chrome outperforms FireFox!!

Current FireFox runs circles around Chrome when it comes to security, speed and user interface.

But most lemming users have no clue and go with Chrome because some website or some dolt told them to.
 

Underdog

Posts: 262   +157
I still use Firefox and will continue with it until it does something I don't like. I also have Chrome, Brave, and Vivaldi installed and use them all as suits my mood at the time. My favourite used to be Opera but it has started acting up so I dumped it.
Never good to put all your eggs in one basket. One day your best browser friend will shove some "new improved user experience" down your throat and it will be time to see what else is out there that might do the job. I'm a dinosaur and hate change just for the sake of change. Still a happy Windows 7 user. Thinking of getting a tattoo.
 

captaincranky

Posts: 18,744   +7,680
Firefox is (AFAIK) the only browser that lets me pin all my bookmarks to the side of my screen...just having them all listed is so much easier than any of the other browsers handling of bookmarks.
Not true.. Opera has the ability to, "extend", the bookmarks toolbar. However, it does force an extra step on you by asking you to confirm your wish to add via a check box..

Qualifier/disclaimer: Since I use a vertical monitor on my prime web machine, having the, or a, bookmark sidebar panel open would eat up too much screen
 

BigRedPDX

Posts: 271   +191
Mozilla works fine. Not my go to browser but if it's a choice between that, IE, and Edge... I choose Firefox. Everything is turning into Chromium browsers at this point.