Hard times for Mozilla: Fewer and fewer people are using the Firefox browser to surf the World Wide Web. In 2023, an important contract with Google, which gives Mozilla the majority of its income, expires. Is the end of Firefox near? An analysis by Anna Schmid.
It's almost exactly 20 years since Mozilla launched its "Firefox" browser. According to a blog post by data analyst Ken Kovash, in 2008, six years after its launch, around 20 percent of Internet users surfed the World Wide Web with the program.
A lot has changed since then. As data from the Statcounter platform shows, fewer and fewer people have been using Firefox as a browser for years. In February 2022, the proportion of Firefox users was only 4.21 percent – and that was distributed across all end devices.
"The decline cannot be denied," said Selena Deckelmann, senior vice president at Firefox, recently in an interview with the tech portal "Wired". "What we've seen over the past few years is a substantial flattening out." Mozilla, one could say, is in trouble.
In 2023, things could get tough for the Firefox browser
Firefox's market share has steadily shrunk over the years.
It's so big that some former employees no longer believe in the future of the Firefox browser. "Those responsible will have to accept that Firefox will not rise again from the ashes," Wired quoted one of them as saying. Another says: "Chrome won the browser war."
In fact, the number of users of the competing software has skyrocketed over the years. According to Statcounter, Google Chrome's market share in February was 62.78 percent worldwide – figures that Mozilla can only dream of. And it's probably not just the falling user numbers that are giving the company a headache.
An important contract that gives Mozilla up to 90 percent of its sales expires in 2023. As various media reports unanimously, the organization receives between 400 and 450 million US dollars per year for offering Google as the default search engine for Firefox. Mozilla's total revenue for 2020 was approximately $497 million, according to its 2020 annual report.
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Should the deal with the tech giant end, things could get tight for the company. After all, Mozilla's dependence on Google is immense – despite many attempts to free itself from it.
To cite a few examples, in late 2014, Mozilla began showing ads when opening new Firefox tabs. After user protests, the so-called "Tiles" disappeared from the scene for a short time, but were reactivated in 2021. Mozilla also wanted to make itself more independent of Google with premium features in the Firefox browser and a VPN service.
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It's also a shame because the Google deal is a thorn in the side of many users. In their opinion, it contradicts the image of the browser as an alternative for users who value data protection and privacy. As a program that competes with Google and does not cooperate.
This makes Firefox all the more dangerous, as are numerous other browsers that advertise high data protection requirements – just think of "Brave" or "Iridium". Anyone who cares about their privacy when surfing the Internet no longer needs to use Firefox.
It is unclear whether Mozilla's contract with Google will be extended – even Deckelmann did not want to comment on "Wired". But even if the deal goes ahead, it is questionable for how long. Because as Firefox's market share falls, it may eventually become uninteresting for Google to continue working with Mozilla.