What will 2017 bring for web browsers?

Martin Brinkmann
Dec 23, 2016
Updated • Dec 23, 2016

2017 is just a couple of days away, and it will be an interesting year if you are interested in technology.

What will 2017 bring for web browsers like Firefox, Chrome, Edge or Vivaldi? This is what I try to predict in this article.

To do that, I have to look at the current situation first briefly. In the Windows world, there are three major browser makers left. They are Mozilla, Microsoft, and Google.

These three organizations dominate the market, and many other browsers, Opera, Pale Moon or Vivaldi, use code from the major three.

While there are some projects ongoing that are independent, Otter Browser for instance, they are niche products and it seems unlikely that they will make a big splash in 2017.

2016 was the year that Chrome overtook Microsoft's Internet Explorer usage share-wise, that Edge did not move one way or the other, and that Firefox rebounded from new lows.

2017: web browser predictions

Lets take a look at browsers individually.

Microsoft Edge

netflix edge

Microsoft Edge was introduced as the main web browser in Windows 10. It is the default browser on the system which gives it an -- wait for it -- edge over other browsers.

Microsoft's work on Edge continues, but it seems unlikely that whatever the company will bring to Edge in 2017 will change the popularity of the browser in one way or the other.

I expect Microsoft to loosen up the extension restrictions that are currently in place. Extensions support was an important step for Edge in 2016, but what is currently available pales in comparison to Firefox and Chrome.

Part of it comes down to Microsoft having a tight grip on extension development currently. While you can release extensions for Edge, you cannot upload them to Microsoft Store right now it seems without Microsoft's approval.

Edge does a couple of things really well or even exclusively, Netflix in 4K or even 1080p for instance, but the browser trails behind in other areas as well.

The browser suffers from missing mobile versions of the browser, as there is no option right now to sync bookmarks, browsing history or tabs between Edge on the desktop and mobiles.

Outlook: will get missing or lacking features in 2017, but that won't do anything for the browser's usage share.

Google Chrome

chrome blank tabs

Google Chrome looks like the clear winner when it comes to browsers in 2016. It jumped in usage share, and is now the world's most used desktop browser.

The browser has a lot going for it. It is still reasonably fast -- Google seems to ignore benchmarks and speed for the most part now though -- still highly optimized in regards to its interface, and backed by cutting edge tech. Google Chrome works well out of the box, and it is easy to use.

The downside is that Google plays it safe in all other regards. Sure, Material Design added new accents to the interface, but apart from that, there is little change elsewhere.

Chrome does not offer many -- or any in some areas -- customization options, and if you worried about privacy, you better not use Chrome on your devices.

Chrome seems to stand still for the most part. This is only true for the browser's front end and not the technology that powers it. If you read Google's announcements when a new Chrome stable version gets released for instance, you will only get information on how many security issues were fixed in that release.

There is barely any information on new features or improvements, and support for the browser is non-existent as well.

Outlook: Chrome may plateau in 2017, and may even dip a little bit.


firefox tab titles with dots

It looked as if Firefox was done in the first half of 2016. Things were not looking bright, with Mozilla making a series of announcements that affected Firefox core features.

The company introduced add-on signing in 2016, decided to focus on WebExtensions and move away from the traditional add-on system by deprecating certain features that made Firefox great.

The organization dropped Firefox OS development, and the new multi-process architecture of Firefox was delayed month after month.

Firefox did rebound in the second half of 2016. Mozilla will push multi-process to all Firefox stable users in early 2017. This marks an important step for the browser as it improves stability of it significantly. Then a bit later, security sandboxing will be added to this to improve the browser in this regard as well.

There is also the Quantum project which will improve Firefox performance significantly in 2017.

Outlook: The future looks brighter for Firefox in 2017, but the deprecation of the old add-on system still looms above its head.

Other browsers

  • Opera is a wild card. The browser was sold to a Chinese consortium in 2016, and it is unclear how that will affect the browser. It can go either way: Opera's popularity may rise in China and Asia because of the move, and the company's that are now in charge pushing it, or it could drop if the companies make the wrong decisions.
  • Pale Moon may become the browser that disillusioned Firefox users will pick  when Mozilla deprecates functionality such as NPAPI plugin support or XUL/XPCOM as the browser will continue to support those. It may see a nice boost in users because of this.
  • Vivaldi will continue to get feature updates in regular intervals. 2017 will be a major year for the fledgling browser as the company behind the browser plans to launch a mobile version of it in that year, and the long awaited mail client as well.

Now You: What are your browser predictions for 2017?

What will 2017 bring for web browsers?
Article Name
What will 2017 bring for web browsers?
The article gives predictions for how the browser landscape will change in the year 2017 by predicting what is in store for Chrome, Edge and Firefox.
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  1. Joel Queiroz said on May 10, 2017 at 2:23 am

    Since 2016 I’m using Yandex Browser, and I’m happy with it: https://browser.yandex.com/desktop/main/

  2. Kubrick said on December 25, 2016 at 12:05 am

    I think people have forgotten what a web browser is actually for.
    Its not a multi media social chatting app but its main purpose is too view web pages pure and simple.

  3. JasonR said on December 23, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Microsoft royally messed up Edge. Here was their chance to make a clean start, and the first signs of trouble was when they couldn’t tear themselves away from the Internet Explorer type logo, even down to insisting the new name start with ‘E’ as a result.

    Then they released what amounted to an alpha Browser, the first impression wasn’t good, and their chance to hook people was lost. Now they’re fluffing about with the Extensions approval.

    It may be improving, but up until now, it’s been a rash of silly decisions on something that had the chance to be good. Those people it lost with that initial first impression..gone for good.

  4. Anonymous said on December 23, 2016 at 10:47 pm

    Using Pale Moon and Firefox 2016 was terrible, I do not think 2017 could be worse.

  5. Andrew said on December 23, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    Eh… browsers haven’t really done anything new and amazing in a while in my opinion, I care more about the web, like seeing html5 become more standard and finally having flash and silverlight becoming obsolete.

    Maybe we can see a change, or a move away from this “minimal interface” obsession. I do like minimal interfaces, but not at the cost of functionality.

    1. Sinon said on December 23, 2016 at 11:25 pm

      That might be your (and my option) but as market share shows the average user could care less what the UI looks like as long as it “works”.

  6. Max said on December 23, 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Your predictions sound likely – I’ve already ditched Firefox for Pale Moon as my main browser, and Opera for Vivaldi for my second.

    1. Trends said on December 23, 2016 at 5:40 pm

      Max –
      I’m sticking to Pale Moon version 26.5 (linux 32-bits).

      The new PM version 27 is now very different
      and breaks many of my useful PM/Firefox addons.

      All my addons still work fine in PM 26.5…
      why switch?

      1. Sinon said on December 23, 2016 at 11:22 pm

        The only way the “I don’t want to switch” thing works is if that version of said browser is still supported, and Pale Moon 26.x is now end of life. I am still on Firefox 45 and will be there until a) Pale Moon 27.x gets a little more stable on my system or b) Firefox 45.x reaches end-of-life and I’m forced to upgrade to Firefox 52.x

  7. Yuliya said on December 23, 2016 at 3:33 pm

    I don’t think Edge will ever gain any market share, Chrome will be dominant for a long time, people are fed up with Microsoft’s browsers. Look at IE11 – at its release time it was quite good actually, but nobody used it. Microsoft also didn’t care enough to the point where it fell behind both in terms of perfomance and supported technologies. They’re more aggressive with Edge, borderline adware, which I doubt it’s a good thing. IE logo resemblance is not helping too much either, I guess the E logo was a deliberate choice.

    FireFox will most likely gain users, probably at the expense of some of their current core user base once they drop the support for their extension system and plugins. Personally I won’t be affected too much by either of those, I want a browser that doesn’t have the “auto” nonsene in it: pre/loading, search suggestions, sync, rtc, and all that cr.p that most browsers have, that nobody really uses besides ad companies to track you. At least I can disable most of them. Still, their privacy focus is nice.

    As for Opera, I still believe their biggest mistake for the past decade or so was the Chromium engine. Even bigger than selling to the chinese. They are gaining, slowly, market share and they will surely continue to do so for the foreseable future. I personally have no use for their Turbo technology, but I can see it being useful in many areas of the globe.

    And Chrome is here to stay. As bad as I think it is in many ways, especialy performance, weirdly enough most people like it. Chromium is a thing but good luck figuring out how to download it let alone update for the average Windows user. Still, for the other browsers to gain market share there’s got to be one to loose some, and Chrome is the first candidate to have enough to spare.

  8. Paranam Kid said on December 23, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Opera is coming out with new features regularly that seem to be aligned with users’ wishes & expectations.
    The only reason that may hold back deployment somewhat is users’ potential worry that it will now be controlled by a Chinese company, as if that is more nefarious than the likes of Google, Microsoft, Apple

    1. Mike said on December 27, 2016 at 8:51 pm

      I have been somewhat underwhelmed by some of the Opera moves personally. The built-in adblocker on their mobile version requires that you enable data savings in order to use it, so even when I am on Wi-Fi and could care less about saving data I have to use it. They have way too many mobile versions of their browser available and as a result while Opera mini has gotten updates very quickly, the primary Android Opera version has seemingly been forgotten. The ad-blocker on their desktop version is crap compared to uBlock Origin in terms of what it blocks and performance, the VPN is okay, but definitely a feature for a niche audience. Opera also got hacked and exposed some user data/passwords. I think Opera made some solid attempts to add features, but the execution of those features left a lot to be desired.

      As for Opera being bought by a Chinese company, I don’t have a major issue with that, though QiHoo 360 being involved is concerning. Regardless of a Chinese, European, or American company, whenever a company with some of the accusations lobbed against QiHoo 360 takes over it is a legitimate concern.

  9. archie said on December 23, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    I believe helping Mozilla is one significant thing to do to help and make the world better, or, rather, do your tiny bit to resist the horrific decline in basic freedom and rights we are still granted.

    I send a couple of banknotes a year and run Nightly as often as I can, which in 2016 was pretty much all the time, showing good stability with quite some fancy extensions and loads of tabs.

    I can’t believe there are people, here and elsewhere, actually rooting for Firefox demise. Are you people insane or just plain clueless? Yet, they made Chrome their main browser and seem to be proud of it. Why not try a non Google chromium browser ?

    I agree that things are looking brighter for Firefox in 2017, even more so 2018 but you can’t overestimate the lack of vision in the populace: FF might still fail for lack of support, which would be a catastrophe for democracy.

    1. Rick A. said on December 27, 2016 at 11:41 am

      Firefox is my main browser. i set my family up with Firefox as well. i talk bad about Chrome when i ever get the chance. Mozzila all the way. i made a comment on this article – https://www.ghacks.net/2016/11/19/key-opera-software-employees-quit/ – i’m gonna copy and paste my comment here:

      “They left because of the privacy issues especially since this Chinese company acquired it. Google was already in Opera’s pockets. Opera Presto 12.16 was updated to always default to Google for search. isn’t it obvious…..? i will install other browsers on my Windows XP, but only Firefox on anything else. When i launch Google Chrome there i always see the cookies, “google-analytics.com” , “doubleclick.net” , “googleadservices” & “googletagsevices” and even after i blocked those 4 cookies and delete them they always come back when i re-launch Google Chrome, who would’ve thought? And when i launch Opera Chrome i also get the cookies “google-analytics.com” , “doubleclick.net” (i can’t remember if the cookies “googleadservices” and “googletagsevices” are their as well), and even when i block those cookies and delete them and i re-launch Opera Chrome they’re back, so even Opera Chrome doesn’t honor my blocked cookies, who would’ve thought? But you know what? When i launch Firefox i never see those cookies even when not blocked, but i shouldn’t see those cookies because they’re blocked, because Mozilla honors what cookies i block. Who would’ve thought…..? Actually, even Vivaldi doesn’t force those cookies when i launch it. at least on Windows XP.

      People better realize that they better support Firefox, because if Google was to dominate every browser and wipe them out, you think Microsoft is bad, wait till you see what Google does with their terms of service for Google Chrome, they might even require you to have a Google Plus account to use it……….”

    2. Tony said on December 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm

      +1 Very true. Well said.

  10. LD said on December 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    If you only use one browser to do everything, your choice for that will come down to the category of user you fall into. Many novice users, businesses and enterprises stay with the default browser that comes with the OS. This has always given IE its high usage numbers. Windows 10 has not hit the large enterprises yet, but when it does, Edge will bump IE down to almost undetectable. I see Edge not gaining much in 2017.

    If you are a knowledgeable user, you probably use several browsers. Some users set up a browser just for one task, e.g. Banking or online shopping. They would more likely choose Chrome and Firefox (or a fork of either/both) than IE or Edge. I can not see these users changing that strategy in 2017.

    How does ChromeOS work into all of this – is it counted as a browser or an OS when the stats are calculated? With the rise of ChromeOS in Education and with those who are disenchanted with W10, it will keep these users as Chrome users for at least 5 years. Android support on ChromeOS may attract quite a few more users in 2017. If it is counted as a browser, I think Chrome will see a sizable bump in 2017.

    As a Linux user, I use Chrome. I am not sure what other users prefer.

  11. hghg said on December 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm

    I’m using Cent Browser, amazing browser!

  12. Womble said on December 23, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Isn’t it odd that Microsoft invested so much time and effort into convergence and yet they still don’t have a mobile version of edge.

  13. Karthikeyan said on December 23, 2016 at 11:01 am

    I’m using brave browser on desktop and mobile! Brave browser really good choice for users,publishers and advertisers.

    1. Mike said on December 23, 2016 at 4:12 pm

      Brave has become my default browser on Android. I didn’t care for the Link Bubble variation they had, but now that they have basically turned it into Chrome with HTTPS Everywhere and a built in Ad Blocker/Privacy options it is probably the best Android browser on the market. It could still use a little performance refinement, but I noticed a boost in performance when they moved it to Chrome 55. The Brave desktop version still leaves a lot to be desired for me regarding performance and options, but they are definitely a browser to watch on the mobile side. I don’t know how the publisher/advertiser stuff is going to shake out for them, but considering how crappy a lot of the Android browsers are they are leaps and bounds ahead of Chome, Opera and even Firefox (which I know offers add-ons, but suffers from mediocre performance on Android).

      1. oplik said on December 24, 2016 at 7:15 am

        “it is probably the best Android browser on the market” – try Mercury Browser.

  14. Jeff said on December 23, 2016 at 10:26 am

    Edge is crap. I use Chrome and Opera. I predict that Chrome and Opera will rise. Firefox and Edge will die.

    1. seeprime said on December 23, 2016 at 3:50 pm

      I hated Edge since it was Project Spartan. Recently, it has become marginally useful, like for streaming where it excels. Chrome is the primary browser for all family members. I use Opera often also, as it seems faster than Chrome. Both work great with Sandboxie. Edge does not, which is one reason I will not use it for conventional browsing. IE is a slow piece of junk.

  15. Deka said on December 23, 2016 at 9:50 am

    Chrome is likely to continue its rise IMHO, because it has little to do with product quality but brand and Google pushing it.

    Edge may or may not rise, it depends on Microsoft which has a lot of leverage, but also on brand. The 4K thing is in its infancy though, and even on Edge it only works with a type of processor released in August 2016, so only very recent computers can get 4K on Edge. Meanwhile a lot of work remains to be done on the browser and I guess the size of the team working on Edge in 2017 can have an impact on adoption growth by the end of the year. (Because it will improve brand name if they can show development is steady.)

    Firefox’s future is bright IMO. But 2018 will be the year, as 2017 will have people too worried about add-on changes to rejoice about what this is enabling. How good Mozilla is at implementing the proper WebExtensions API by the end of 2017 is a factor that may impact evolutions of market share in 2018, which would otherwise probably be an increase. (On the other hand without the add-on changes, Quantum and Servo stuff could not happen, even e10s could barely happen; so there would not be any increase either.)

    All in all, since there are only a hundred percent in “shares”, when one browser increases, another has to decrease. Chrome’s growth is unfortunately the most certain IMO (unfortunately because it is already way high which is always a bad situation for a market). IE has not finished to decline, so the % will be taken from it and we may see relative stagnation from Edge and Firefox until IE becomes irrelevant or stops crashing.

    That’s why shares is not that telling, especially not worldwide shares, so I’d rather have a look at row numbers per country since the total itself is probably growing fast in certain areas and stagnating in others. But row numbers are not accessible as far as I know.

    On the other hand, shares will show pretty clearly that with IE out of the picture Chrome on desktop at 60% will have a practical monopoly since 2nd place Firefox is only at 15%. (On the third hand, in Germany for instance Firefox’s market share is the same as Chrome, but Chrome is rising)

  16. Mountainking said on December 23, 2016 at 8:47 am

    Chrome will continue to use blink and remove codes that are not used….

  17. seeprime said on December 23, 2016 at 8:15 am

    Edge actually has improved quite a bit. We now use it for all Amazon streaming. The picture is smoother than on Chrome or Opera. I look forward to continued improvement by Microsoft.

    1. Charlie said on December 24, 2016 at 8:08 pm

      I also have mostly quit using Edge and IE11 on my W10 desktop and laptop. They were always crashing – and neither Firefox nor Chrome crashes like the MS products. I run only the LastPass extension in Edge and only LP and a couple of others in IE. I do not know why the MS browsers constantly fail. IE11 also failed very often in my W8.1 Windows (before I upgraded to W10) as well. I’ve spent too much of my life trying to debug the MS browsers. No more.

    2. number7 said on December 23, 2016 at 7:00 pm

      It doesn’t matter. Its reputation is already ruined again and again. My teacher asked us not to use IE or Edge in an exam because of its crashes. The lucky thing is they associated pdf reader with edge, so some might still give a second, no may be fifth or sixth chance.

      1. Jed said on December 27, 2016 at 5:25 pm

        Mike J, a lot of exams are online these days. My BTEC IT exam was on a computer. All my other GCSE subjects were thankfully on paper. I’m not a fan of online exams at all! On my second year of college currently and I think I get lucky exam-wise; I don’t think I need to do any. Driving Test Theory exams are also online, my friends have been doing their driving tests recently. Sadly everything is going online.

      2. Mike J. said on December 26, 2016 at 3:11 pm

        Er, pardon an irrelevant query from an old-school type person (who actually parsed and diagrammed sentences, in ink–never ballpoint– and on manuscript form), but why do you need to be online during an exam??

    3. Dan82 said on December 23, 2016 at 11:36 am

      I’m not streaming in the browser myself, but I have heard from several others that Edge is their product of choice for this task. To be honest this is a bit baffling to me, because the multi-process structure of Chrome should actually be quite competitive there at least compared to a Firefox that’s not running on e10s yet, but it just goes to show that the once impressive browser engine isn’t quite so superior nowadays.

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