Will Firefox rise like phoenix from the ashes in 2024?
2024 will be an interesting year for web browsers. Google will make changes to its dominating Chrome web browser that may affect part of the browser's userbase negatively.
There is the move to Manifest V3 for extensions, which may impact content blockers, privacy extensions and some other extensions negatively. There is also Privacy Sandbox and the end of third-party cookie tracking, which bakes tracking into the browser directly to give Google even more control over user data while making it more difficult for others to keep up.
A main question that comes up is if other browsers will benefit from this, and if they do, which will benefit more than others. There is a chance that most Chrome users simply don't care about all of this. If the sites they visit continue to work and if Google's "privacy" euphemisms worked as well, then Chrome may not lose much, if anything at all user-wise.
Chrome users have two core options when it comes to switching browsers. They can select another Chromium-based browser, Brave, Vivaldi, Opera or even Microsoft Edge come to mind. It seems a logical choice. They get the same web compatibility as in Chrome, can continue using all their extensions, and import most of their browsing data as well. It is a seamless process.
The problem with it is that these browsers are under constant pressure to evaluate features that Google pushes into Chromium, the open source core. Google controls Chromium, which is why other Chromium-based browser makers can only react to most of the changes indirectly.
Google introduces a change in Chromium, which would land in all Chromium-based browsers, unless it is disabled somehow by an engineer. Brave maintains a list of features and services that it removes from Chromium on a GitHub page. It is a growing list of features that Brave considers problematic for privacy or security reasons.
Firefox as an option
The second option that Chrome users have is to switch to Firefox. Firefox is the only major browser, with the exception of the special case Safari, that is not based on Chromium.
This is both an advantage and a disadvantage. On the plus side, Mozilla has full control over Firefox. If Google introduces a new feature in Chromium and Chrome, Mozilla may still decide to implement it. It can also ignore it, especially if it looks to be negative for users.
The disadvantage is that Mozilla needs to spend resources on development, more than the non-Chrome Chromium-based browsers. It may take more time to implement new standards and features. There is also performance and stability to consider.
Most Chromium-based browsers match the web compatibility and performance of Chrome. Firefox fights a battle with every new release. Some sites may not work in Firefox because they expect a Chromium-based browser.
It does not help that Mozilla does not control any major platform. Microsoft uses Windows to push its Edge browser, and Google uses its web properties to push Chrome.
There is a lot to like about Firefox, but there is also criticism. While some is up for debate, like the constantly rising payments to Mozilla CEO and executives, others appear clearer.
Mozilla still paints Firefox as a privacy-first browser. If you look at the claim, you may quickly realize that this is not entirely true. While Firefox does come with privacy tools, it also collects and sends Telemetry by default. It has not helped Mozilla's case that it ran a few "how could you ever do this" kind of experiments in Firefox, like the Mr. Robots incident. Back in 2017, Mozilla installed an add-on, Looking Glass, automatically in Firefox. It turned out later that this extension was a collaboration with the makers of the TV show Mr. Robot.
This incident and several others still haunt discussions about Firefox and privacy.
You can turn Firefox into a privacy fortress, but you need to do so yourself. Turn off Telemetry, make dozens of other switches and changes. It is still excellent for that, but the default installation is a compromise between privacy, Mozilla's interests, and Telemetry that Firefox collects and Mozilla uses.
Rise from the ashes?
It will be difficult to make a U-turn and get a positive momentum. The unlocking of full add-ons support in Firefox for Android may be the Firestarter that Mozilla needed.
Firefox for Android is a minor browser on the platform. Yes, it has millions of users, it is just a tiny fraction of the entire Android userbase.
Extensions support is one feature that sets Firefox apart from all major Chrome browsers. None support extensions. The main reason for that probably has to do with Google being an advertising company. Why invite users to install content blockers in Chrome when you control the market and would torpedo your bottom line?
Google could not pull the stunt on desktop, as the competition was much fiercer there. Chrome might still be the leading browser on desktop if Google made the decision to ship it without extensions, but it would likely not dominate the market.
One of Mozilla's failures in the past was that it constantly looked as if it was following Google and Chrome in its decision making process. Google implemented something, like Tabs on Top, and Mozilla followed. Features that set Firefox apart, like Ubiquity, Firefox Panorama, or Janus, were all dropped.
Even without these, there is little that sets Firefox apart visually from Chrome.
Mozilla needs to get the first movers on its side again. Some are still there, but many have moved on. To do this, the organization has to make hard decisions. Make Firefox a true privacy-friendly browser out of the box.
It is perfectly fine to display a "please enable Telemetry to help us" page during initial setup, but keep all of this disabled. Don't use third-party analytics or the like either, make Firefox the browser with the least number of outbound connections by default. Check Privacy Tests and implement protections, provided that they make sense to beat any other browser there.
Make Firefox the privacy browser so that it shines when compared to Chrome. This step might convince old users who left and new users alike to give Firefox a chance.
If you are a pessimist, you may see Firefox losing another million or two of its users in 2024. Mozilla CEO and executives getting another raise, and Mozilla continuing to push non-Firefox products and services using Firefox as the driver.
Now You: where do you see Firefox in 2025?Advertisement