Why 2011 Was Mozilla’s Year After All [Opinion]

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firefox 300   Why 2011 Was Mozillas Year After All [Opinion]Up until a few weeks ago, I had no doubt in my mind that 2011 was Google’s year. Even if we put everything else aside, 2011 was the year Chrome has finally surpassed Firefox on the race to take the scene over from Internet Explorer. 2011 was also the year I switched from Firefox to Chrome, after years of using Firefox, and the last thing I remembered was Firefox 4 beta constantly hanging and crashing on my machine.

Then came MakeUseOf’s end-of-year reader poll, and I was very surprised to see that the majority of our readers thought Mozilla was the best company of 2011. Inspired by this, I started thinking. What I realized was that no matter the size of the tide Google is riding, 2011 was in fact Mozilla’s year after all. Here is why.

Came Out Of The Apathy

firefox apathy   Why 2011 Was Mozillas Year After All [Opinion]

As mentioned earlier, I stopped using Firefox after the whole Firefox 4 fiasco. I did try Firefox 4 after it was officially out, but I had serious problems with it. I generally felt that the folks at Mozilla were so busy trying to give us something completely different, that they forgot to give us something that actually works. Firefox was enjoying a huge success, and while Mozilla were still trying to innovate, it felt like they sunk into a sort of apathy regarding their users.

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In 2011, that attitude started to change. Whether it was Chrome breathing down their necks, or something else, Mozilla finally came out of the Firefox apathy and started caring. For me, this was the point in which things started to improve, and as long as the users continue to feel important, Firefox will do better and better.

Shorter Release Cycles

One of the most obvious changes Mozilla has made to Firefox this year, are the shorter release cycles. After being stuck in version 3 for almost 3 years, 2011 saw a jump from version 3.6 to version 10, and Firefox 11 is already  is beta.

You could say these are just numbers, but it’s more than that. First of all, it connects to my first point, and shows that the folks at Mozilla finally changed gears, and second, almost each and every update included something significant. There weren’t major changes to the UI, but the changes were definitely not only numbers. And this is what my next point is all about.

Significant Improvements

What is the most annoying thing you can think of about Firefox? For me, it’s the excruciatingly slow launch times and insane memory leaks. Well, if you haven’t tried the newer versions of Firefox, you’ll be surprised to find out that ever since version 7 or 8, Firefox is no longer so slow to launch, and in fact, it consumes less RAM on my system than the latest version of Chrome (same tabs open, similar add-ons).

firefox RAM   Why 2011 Was Mozillas Year After All [Opinion]

Remember how Firefox 4 used to crash? Well, not anymore. The latest versions of Firefox are getting increasingly stable, and deal with Flash elements much better than Chrome.

There were other new features that launched this year, such as Firefox Sync and Do Not Track, but many of the other improvements were not visible for the average user (which I think is a good thing, who needs a major UI change every 5 minutes?). The overall experience,  however, is surprising. I must admit, Chrome is still my default  browser, but sometimes I’m not sure if this is not purely out of laziness.

Renewed Deal With Google

You’ve probably heard many people saying that 2011 will be the end for Mozilla. This year marked the end of the Google-Mozilla deal which originated long before Google entered the browser scene, and had it not been renewed, would probably have had dire consequences on Mozilla. This deal with Google is a great source of funds for Mozilla, and in exchange, Google is the default search engine for millions of Firefox users.

Months before the deal was over, many were already saying their eulogy for Firefox, thinking that there’s no way Google will continue its support now that they have Chrome. But both parties were underestimated. The deal was struck again for at least three more years, and just for that, 2011 became one of Mozilla’s best and luckiest years.

Firefox For Android

image1   Why 2011 Was Mozillas Year After All [Opinion]

Firefox for Android was launched at the beginning for 2011, and although it had a rough start, it’s been getting better and better, and has lately been optimized for tablets. Compared to Chrome for Android, which launched only recently, Firefox for Android has been around for literally ages.

Firefox is surely not the most popular browser for Android, but with 5-10 million downloads, it not doing so badly. And at least it’s compatible with Android 2.0 and up, which makes it possible for most people to install it if they so wish.

Bottom Line

In some aspects, Firefox is still lagging behind (must we restart the thing every time we change an add-on?), but on others, it has made huge progress, and the things I mentioned are only the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t hurt that Google seems to be in a kind of apathy of its own about Chrome, which is slowly but surely turning into the new Firefox 4.

Many loyal Firefox users have switched to Chrome earlier this year, me included. I now find that it might be time to re-visit old friends, and see what Mozilla has been up to. I definitely plan to keep my eyes peeled, and who knows, the next time Chrome hangs or crashes, I may run into the open arms of my old friend, Firefox.

So what do you think? Is Firefox full of hot air, or are there real improvements? What will make you switch to Firefox? What has made you stick with it this long? Tell us everything in the comments.

Image Credit : Man at Desk via Shutterstock

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29 Comments - Write a Comment

Reply

Achmed Hernawan

what about Internet Explorer?

I beg you, you will say, Internet Explorer is trash, hahahaI don’t like IE after all, Chrome and Firefox is my browser

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Imota Dinaroid

I’ve been using Firefox for years. Yes, there were some problems with its performance in the past. However,  I never felt a desire to abandon it. Currently, Firefox is exceptionally  good, better than anything else. I am using the most advanced one (Aurora ), which is still in experimental phase and therefore expected to be unstable.  Yet, it is faster than the previous versions and quite reliable.

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Jack Cola

Well like you, since FF4, I switched to Chrome because of the hangs – but if it no longer is present, I might consider the switch back to FF. But Chrome certainly has done wonders.

Tina

Google has indeed done wonders with Chrome. I love the innovations they came up with and I love that they revived competition among browsers.

I find it incredibly useful to work with two browsers in parallel, meaning I never dropped Firefox and fortunately never had stability issues. So since I’m using it a lot, I’m really happy about how the rise of Chrome has also led to significant design and performance improvements in Firefox.                                                             

Jack Cola

Hi Tina,

The only thing FF does better than Chrome is the downloads – I like how FF allows you to Open files (in a temp folder) rather than save everything into a download folder – you could always select the folder location each time, but this just takes too long.

Yaara

This is a feature I really used to miss in Chrome after I switched. It’s been so long I actually forgot about it! I really should use Firefox more often. :)

Yaara

Like Tina said, you could use the two in parallel. I still use Firefox sometimes, but I find there’s always one I use as a main browser, and right now it’s Chrome. Maybe it will ease the switch to really try to use Firefox more in parallel to Chrome.

Jack Cola

When I was a FF fan, I used to use Chrome as a secondary browser all the time. Now after the switch, I don’t use FF as a secondary browser as much – but I use it occasionally, especially when needing multiple sessions/login for one site.

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Roy Jensen

I never stopped using Firefox – it’s been my browser of choice for years. There are things that Chrome just can’t do (video downloadhelper) yet, so I’m sticking with it.

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Elwood Nose

I used Chrome for a while, then switched back to Firefox. The lack of a good RSS reader played a role in my decision.

I find it interesting that I’ve had to open this page in Chrome to comment, since the comment box (and more than first comment) doesn’t appear in Firefox.

Tina

Elwood,

could it be that you are using an ad blocker in Firefox? This might be the reason why you do not see the comment section. Our comment system is Disqus and it requires Java.

Elwood Nose

You nailed it – thanks!

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Bill Clayton

Firefox is still my browser, far and away. Chrome is fast — I like that — but until it can handle all of the add-ons that I like, it’s not for me. Most irritating for me, it won’t let me create a search bar for the Liquid Information add-on. And call me shallow, but I like the look of Firefox better. I understand the attraction of Google’s bare-bones approach to everything, but occasionally I need something with at least a little aesthetic appeal; Firefox has it; Chrome doesn’t.

Yaara

I think looks is definitely important. Many times I find it hard to switch browsers because I’ve gotten so used to the looks of one, I simply can’t use another!

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Pablo_rocka

Last time i checked Chrome didn’t support proxy settings so you are stuck with IE proxy, correct me if Im wrong. In FF I even found this addon really cool called foxyproxy to manage different proxies. And there are other addons I need that only FF has. I tried Chrome and use it from time to time but FF continues to be my favorite.

Yaara

Do you mean that Chrome uses the computer’s proxy settings and doesn’t let you set a proxy just for the browser? I don’t use proxies, do I never really thought about this as a problem, but I can see how that would be quite annoying.

Vibin

You always have extensions for Chrome, for proxy –  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/caehdcpeofiiigpdhbabniblemipncjj.

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Nikhil Agarwal

My main browser was chrome untill few days back but now I am using FF. I am quite happy to see the improvements. Although I used FF mainly for downloading and specific addons with chrome, but now I am using FF as my main browser.

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Chris Hoffman

I’ve noticed this on another website I write for, too. More readers seem to use Firefox than Chrome, even if us writer-types seem to use Chrome.

I tend to think we’re just a bit ahead of the curve. Was 2011 Mozilla’s year, or was this all too little too late?

Mozilla still doesn’t have a proper multi-process browser. I tend to think it’s too little too late. If you look at the market share graph, they’re losing market share consistently.

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Vibin

Except that memory thingy, you can’t really complain about Chrome. But Firefox? Where are apps? addon sync? sleek UI? better scrolling? and most importantly speed, though I agree that FF has improved a lot.

Yaara

I actually can complain about Chrome. It hangs a lot, it’s really slow, it totally chokes when I open a lot of tabs and if you enable Flash it crashes all the time (mine is permanently disabled).

This is just disappointing to me because these are the things I moved to Chrome to avoid, and now they’re all happening here too.

Vibin

That’s weird. Chrome never hangs for me, and it is as fast as it was before.

Chrome really got the basics (speed,UI etc) right, and that’s the reason a layman prefers it to Firefox (look at the market share).

Yaara

Yes, I know Chrome has become more popular, and it might even still be the better browser of the two, but my point was the progress Firefox has made in the last year. If the same trend continues for both browsers, I won’t be surprised to see the leader board switch yet again.

Vibin

Progress, yes, that seems to happen with Firefox a lot. But what I would appreciate more is innovation, which Firefox lacks.

I respect Mozilla as one of the companies who made the web better, but Chrome was the one who started update cycles(dev,beta,canary), minimal UI, automatic updates, support for HTML5, WebGL and much more.

Google mostly doesn’t get into patent wars, and they always had a good relationship with Mozilla, but that doesn’t mean you can just rip off features.

Yaara

I’m not sure “rip off” are the right words. I mean, Firefox had add-ons first, they had tabbed browsing first, they started with Do Not Track — they did innovate a lot, and I don’t feel as if Google stole those features from Firefox. I think that’s not really how the browser game works.

I do agree that Firefox, after being quite innovative, have fallen behind quite a lot (thus the apathy I was talking about), and now instead of innovating, they are mainly playing catch to Chrome. But I think it’s a necessity for them to catch up first, before they can truly innovate again, because what’s the point of innovating when you’re so behind?

Vibin

Features like add-ons (and even tabbed browsing) are basic, you can’t say Google ripped off iOS Appstore with Android market or anything like that.

I do agree with the last point.

Patrick

Tabbed browsing and add-ons are “basic” only because they have become mainstream and are adopted by the majority of the browser. To rule them off as innovation is denying the innovator’s effort.

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Nomi

It\’s so fantastic !!! it\’s very fast and up to date and it\’s betetr than IE explorer. solo u should test it again cos i have tested it already with Google and no problem.

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