Why Firefox Could Still Be the Browser Story of the Year
As 2011 begins, browsers represent one of the most hotly contested categories in all of open source. Open source browsers, especially Google Chrome and Firefox, are leading innovation, and are both on increasingly rapid development cycles. By every metric, they are more useful, extensible and better performing than Internet Explorer at this point. The past several days have brought quite a lot of news about what to expect next in the browsers wars, and while some are predicting a coup for Google Chrome this year, in fact we may be about to witness the next big market share surge for Mozilla Firefox.
As we've noted, Firefox is rapidly being tuned for mobile devices, and smartphones and tablets represent a huge market opportunity for the browser. We've also noted Mozilla's charge that Internet Explorer's latest revision is "two years too late." But perhaps the biggest news on the Mozilla front is that the company has committed to a rapid development cycle, where it never had one before. Specifically, Mozilla plans to release a whopping four versions of Firefox by the end of this year. That is definitely an answer to the rapid-fire release schedule that Google Chrome has been on.
As ZDNet notes, there are signs that Europe may represent the next big opportunity for Google Chrome market share gains. Firefox's share has been relatively flat there, but Chrome's has been steadily rising. It's important to remember that Europe mandated a browser choice screen last year, offering many users a simple way to choose an alternative to Internet Explorer.
But I'm expecting Firefox, not Chrome, to be the star among open source browsers again this year. I use both Firefox and Chrome, but Firefox has a bigger, more imminent opportunity to flourish on mobile devices, and its new rapid development cycle is unprecedented. Firefox's share has been sitting still for long enough now that everyone is lulled into thinking it will stay that way.
Mozilla is only days away from delivering Firefox 4--a major upgrade. As subsequent versions come out faster than ever this year, look for Firefox to surpise everyone.