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Posted at 5:44 AM ET, 11/19/2010

Mozilla offers details on Firefox and its finances in 'State of Mozilla' report

By Rob Pegoraro

The people behind the Firefox browser wanted the Web to know what they've been up to, so they posted their version of an annual report Thursday afternoon.

firefox_logo.jpg

The Mozilla Foundation's "The State of Mozilla" isn't like most annual reports--it's too short and only contains one photo of happy employees. But it does offer a useful look at how this non-profit organization is faring against such for-profit competitors as Microsoft, Google and Apple and what it plans to do next.

The report follows a brief introduction with a promise that the upcoming Firefox 4 "will be great," citing major performance increases in graphics and JavaScript. It had better be. The current version trails behind such competitors as Google's Chrome, Apple's Safari and Opera's eponymous browser, sometimes badly. On a Dell netbook I borrowed recently, Twitter's new interface slowed Firefox to an embarrassing degree.

Perhaps as a result, Firefox has been losing significant market share to Chrome. A graphic in the annual report offers added context: While Firefox can boast of 400 million users, it only ranks 140 million of them as "active."

A "Broadening Our Scope" chapter outlines some newer initiatives. One, a mobile version of Firefox for Android and other smartphone platforms, is well on its way to being a market reality. The others are more like worthy experiments: Mozilla is working on projects to make it easier for people to find and adopt more capable Web-based applications, securely synchronize and share data online and build collaborative Web sites outside of the likes of Facebook.

That section doesn't mention the once-promising Mozilla Thunderbird e-mail application, which has stagnated in recent years. Nor does it get into Mozilla's thoughts on the future of Web video; Firefox doesn't support the commercial H.264 video standard that Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari have all endorsed.

Finally, a "Sustainability" chapter answers a question I get fairly often: How do these people stay in business when they give their product away and don't have anything else to sell? The Mozilla Foundation makes almost all of its money--$101.5 million of its $104 million in revenue for 2009, against $64 million in expenses--from referral fees provided by the companies whose search shortcuts come with the browser.

The Mountain View, Calif., organization's financial statement (PDF) notes that 86 percent of those search royalties came from a single deal with "a search engine provider" (hint: its name rhymes with "Lougle") that expires in November 2011. A separate frequently-asked-questions page affirms that "we do not vet our initiatives with Google."

With or without the financial backing of its former neighbor Google, Mozilla has work to do. Chrome keeps advancing all the time, and Microsoft has a major upgrade to IE coming too. So while I've had Firefox as my default browser in Windows since before it was a 1.0 release, I keep hearing from people who have moved on to other contenders--usually Chrome.

Are you among them? Where do you rank Firefox among browsers today?

By Rob Pegoraro  | November 19, 2010; 5:44 AM ET
Categories:  Search, The Web  
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Comments

I moved to Chrome at least two years ago when it was noticeably faster than Firefox. This was before the vast extension library for Chrome was developed. With the extensions, Chrome has all the features one could want, I think. And it remains very fast. I have become an "all Google" user - Calendar, Tasks, Docs for back up, Health, Contacts. All integrate nicely.

I have not gone back to Firefox, which I used for years before this. Firefox remains my second choice. I have never developed familiarity with IE. What is the need?

Posted by: wovose | November 19, 2010 6:34 AM | Report abuse

Because I am captive to Hughes' satellite service (true broadband is not available where I live in the woods), the only distinction I make between browsers is speed of rendering. I don't need to look at the reports that come out from time to time to know that (for me at least)Chrome is easily the fastest browser on the market and Opera is second.
=Bill Ullman=

Posted by: wullman1 | November 19, 2010 6:40 AM | Report abuse

Tried chrome and missed the better versions of mouse gestures and adblock in Firefox. I switched back after a few months. Still waiting eagerly on Fennec so I can switch from Opera on my phone.

Posted by: hesaid | November 19, 2010 7:19 AM | Report abuse

I favor Firefox for philosophical reasons. Any company that offers you a free browser is doing so in their own interests. Your use of their browser places you within their ecosystem. As a matter of principle, I choose to use a tool developed by a nonprofit. I'd use it even if were slower than competitors. I've had no complaints about Firefox's speed over the years, though.

I wish other computer users would make browser choices more thoughtfully. As Douglas Rushkoff says in his new book, you either program this world or you will be programmed by it. The latter can be rather uncomfortable.

Posted by: pshapiro99 | November 19, 2010 7:30 AM | Report abuse

To pshapiro99

It is just a browser, not a marriage. No need to overthink it.

Posted by: wovose | November 19, 2010 7:45 AM | Report abuse

FF is still the best one in my experience. I tried chrome and had problems. That has been a while and I am due to try it again just to see, as Firefox has accumulated some baggage that is starting to bug me. Cache issues, slow startup, and memory leaks are at the top of the list.

Posted by: tojo45 | November 19, 2010 8:44 AM | Report abuse

I have used Firefox since its earliest beginnings and its progenitor Netscape before that, which I switched to back in the Pleistocene from Mosaic. It is still my default browser.

Firefox is a RAM hog but on the vast majority of web pages it doesn't slow down my response (the Washington Post's website, however, is one that DOES slow it down, usually because of loading delays on the part of some of its advertising providers).

That h264 video complaint is a valid one and we can only hope that Firefox corrects this in version 4. Another complaint I have is that Firefox doesn't recognize the "Background properties=fixed" argument that is recognized by all other browsers, and instead requires you to incorporate some javascript if you want the text to float above a stationary background. The javascript solution makes the pages PAINFULLY slow and balky. I get the feeling that refusal to recognize this tag, which admittedly is NOT part of the HTML standards but it's useful and everyone else recognizes it, is a symptom of the "not invented here" attitude, the pervasiveness of which in all fields keeps life from going smoothly. The fixed background was an early code addition in a primitive version of MSIE.

Posted by: FergusonFoont | November 19, 2010 8:45 AM | Report abuse

FF is still the best one in my experience. I tried chrome and had problems. That has been a while and I am due to try it again just to see, as Firefox has accumulated some baggage that is starting to bug me. Cache issues, slow startup, and memory leaks are at the top of the list.

Posted by: tojo45 | November 19, 2010 8:54 AM | Report abuse

I've been running Firefox nearly since its creation and have remained loyal primarily because of some addons that I don't want to live without.

Still, it's slow and its new sync feature -- a must have for me -- just doesn't work and it was created by Mozilla.

There are signs that this company is stumbling and like all technology, if it doesn't keep up, it will be quickly become obsolete.

The new version better live up to its billing or it may be game over.

Posted by: jimdhm | November 19, 2010 9:01 AM | Report abuse

I've used Firefox since its inception. I use Chrome as well, but I can't use it exclusively because it doesn't work with some sites. I probably will always use Firefox occasionally due to its rich set of add-ons.

Posted by: slar | November 19, 2010 9:46 AM | Report abuse

I like Chrome, it's fast and light. I'm an Asp.Net developer, so I use IE as needed for debugging (since most corporate users still use IE), but until Chrome has an AdBlock that works as well as the one on Firefox, I'm sticking with Mozilla. More RAM is cheaper than having to deal with all those damn ads.

Posted by: Section406 | November 19, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

I've been using Firefox as my primary browser for at least six years. In the last year I have started using Chrome some too. Chrome is fast and makes very efficient use of screen space, but I am quite attached to my Firefox extensions and I doubt there are good Chrome versions of NoScript and Adblock Plus.

Posted by: bokamba | November 19, 2010 10:11 AM | Report abuse

Been beta testing FF4 on a Mac. Slow. Safari and Chrome are both faster. Hope it's just the test tracking code slowing it down.

Posted by: wiredog | November 19, 2010 10:16 AM | Report abuse

I have been using FF for years. I like the addons. Waiting for FF4!

It looks like Google can put FF out of business in 11/2011. I might have to switch afterall.

Posted by: david08054 | November 19, 2010 10:40 AM | Report abuse

90% of the programmers at my office have switched from Firefox to Chrome citing FF as bloatware. I am the last holdout and hoping for something great in the next iteration.

I haven't switched b/c I'm used to all my fav extensions - firebug, developer toolbar, etc.

BTW - I use Thunderbird at home and the latest upgrade is really good. Couldn't live without it.

Posted by: ryland22 | November 19, 2010 10:53 AM | Report abuse

I used the old Mozilla Browser (now Seamonkey) for years in Windows. When FF came out, I started using it also, but I never really liked it. It seemed clunky in Windows.

Nowadays though, I run Linux (Slackware and Debian) as a primary operating system on all my machines. FF is in its environment within Linux, I believe. I wouldn't use anything else these days.

Occasionally, like with v3.6.12, FF does seem to display some serious memory leakage; often gobbling up RAM to the point that I have to restart it. Usually, this fixes itself in later versions, though.

All in all... thumbs up for Firefox!

Regards,

~Eric
Tampa, Florida, USA

Posted by: vtel57 | November 19, 2010 11:01 AM | Report abuse

I have used Firefox for almost everything except Hotmail for about two years.

I tried Chrome and Opera within the last year and still have them installed, but I have a better experience with FF.

There are some sites though that only Internet Explorer renders correctly e.g. newsbusters.org (though I should note that I have the Chrome Mask installed on IE7, though this might not be it since Chrome itself does not render the site correctly).

I believe that there are some sites that are already using HTML5 so FF needs to get FF4 running quickly.

But from my experience, I prefer FF, then IE7 (hate IE8), then Chrome, then Opera, and then (barf) Safari.
.

Posted by: thespin | November 19, 2010 11:32 AM | Report abuse

Love FF with Adblock and Noscript...

Posted by: ozpunk | November 19, 2010 12:32 PM | Report abuse

I've been a FF user quite a while until this past week when I switched to Chrome. Ever since the upgrade to 3.6.12 and the last windows "upgrade" I've had nothing but trouble with FF. The final straw came one day last week when FF crashed 4 times in 3 hours. I know that in my case the problem relates to my use of Zone Alarm Security Suite. Sorry, but I'm not going to dumb down my security to be able to use a particular browser.

Much to my surprise I'm finding that my whole machine is running radically faster after the switch to Chrome, not just in the browser. FF? I don't miss it for the most part although the different interface is taking a little getting used to. I tried switching to Opera first, but found a few setup issues specific to me to be not very intuitive to deal with.

Posted by: rsh43 | November 19, 2010 1:03 PM | Report abuse

I never took to FF. For a long running browser that has zillions of windows open, I use Opera (and now more and more Chrome). For quick browsing (& as default browser) it is Safari on the mac, IE on the Windows (work demands it) and Chrome on Linux. In all three cases my Chrome use is increasing. Occasionally I have to switch to firefox if something won't render right. I still prefer Opera but it now takes too long to quit and often I have to kill it. Particularly on the mac.

Posted by: news-junkie | November 19, 2010 1:08 PM | Report abuse

I've been using FF for awhile and so far I've had good experience with it. I've considered Chrome but based on information from others I decided not to incorporate Chrome until a few things that has been described fix.

Posted by: beeker25 | November 19, 2010 1:12 PM | Report abuse

I have been using Chrome more and more instead of Firefox as it is faster, even though there are things in Chrome I don't like, such as the hidden menus and bookmarks that are only available from a new blank tab.

*** On another note, when I tried to read this post through RSS reader (I tried bloglines first and then Firefox), I just got sent to what looked like an advertising company web site, not this post.

Posted by: fqp1 | November 19, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

For some reason Firefox doesn't work well on my new-ish Lenovo laptop. So I use Chrome there and I like it very much. But on my desktop computers I use Firefox. Frankly I don't notice all that much difference between the two for the things I do. And since I am accustomed to doing things in Firefox it is inertia as much as anything else that keeps me using it where I do.

Posted by: fedssocr | November 19, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

I use and like both FF and Chrome. I agree that Chrome is a little faster but when you download a page in Chrome you can get extremely different font sizes. This does not make for a friendly surfing experience to have to zoom in and out so much. For this reason, I use FF more than I use Chrome.

Posted by: donmotsr | November 19, 2010 3:08 PM | Report abuse

I use and like both FF and Chrome. I agree that Chrome is a little faster but when you download a page in Chrome you can get extremely different font sizes. This does not make for a friendly surfing experience to have to zoom in and out so much. For this reason, I use FF more than I use Chrome.

Posted by: donmotsr | November 19, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Latest IE9 beta is too slow, and Chrome intermittently gets clobbered by something preventing me from signing on to Gmail of all things! (IE9 still works after that failure). I'm tired of reinstalling Chrome, so I use Fx4 beta 7 and am pleased. Of the aforesaid browsers, only Fx displays letters in tabs clearly even when DPI is set to 180 on my Win7x64 PC. Fx group tabbing implementation is a cool idea too.

Posted by: chesscanoe | November 19, 2010 3:13 PM | Report abuse

I have been on FF from their start, using 4.0 Beta 6 with some good results, use IE 9 Beta as a back up and also have Opera for another option.
IE 9 is faster than the FF 4.0 Beta 6, like both.
Its been a while since I tried Chrome and didn't like that version.
Opera is a lite and fast browser, the add on features for FF and IE are best.

Posted by: HogWilder | November 19, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

So nobody's using gopher, huh?

I still tolerate Firefox after being a big proponent of it at its inception, even though it's slower, bigger (but still safer).

Chrome simply refuses to install or run on my older HP laptop with HP's Windows XP SP3. Ditto for my housemate's HP laptop and the same o.s.. Weird.

I put up with the shortcomings of Firefox because of its extensive add-ons, especially NoScript and Ad Block Plus. Couldn't live without them, especially since NoScript prevented me from getting a nasty malware site about an hour ago.

I might give Chrome a try on my desktop machine.

Posted by: BoteMan | November 19, 2010 7:52 PM | Report abuse

I stay with Firefox because I keep four tabs open all the time, and Firefox remembers them, and automatically opens them, every time I fire it up. The other browsers don't to that for me. As for speed, Firefox is just fine.

Posted by: HenryFarkas | November 22, 2010 10:09 PM | Report abuse

"Firefox doesn't support the commercial H.264 video standard that Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari have all endorsed."

It's a little disappointing that you missed the news here (while it's not even "news" anymore).
In fact, the story of H.264 was perhaps Mozilla's greatest victory concerning the future of the web.
The foundation refused to support the codec because replacing Flash video with another proprietary format is just not what would advance the future of the web.

Mozilla's decision was a significant factor that led to the WebM project (VP8 codec) instead, which is supported by all major browser vendors plus services like Youtube (IE9 probably will not have native support right away, but will do in the future)

Mozilla also has a major update for Firefox coming soon, perhaps somewhere between December - January, which does not fall behind competition and like it always did in the past, has nothing to hide.

Mozilla will continue to be the best choice for me, not only because all the technology that they support and create, but because their products are made "by the people, for the people".

Posted by: sonickydon | November 25, 2010 3:41 AM | Report abuse

"Firefox doesn't support the commercial H.264 video standard that Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Chrome and Safari have all endorsed."

It's a little disappointing that you missed the news here (while it's not even "news" anymore).
In fact, the story of H.264 was perhaps Mozilla's greatest victory concerning the future of the web.
The foundation refused to support the codec because replacing Flash video with another proprietary format is just not what would advance the future of the web.
Mozilla's decision was a significant factor that led to the WebM project (VP8 codec) instead, which is supported by all major browser vendors plus services like Youtube (IE9 probably will not have native support right away, but will do in the future)

Mozilla also has a major update for Firefox coming soon, perhaps somewhere between December - January, which does not fall behind competition and, like it always did in the past, has nothing to hide.

Mozilla will continue to be the best choice for me just because their products are made "by the people, for the people"

Posted by: sonickydon | November 25, 2010 3:58 AM | Report abuse

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