What happened to Mozilla Firefox?

This question is asked a lot by veterans in computing. The once internationally acclaimed browser: Mozilla Firefox has suddenly become less popular and has been outdone by rivals like Google’s Chrome and Microsoft’s Edge. Well, the truth is that lot has happened regarding Mozilla lately. The company has laid off hundreds of staff in important positions and many other reforms to change the pacing of the browser. These changes make a lot of people go as far as to claim that Mozilla is dead. If you’re wondering what actually happened, then read on to get a grasp of what happened to the famous browser and understand whether you need to switch or not.

Well, What happened?

It’s no surprise that the Covid-19 pandemic has something to do with it. Since the worldwide lockdown started earlier this year, many industries have faced severe ramifications, even in the online world. The privacy-focused search engine; Cliqz shut down this year due to the pandemic, and Mozilla was also affected. Mozilla has laid off an astonishing quarter of its workforce (250 people), having previously laid off 70 employees in January. These layoffs come with the focus to make the browser more money intensive. These new changes will focus on more profitable services, such as Pocket, their VPN, and other ventures such as their ‘VR hubs’.

Core teams in the company have been severely affected. Mozilla’s research team, Servo, has been hit hard by this layoff. This also extends to their security team and their Developer Network (MDN). The MDN is often described as the ‘essential bible for web devs’. The network has received cuts to its funding. 

Why is the internet throwing a fit?

Well, most users of the browser are finding a new direction. The company is going to be counterproductive. A solid instance of this is Mozilla’s $400 to $450 million a year deal with Google. This deal costs quite a lot for the company, so why did they renew the agreement? It would be ideal if renewing the deal was only to provide immediate income to survive, but this deal spans more than a few years. Mozilla states on its ‘about’ page that they are pioneers of the open web. Which is understandably for profit, considering how much privacy respecting search engines exist.

Mozilla Firefox itself is originally not-for-profit. The same cannot be said for the Mozilla Corporation, a for-profit company and is in charge of Firefox and all of the above-mentioned products.

Sadly enough, the ventures the company dubs as ‘more profitable ventures’ might not actually be that profitable. The majority of these ventures have major flaws or are some solutions for rare or nonexistent problems. It looks as though the company is trying to cut down on nom profit ties but, it would seem as if Mozilla has chosen the wrong ones. The new Firefox VPN is a virtual private network service made in partnership with Mullvad. However, it lacks Mullvad’s best features. Their Pocket venture is ranked in the top 1000 Alexa sites but serves adverts by default when you open a new tab. They had a nice idea going for Firefox Voice implementation into the browser, but it seems like a waste when a simple search does the trick?  Mozilla appears to be misguided since it’s going for these products rather than the likes of Thunderbird and Firefox. Luckily, the Thunderbird venture is not impacted by the layoffs; why can’t this be said for crucial parts of the Firefox team?

Do you need to switch?

Well, personally, I’d say no. Regardless of Mozilla’s actions, Firefox is still widely regarded as one of the best browsers for privacy, with the right add-ons. Now that reasons to leave Firefox have risen, what alternatives are there, really?.

There are not that many. If you leave Firefox for a chromium-based browser, you’re directly strengthening Google’s monopoly. The truth remains that just because Mozilla has bad management doesn’t change the fact that Firefox is the most viable option for the open web. The general anger at Mozilla is likely misplaced, or at least out of balance. There certainly have been some poor decisions at an executive level of Mozilla; however, Google is just as much to blame.

Again, Firefox is an open-source program, and as such many forks exist, most notably Tor. If Firefox stops being consistently developed, it is unlikely that Tor or any other fork would continue. The facts remain that Unless you have something similar to Mozilla maintaining Firefox, you can’t have any forks either.

Some people propose drastic measures like changing the protocols entirely instead of switching browsers. Others like Gopher and Gemini have been having a resurgence lately, and the recent events have only increased their popularity. These will likely be fixes for those who don’t require images; however, a text-based web won’t work for most people.

Conclusion

As seen above, the main issue seems to be the mismanagement of the organization. Poor decisions like firing the wrong people for the wrong reasons show what happens when the people in charge don’t understand the technology. This is also a problem as it wouldn’t make sense for someone who didn’t understand business to be in charge.

No matter what route the company takes, we must continue to use Firefox if Mozilla is to survive. For Firefox to get better, we must steel ourselves and continue to use it.