Firefox is dead... or something

In terms of market share, there has been no shortage of comparisons between Perl and Firefox over recent years. For that reason then, I found recent analysis of survey results interesting.

In the last 12 months, Firefox's user share -- an estimate of the portion of all those who reach the Internet via a desktop browser -- has plummeted by 34%. Since Firefox crested at 25.1% in April 2010, Firefox has lost 13.5 percentage points, or 54% of its peak share.

I personally use Firefox (via Debian's Iceweasel) and have yet to find a satisfactory browser on Android. I rarely use iOS for any serious browsing (not having an Apple tablet device). Whilst I have Chromium (again, Debian) installed - I haven't found it's experience compelling enough to abandon Firefox and my suite of plugins/add-ons. Firefox Hello was a nice fun new addition as well - and dropping the "Facebook Messenger for Firefox" integration was disappointing.

Not finding any traction in 'Mobile' browsing seems to be a catastrophic problem for Firefox. Though it may be fruitful to split tablet and smart phone browsing for more in depth analysis.

(The lynching of Brendan Eich is fun to point at, but almost certainly is only a symptom or bi-product)

In contrast to browsers, the long tail of programming languages seems only to be lengthening. Comparisons with Perl then may difficult due to that fundamental difference in growth.

1 Comment

I use Pale Moon, a fork of Firefox prior to when they went all insane with the UI, and mostly that's because I'm used to the UI and Chromium seems to mess up copy/paste functionality on my Bodhi Linux.

I think what killed Firefox is trying to imitate other popular browsers after it lost its edge. The last time I opened it in Windows 7 alongside Chrome, the only difference I could see between the two is a few icons on the top right-hand corner, and those would likely not be there had I not have installed a few plugins.

Plugins is what differentiated Firefox in its early days. You could beef it up with functionality you needed and other browsers couldn't offer that. Today, every browser offers plugins. Firefox doesn't have that edge any more, so they tried to imitate other successful browsers, which backfired because loyal Firefox fans got annoyed with every update that added some stupid feature no one asked for—that was added only because another browser did it that way.

As for comparison with Perl, I think the analogy is apt. Like Firefox's plugins, Perl had CPAN. Today, many languages offer a similar service—yes, maybe CPAN is more polished by comparison, but keep in mind there's also a ton of useless, broken garbage on CPAN, which takes time to waddle through.

So CPAN is no longer Perl's edge. And like with Firefox trying to imitate other successful browsers, too often I hear discussions in Perl circles that Perl needs to have a blogging platform/CMS/Web framework/whatever to become popular again. But the truth is... we already have those! Those are the tricks other languages (other browsers) are already good at. We need to find a new edge, instead of trying to copy-cat other languages, like Firefox copied other browsers.

The question then becomes, what is that new edge? In today's language market, what niche can Perl own?

We don't need another CMS, written in Perl instead of PHP. We need to differentiate ourselves.

Differentiate or Die.

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About Dean

user-pic I blog about Perl. I am now in California