It is your moral obligation to use Firefox

You may have recently read that a new version of Internet Explorer (currently hiding under an alias Microsoft Edge) based on Chromium has been released. According to current market share rankings this move puts Chromium-based browsers well above 75% of the desktop browser market share. The biggest contributor to this statistic is of course Google Chrome. For comparison Firefox at the height of its popularity barely managed to cross 30% market share.

How did that happen?

Personally I am able to identify several factors that contributed to the success of Google Chrome.

Aggressive marketing

As of now remains the most visited website in the world by a significant margin. Google has been advertising Chrome on its home page, in search results, in their competitor's products and all over the web. Not only did it have the advertising platform capable of reaching the highest number of users in the world but also the resources to run a world-wide campaign on the scale never seen before in the web browser market.


Chrome displayed amazing performance improvements over competing browsers from day one. While Internet Explorer has always been a synonym for abysmal performance, Firefox started lagging behind the user needs and was struggling to deliver its major multi-processing feature dubbed Electrolysis as Chrome adoption was racing forward.

A couple of years after the release of Chrome significant developments in the area of interactive websites, WebGL and other ground breaking technologies started to appear online. At the time Chrome was often the only browser able to run all the interesting web experiments or even playback 1080p videos on old hardware without breaking a sweat. This coupled with the growing frustration of Firefox users has led to faster adoption rates.

Chrome Web Store

Chrome capitalized on one of the most popular features of Firefox offering the users an easy way of installing various browser extensions. With the developers being actively encouraged to write new extensions many equivalents of popular Firefox addons were quickly created. An ability to install extensions has always been a large reason behind users choosing Firefox over Internet Explorer and allowed many of them to switch to Chrome.

Standards adoption

Another of the main selling points of Firefox over Internet Explorer was the standards adoption rate. Both the developers and the users profoundly hated the latter for its stagnant development, slow version adoption and very often buggy and incomplete implementations. For a long time a message "works best with Firefox" could be seen on some websites attempting to use newer standards and Firefox was a breath of fresh air in the web industry.

After being released Chrome managed to beat everyone, including Firefox, adopting new standards and breakthrough technologies quicker than any other browser in the market. This was widely advertised with various demos and "Chrome experiments".

Version adoption

Chrome updates the browser to the newest version at launch just as Firefox does ensuring that all the newest features and security fixes are always in place and available for the developers. This still contrasts with the model of Microsoft Edge releases which are tightly coupled to the operating system updates (just as the browser itself is tightly coupled to the OS itself).

Integration with various Google services

Chrome integrates with widely used Google services allowing the users to easily access their data and to sync it between various devices. This was supported by the fact that the most popular smartphone operating system in the world was also created by Google and integrates with the same services.

What does it mean?

While both Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge themselves are proprietary products they are based on the open source Chromium project utilizing Blink and V8 engines. This means that in practice the entire browser market is currently based on free and open solutions. This is obviously a wonderful thing and Google Chrome itself appears to be a good and nice to use product. Unfortunately as always the world is not as beautiful as we would like it to be.

As the Chromium project is largely financed by Google and used by Chrome, the most popular browser in the world, Google exerts a significant political pressure over the project and de facto controls it. This control can at this point effectively be used in order to shape the web and push it in the desired direction.

There were already a couple of cases of Google pushing their agenda and breaking various standards. As an example one of them involved DOM APIs while another one involved breaking one of the <input> tag attributes. Whether or not you agree with those changes, Google decided to deliberately break the beforementioned standards.

Not only that, but the attack itself comes from multiple fronts. Google's armies march in broad daylight burning the countryside, this we know. But, in secret, another force approaches from an unexpected direction: their fleet sails to capture the online media. Google is currently pushing the adoption of a technology called AMP. Only news websites offering a full or a partial alternative implementation available in this technology are promoted in certain places in Google search results. This effectively strikes at the core principles of the web forcing the developers to use a certain technology in order to promote the websites. This is particulary efficient with Google having a de facto monopoly in the online advertising business and comparable to the worst anti-competitive plots and schemes that Microsoft is well known for.

All those facts combined threaten the web in the same way in which Microsoft and its practices did. No organisation should have a monopoly over the standards shaping the web - and the fact is that a similar situation already led to immense frustration and cries for help from various developers in the past. History is now repeating itself however the reactions are way more subdued and it seems that unfortunately many of us are content with it as long as the browser which controls the market is kept up to date.

Overall this move by Microsoft brings the number of significant implementations in the browser market back to two. As we can learn from Microsoft's failures it is at this point unrealistic to believe that a new browser can be written from scratch. Our rendering and JavaScript engines are at this point so complicated that creating a new product from scratch is less realistic than creating an entire new operating system together with various user space programs. It appears that with the way things are heading right now the complexity of our web standards will lead to a downwfall of the web as we know it. With every year it is more likely that one day you will not be able to create a website using the technologies of your choosing and you will not be able to make it behave as you see fit. Others will make those decisions for you.

How can we change that?

In the short term? Right now the only solution I can see is trying to even out the scales and switching back to Firefox, if you haven't already done so. Firefox is a modern browser and its performance has been drastically improved with recent updates. If you want to try to retain balance - try using it again.

In the long term? Currently everything points to the fact that the complexity of the web will be its downfall with all browsers converging on a single implementation of the standards. I do not see what a long term action we can take to prevent it but I do believe that idenfiying a problem is important to start devising solutions to it.