The Best Hope for the Future of Firefox | Computerworld

The Best Hope for the Future of Firefox | Computerworld.  (No longer available online. Original text included below.)

The clock is ticking. Mozilla confirmed that Google has extended its revenue agreement with them for another three years. Last year 98 per cent of Mozilla’s funds were from Google, and without it, development on Firefox would be severely hampered. With Firefox market share falling, will businesses find it relevant three years from now when the money runs out?

The Challenges

Firefox faces many challenges, some self-imposed, but the largest of which are based on the market it’s in. Here are Firefox’s three top challenges.

1. Power Users

Power users initially loved Firefox due to its extended features and ability to be customized. Recently, Google’s Chrome has provided the same, and went further with better security and speed, causing many power users to switch over.

2. Deep Pockets

Mozilla is a non-profit organization, and Firefox is an open-source project. Though neither of its top two competitors, Chrome or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, are direct money generators, both companies depend on browsers as a window to their online products. For Google, ads on webpages generate most of its money, so it wants to get as many ad filled webpages in front of users as possible.

3. Mobile Market

Though 93% of web browsing is currently done through desktops and laptops, mobile browsing has nearly doubled in the last year from 4% to almost 8%. This is likely to grow exponentially in the next year, as tablets and eReaders hit the mainstream, and nearly every new mobile phone will have a web browser. Apple and Google own the default browsers on the popular mobile devices, giving them a huge advantage.

An Opportunity

Desktops aren’t dead yet, but eventually we can expect mobile usage to surpass them, perhaps within the three years Mozilla has secured funding. As users and businesses embrace new phones and tablets, they’ll be learning how to best browse the web with them, and how to seamlessly share the browsing experience between their desktop and mobile device. This is where Firefox could make could make a difference.

Despite controlling Chrome and Android’s default browser, Google has done little to make switching between the two easy besides introducing bookmark syncing in the Android Ice Cream Sandwich update. Even though Apple gave the same Safari name to both its mobile and desktop browsers, it also hasn’t paid attention to moving between them.

Make a Difference

This is where Firefox can make a difference. Mozilla already has a mobile version of Firefox that uses “Firefox Sync” to sync browsing history, open tabs, bookmarks and saved passwords. If it were to release an iOS version as well, as mobile browser Dolphin did, it would have a presence on the top smartphones and tablets. It would also have to make deals with mobile device vendors to have Firefox preinstalled. The combination of the two would make Firefox much more useful and visible, a winning combination.

Google has its thumb on Firefox, but is letting them live a bit longer, most likely to keep them out of its competitors hands. If Firefox it still to be competitive in three years when the money may again run out, they have to make a difference, as they did in their early days. Working not only across the major operating systems, but between desktops and mobile devices as well could be Firefox’s saving grace, as long as they can . Will they make it happen, and would it be a good reason to keep it installed in your business?