back to article Mozilla annual report shows risky Google dependency now risky Yahoo! dependency

The Mozilla Foundation has published its 2014 annual report and while revenues are up, the numbers show the outfit is now very dependent on Yahoo! for future income and has declining market share. The good news is that revenue for 2014 was up by US$15m to $329.5m, a nice jump. The bad is that Firefox, which generates 90 per …

  1. Eponymous Cowherd

    The problem

    Firefox has evolved from something that was fast, lightweight and stable into something that is slow, bloated and flaky.

    1. msknight Silver badge

      Re: The problem

      Wholehertedly agree.

      Also the Linux version lacks the individual cookie site blocking on the Windows version, etc., etc., blah, blah... and I'm now using PaleMoon and considering moving to that Opera-ish upstart when I can remember the name of it.

      1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

        Re: The problem / "that Opera-ish upstart"

        Are you thinking of Vivaldi?

        http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/03/vivaldi_browser/

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: The problem

        @msknight

        "Also the Linux version lacks the individual cookie site blocking on the Windows version"

        try this

        https://addons.mozilla.org/en-GB/firefox/addon/cookie-monster/

        "Cookie Monster provides proactive cookie management on a site or domain level basis, including 3rd party cookies. Via the status bar, it provides easy access to enhanced cookie functionality, while doing so in a non-intrusive manner."

      3. xybyrgy

        Re: The problem

        Vivaldi?

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: The problem

      This is exactly my problem. I liked Firefox until quite recently, but the amount of crashing and the slowdown has become an annoyance.

    3. Dave K Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: The problem

      It's actually got a lot worse than that. A few years ago, Firefox was indeed slow and bloated, but more recently it has become a bit better. Well, that and Chrome has become slow and bloated too.

      However, Mozilla's biggest problem is that they have absolutely no idea how to develop a browser to attract market share any more. During the last 18 months, they've been systematically destroying every unique selling point that Firefox had in their quest to make Firefox just like Chrome. Before long, Firefox will be completely irrelevant.

      - Different user interface? Let's make it look just like Chrome.

      - Lots of customisability? Let's remove a load of it so it's locked down like Chrome.

      - Powerful extensions and plugins? Let's bin XUL and NPAPI (except for Flash) and just use tweaked Chrome extensions (which are far more restricted).

      - Full theme support? Let's remove that as well.

      Heck at one point, they were even considering removing FTP support as well based purely on the fact that Google were looking at it (Bugzilla bug #1174462).

      Mozilla are hell bent on turning Firefox from a powerful, flexible and customisable browser into a pointless and irrelevant clone of Chrome, and it's very sad to see.

      As for their tanking market share, I'm one of the people that ditched Firefox after the awful Australis makeover. I use Pale Moon now.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: The problem

        Dropping XUL and NPAPI were definitely sensible technical decisions.

        As usual it's the "other stuff" that shows a lack of focus: fucking around with the UI and stuff built around new commercial agreements.

        I've seen some good reviews of Firefox OS on tellies so that might be an avenue worth pursuing. There's no money in it for phones so they should drop that.

        1. BlartVersenwaldIII
          Meh

          Re: The problem

          > Dropping XUL and NPAPI were definitely sensible technical decisions.

          NPAPI maybe (still make heavy use of it myself at work), but I have to disagree on XUL because, as yet, I don't think there's a real alternative for extensions to modify the UI. For me and a great many other users this is A Big Deal because extensions that modify the UI such as TabMixPlus are the sole reason we stick with FF or FF-based browsers (Pale Moon user myself).

          Take that away and you're left with a) only having GUI functionality that's built into the browser natively [and we've already seen how gung-ho some people are to remove every possible choice in the name of simplicity] and b) considerably more limited extensions, at which point I refer to Dave K's concise summation:

          > Mozilla are hell bent on turning Firefox from a powerful, flexible and customisable browser into a pointless and irrelevant clone of Chrome, and it's very sad to see.

        2. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: The problem

          NPAPI should be sandboxed (it already is, to a degree). XUL should stay as it allows extremely flexible plugins and XUL apps, if only they actually bothered to document it.

          They are jettisoning stuff because they are finding it hard to maintain them (one of their blog entries specifically said this about XUL) but Firefox without NPAPI and XUL is little more than a Chrome-like skin with a different rendering engine. The next step would be to change the rendering engine.

          It seems Mozilla are slowly turning into Opera, most of the time they spend on Firefox is futzing around with the UI.

          1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

            Re: The problem

            re. XUL

            If you can't maintain something then you have drop it. Not so sure on what kind of UI stuff you really need for extensions – I've yet to come across an extension that only exists for Firefox that I need – but maybe following Vivaldi's lead there and switching to JS will be the way to go. Hell of a migration path but I suspect it could be partially automated. I hate JS but the toolchain is now pretty sophisticated and not having don't have to maintain your own multiplatform UI kit is a big win.

            Vivaldi definitely, it's now my second browser, demonstrates that you can go beyond merely skinning Chrome.

        3. Dave K Silver badge

          Re: The problem

          Whilst at a purely code level there may be some merits of dropping these, from an end-user point of view it makes no sense whatsoever.

          Removing NPAPI will mean no Java, Silverlight or other plugins that require this, but won't remove the most crash-prone plugin out there (Flash). It won't affect home users too badly, but it will destroy any inroads Firefox has made into enterprise. Firefox is offered as an alternative browser where I work (a very large multinational company). However no NPAPI and hence no Java means no Oracle financial system, which will make the browser worthless here.

          For XUL, although the code is difficult to maintain, powerful extensions have been one of Firefox's party pieces in recent times. Dropping this will cripple the extension market for Firefox, and I cannot possibly see how removing one of your biggest features/USPs can be considered a positive thing from an end-user point of view. If Firefox only supports the same extensions as Chrome, why use Firefox?

          Firefox has been losing market share for some time, and I don't think stripping out features and cloning your main competitor's interface is the solution.

      2. BillG Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: The problem

        I run Firefox 28 on one laptop and the latest Firefox 42 on another laptop. When I compare the two, browsing identical websites with multiple tabs open, not only is FF28 faster but it uses about half as much RAM. FF42 gobbles up RAM at an alarming rate, when FF28 is using 750M RAM, FF42 is using 1.3G and it gets worse and worse as you keep browsing.

        It's almost like the modern versions of FF act like old Windows 98, using all all available RAM and getting slower and slower until you have to restart it to get it running fast again.

        FF jumped the shark with the Australis interface. There's a good reason why the classic theme restorer plugin is popular.

        1. fung0

          Re: The problem

          "FF42 is using 1.3G and it gets worse and worse as you keep browsing."

          I just checked Process Explorer, and what do you know - 1.1GB. That sounds pretty bad, but bear in mind I have 2 Firefox windows open with several hundred tabs (though only a small subset are loaded). I wonder if Mozilla is trying to boost performance by using more RAM?

          "It's almost like the modern versions of FF act like old Windows 98, using all all available RAM and getting slower and slower until you have to restart it to get it running fast again."

          Using all 'available' RAM is not in itself a bad strategy - empty RAM is wasted RAM. Also, RAM gets cheaper all the time. I have 16GB in my current system, so if Firefox could run like the blazes by using 1, 2 or 3GB, that might be a pretty good deal.

          But the real question is efficiency, of both code execution and memory use. Unfortunately, I suspect Firefox (like most browsers, including Edge) is being optimized to deliver blistering benchmarks when loading a single page. There's probably room for huge improvements in handling multiple tabs and multiple extensions.

          1. BillG Silver badge
            Meh

            Re: The problem

            I just checked Process Explorer, and what do you know - 1.1GB. That sounds pretty bad, but bear in mind I have 2 Firefox windows open with several hundred tabs (though only a small subset are loaded). I wonder if Mozilla is trying to boost performance by using more RAM?

            I've found that it's not the number of tabs open, but the types of websites and how many you browse. For example, if you visit and re-visit the awful and bloated Walmart website often enough in just one tab, your RAM goes to 1.8G and higher, and browsing on any tab becomes painfully slow.

            On Firefox, the more RAM a profile consumes, the slower that profile gets until you are forced to re-start the browser.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: The problem

              "boost performance by using more RAM?"

              Just wondering if you really mean RAM (physical memory) or if you mean virtual memory? A Window box can't have more physical RAM in use than it has real memory installed; it can easily (and at very little performance cost) have more virtual memory in use than it has real memory.

              It's quite easy, and relatively harmless, to have 4GB of virtual memory allocated to an application but only actually be using a small part of real RAM.

              Chunks of code and data which have been used but are not physically in use at any given point in time don't need to live in real memory (RAM), they can be moved out to disk (eg the pagefile).

              If that disk is an SSD, the performance hit is even smaller, and there may be other benefits with an SSD too (e.g. faster completion of booting, faster initial loading of applications, etc).

              I'm not saying Firefox isn't bloated, but if people are going to claim objective measurements it'd be good if they understood what was being measured.

              Apologies if this was a lesson in egg-sucking, but these things seem to get forgotten as time goes by.

      3. andrewj

        Re: The problem

        There's also a lot of "hysteresis" in rebuilding market share. It's one thing to attract users in the first place. But once you p* them off enough that they move to another browser, it's much much harder to get them back again. I can't see how they'll ever reverse the decline.

    4. Greg D

      Re: The problem

      This is indeed the problem and the reason I switched to Chrome. But then Chrome pulled NPAPI support, which broke all my web interface management pages for stuff like VMware, Solarwinds, iDRAC, Cisco stuff etc. Not to mention all the sites that still enforce NPAPI.

      So I went back to Firefox, but am getting pissed off again at its slowness. Its really fucking slow these days!!

      Then something that I didnt think would impress me, impressed me; Microsoft Edge.

      Running a side-by-side comparison, Firefox is a bloated beast, even on my SSD Windows 10 gaming rig (which is v. highly specced) it took about 5-10 seconds to show my homepage. Edge took 0.5 seconds consistently.

      And then there's how Firefox handles Flash. What a joke. Every 5 minutes whenever I flick through Facebook, hangs for at least 30 seconds while it does god only knows what with the Flash plugin.

      1. fung0

        Re: The problem

        When as functional as Firefox Edge becomes, run as fast it will not.

  2. dephormation.org.uk
    Unhappy

    Not surprised they are losing market share

    The thing that once differentiated Firefox was the freedom & control offered to users & developers.

    Mozilla seem to have abandomed much of that ethos in favour of restrictions and features that favour the interests of the marketing industry & government.

    Undoing all of that on a new installation takes time. Lots of preferences to disable, features to restrict, back channels to knock out.

    Meawhile, from an extension dev's perspective, to create an extension for FF now requires dev's to register details with Mozilla and have code approved before it can be distributed. In addition, the browser quietly reports back to Mozilla a list of the add-on installations chosen by users. I resent that, it is intrusive and unnecessary. So I've dropped support for FF.

    Given alternatives like SeaMonkey, Iceweasel, PaleMoon, continue to respect the freedom of user's & extension developers' I can't see Mozilla recovering that market niche without a dramatic change of focus.

    At present, there is little to differentiate Firefox from the default browser installed by OS makers, and little to motivate most users to replace the default with Firefox.

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: Not surprised they are losing market share

      If you don't want the Firefox to report plugins back to Mozilla, turn off the plugin auto update.

      1. dephormation.org.uk
        Pirate

        Re: Not surprised they are losing market share

        Mozilla could, for example, ask before taking that information. Rather than simply taking it.

        And they could offer a user facing preference, rather than expecting the user to navigate past warnings to set the unintuitive option "extensions.getAddons.cache.enabled" to "false" to suppress it.

        It is symptomatic of the disregard Mozilla have for their users.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: Not surprised they are losing market share

          I thought it was the cogwheel icon on the add-ons manager page followed by unsetting "update add-ons automatically".

          What they should sort out is properly document the new Firefox sync protocol and maybe put out a reference local server. At the moment using a local server stuck on the old sync protocol is unreliable.

  3. DougS Silver badge

    How can they possibly spend a quarter billion a year?

    The problem is that because they got such a big windfall from Google (now Yahoo) they had to come up with ways to spend all that. So they started stupid projects like FirefoxOS, waste resources maintaining ports for obsolete OSes like XP and Win2003, spend some of that money lobbying and so forth.

    If they focus their goals better their budget will shrink and they'll be fine with the shrinking revenue. And maybe that focus would mean Firefox will improve and its share wouldn't keep declining - though I suspect that's an inevitable consequence of more and more web browsing happening on mobile devices. Firefox has no chance in mobile, because people will use the browsers their iOS and Android devices ship with. The only reason people went to Firefox was because IE was such a pig (and Linux users had no real choice) but the mobile browsers people use today are not really missing anything that Firefox can provide.

    1. MJI Silver badge

      Re: How can they possibly spend a quarter billion a year?

      There are still a LOT of XP machines out there wanting internet access, all round the world.

      So there is still a market for it XP browsers.

      1. twilkins

        Re: How can they possibly spend a quarter billion a year?

        Don't worry, I'm sure Microsoft will provide ;-)

      2. DougS Silver badge

        Re: How can they possibly spend a quarter billion a year?

        All those XP machines no longer receive OS updates. Why do they need Firefox updates? They can keep using the version they have. No point in fixing browser security holes when the OS is riddled with them.

        But most of all, because it supports the idea that people should keep using an insecure and unsupported OS.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: How can they possibly spend a quarter billion a year?

      Firefox OS for TVs has been quite well received and it manages to be better than Android.

      I just don't get on with the Android browser, Firefox is more usable.

  4. Jack of Shadows Silver badge
    Happy

    Very Early Adopter...

    ... of pretty much every browser that comes down the chute. Originally due to living the first stirrings of the WWW, then beta-testing, now I just like to try something different. So, with the exception of Microsoft's Edge, I agree with ya'll about the what and likely the why things have happened this way. What I think the Mozilla team was attempting to do by adapting FireFox into the next Chrome is capturing more of the Google wealth that they saw going into Google's coffers.

    For now, I'm using Palemoon (x64) since the very first x64 edition. That's the singular reason I dropped the hammer. Memory is most definitely not a problem here. Leaning into Vivaldi, gradually seeing what tweaks do what. [Page Actions, right of center on bottom is seriously useful in some contexts!] Then again, this is the Opera team back on form. I loved them in their heydey. I love them again. PlugIns is where it'll make or break for most denizens of the WWW. Me, I like clean and fast.

  5. wolfetone Silver badge

    Problem with Mozilla is that they have diversified away from concentrating on the browser, which is just an idiotic decision. The problem isn't down to the developers, it's down to the management - or the distinct lack of management. They need management will balls big enough to shift the focus of the company away from the Firefox OS crap and on to a nimble version of Firefox. Basically do what Microsoft did with WinMin.

    Strip it all back to the basics, improve it's speed and how much power it uses. It absolutely drains the battery on a laptop. It doesn't matter what developer gets upset. Firefox is for the community, it isn't a vanity project for the developer.

    Make it happen.

  6. Smooth Newt

    It costs a third of a billion dollars a year...

    ...to maintain a web browser? That's enough to pay for 3,000 developers. What do the other 2,900 do?

    1. paulej72

      Re: It costs a third of a billion dollars a year...

      No it's enough for one CEO and two or three developers. No wonder nothing get fixed.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Losing browser-market share...

    So who's gaining?

    How many non-techy folks PCs have ended up with Chrome as their default browser because Google pay lots of semi-reputable outfits (PC AV companies etc) to "optionally" install Chrome ?

    There's a "...ware" name for that game (as well as calling it a "drive-by install") but I forget. Reminders welcome.

    I'm not a Firefox fan particularly any more, for the obvious reasons, but I'm even less of a Google fan.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Losing browser-market share...

      So who's gaining?

      Chrome mainly, though also Safari with the general shift towards mobile (from which Chrome also benefits). Weird because I find Firefox the best mobile because of the extensions.

      People tend to stick with the default: IE on Windows, Safari on Mac, etc. People moved to Firefox and then to Chrome on Windows because Microsoft fucked up so badly.

  8. Florida1920 Silver badge
    Headmaster

    DuckDuckGo

    & Chrome. My laptop battery could expire before FF loads, and I'm running only uBlock Origin, NoScript, FlashBlock and Self-Destructing cookies. The Start page is all text links. Chrome is much faster loading and crashes less often.

    Furthermore, now that I'm full of turkey.... why anyone would have anything to do with a company named Yahoo! has always mystified me.

    1. Cardinal

      Re: DuckDuckGo

      Whereas DuckDuckGo is an eminently sensible name of course? It's just bloody quackers if you ask me.

      Personally I use PaleMoon for browsing, with Startpage for searching.

      I gave up on Firefox when they decided to put the page back/forward buttons IMMOVABLY over on the left of the page. Why would they do that? - Who knows - it seemed completely pointless, and designed only to annoy, but it chased me away anyway..

      Just noticed the other day (on the page in small print) that Startpage also offer a (paid) one-click PGP email encryption service as well, though they don't seem to make much of a thing about it.

  9. cortland

    Below where?

    " As the graph below shows, Firefox's share across desktop, tablet and mobile has sunk"

    Graph? What graph? Firefox doesn't show one!

  10. chivo243 Silver badge

    Early user

    I used FF back when it was in single digit releases. FF worked well until an update came along, breaking a plug-in here or an extension there. I only use FF now when a webpage doesn't work in Safari or Chrome. One vendor support tech recommended FF for their webgui.

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