There has been more talk about web browsers in the last few weeks than any time I can remember in the past. Google Chrome came out of the Beta phase, Opera unveiled the first Alpha release of version 10, Internet Explorer 8 is suspected to have a 3rd Beta coming in the next month, and Firefox 3.1 Beta 2 was just unveiled. This is becoming a hugely competitive market, and it’s made me wonder whether Mozilla will be able to hold their ground.
Taking a look at Firefox 3.1 I’ve noticed that some great features have been added to the browser, but will it be enough to retain and attract new users? A lot of my friends have already jumped ship to Google Chrome because it has just the right features without overdoing it. Once Chrome supports extensions like Firefox does, which is supposed to be soon, I’m sure Mozilla will be in for a rude awakening as they lose more of their users.
Is Mozilla at risk more than others? I believe so. Firefox users show that they’ve been willing to switch browsers once in order to find something that better fits their needs. For that reason I feel that initially Google Chrome’s marketshare will be eating away at Firefox’s, but it could be another story if Google follows through on their plan to have their browser ship on some new computers like they already do for some of their other software. Doing that would surely lay down the gauntlet for the competition… especially for those browsers who have been relying heavily on word-of-mouth.
Is Firefox 3.1 going to be enough to keep you a faithful Mozilla user? Remember the Ctrl+Tab switcher that Mozilla had in earlier releases? After receiving some negative feedback Mozilla decided to yank that feature out of the browser, and I think that might be the right call. I thought it was kinda nice to have, but I heard more complaints than praises about it. That’s a good sign that they are definitely listening to their users, but what about the other features they are including:
- Private browsing mode
- Enhanced session recovery – after the browser crashes you can select which tabs you want to restore
- Some support for operating system sounds
- Selective results in the address bar using symbols [read more]
- Tab detaching
- Improved performance
- Better support for the Acid 3 test
I feel that Mozilla is trying to keep up with some of the other browsers as well now. For example, the private browsing mode was originally said to be pushed back again, but once Google Chrome came out Mozilla seemed to think it was a higher priority. They also added a tab detaching feature similar to that of Chrome, and it’s one thing I truly wish I could disable. I find myself detaching tabs by accident all of the time, and it’s a pain since they will then open in a new window when that happens.
Personally I’ve been a huge fan of Firefox since before version 1.0, but I’m happy to see all of the competition they are getting. Firefox has been pushing Internet Explorer to rethink their browser for years now, and Microsoft now pays more attention to how they can make their browser better for their users. I think Google Chrome, Safari, and Opera are doing the same thing as Firefox by making it more important than ever to come out with useful and innovative features.
So where do you think the browser market is headed? Are we looking at one browser that will take the crown, or will we never see one dominate like Internet Explorer once did?