Is Firefox Missing The Point In Its Response To Google Chrome?

from the not-so-fast dept

Seth Godin thinks Firefox is missing the point by launching new features in response to Google Chrome. He says the problem now is that “when your friends switch to Firefox, your life doesn’t get better.” Firefox needs to provide people with an incentive to spread it, so that the more people use it, the better it gets for users (think of a social networking site — you have a better experience if more of your friends join). He suggests new communication and collaboration features that only work if you have Firefox.

I think he’s missing the point.

He ignores the Firefox community. The life of a Firefox user does improve as the user base grows. A more vibrant community means better add-ons, bug fixes, security patches, phishing reports, translations/dictionaries, etc. — all members benefit. Mozilla is already providing the sort of incentive he describes. Sure, there may be ways to improve, but I don’t think they’re missing the point.

Plus, “only for Firefox users” isn’t the Mozilla approach. Mozilla wants to improve the web for everyone — not just Firefox users. Mozilla thinks your browser should be like your phone or your car; it shouldn’t matter if your friends or co-workers are using the same product. You don’t need to consider which phone carrier your friend uses before making a call, or which car your co-worker has before providing directions; you shouldn’t have to think about what browser someone uses before communicating with them online. People don’t need special browser-specific features in order to communicate browser-to-browser, that’s what web services (or add-ons) are for. Those kinds of features would make life on the web more difficult for everyone if they were Firefox specific, and if they weren’t, Google could just implement them in Chrome.

The community is one thing Firefox has that Chrome can’t copy overnight.

If you read some responses to Chrome from people at Mozilla, it doesn’t seem like they’re missing the point. Competition in the browser market is validation of Mozilla’s mission for Firefox, and Mozilla plans to compete by continuing to innovate and to involve the community. Seth Godin makes a great observation about giving people an incentive to spread your product — “people will recommend something if adoption improves their lives” — but he doesn’t mention the ways in which Mozilla has already taken that to heart. How do you think Firefox became popular in the first place?

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Companies: google, mozilla

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Comments on “Is Firefox Missing The Point In Its Response To Google Chrome?”

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51 Comments
ehrichweiss says:

Re: How do you think Firefox became popular in the first place?

I thought it was because of the slogan that they used when they first started:

It’s spelled N E T S C A P E but it’s pronounced Mozilla!!

Yes, this was long before Mozilla was a separate product from Netscape and long before Firefox but it got my attention. Plus it worked better than Mosaic.

Jon says:

Re: Re: Yes, you too can help run this oneliner into the ground!

Several comments in this thread are references to recent political rhetoric. Namely, both McCain and Obama are quoted as saying “if you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig.”

Also, a host of republicans, presumably starting with Palin, have begun using the idiom “we cannot blink!” in various contexts. Mostly pro-war contexts.

Twinrova says:

Wow, Chrome's got some people's panties bunched.

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard how Firefox is trying to play “catch up” to the features in Chrome/IE. What people don’t realize is Firefox is ahead of the curve by so much, the other two will need to play catch up.

(Notice the lack of Safari here, folks)

Firefox did what few other browsers did: Opened itself up to become a useful tool, not a proprietary one. So many developers flocked to this opportunity that Firefox is beginning to take some of the browser market away from Microsoft (who, even with IE8, is still behind the curve).

Version 3.1 is out because of the tools, not because of the features. As the tools become more powerful, so does the browser to support them.

Microsoft relies on ActiveX, which opens so many security holes, it’s not a very good tool to even have installed on your computer, let alone use in the real world. It’s nice to see that Google is trying to enter the market because this should be a good fight (with Firefox) in which the users will win.

I’ve not yet tried Chrome because I’m not a fan of beta apps, but after reading the usefulness of it, a user can not go wrong with having both, giving them one more reason to uninstall the largest security threat out there: IE.

“Competition” in this sense will only improve both browsers but there’s one advantage Firefox has that Chrome doesn’t: It’s not ad supported and this will make a difference in the long wrong.

Bryan says:

Chrome Bashing

Lets not sell Chrome short. Chrome adds tab independence that a tab can crash with out bring down the rest and Chrome does do a great job with JavaScript.

Being open source I expect we will see a lot of advances really quickly. Chrome is still an infant, In a couple of years, Chrome will probably be a really, really solid browser.

Bryan

TriZz says:

Re: Chrome Bashing

This was the best comment I’ve read. Thank you. I agree, I think Chrome isn’t there yet…but it definitely has potential! I really would like to see integration of add-on/plug-ins/extensions. I tried out Chrome and was shocked at how ad-based the Internet has become. Went back to Firefox immediately.

Plus, I’m a Mac user…so, I’ll wait for a native version.

johnfordummies (profile) says:

I've switched

I was using Firefox since 0.0.63, way back when it was called Firebird. I’m responsible for countless others switching from IE to FF. I was using FF3 since the first beta. But I haven’t been happy with FF for a long time now. It is slow, and since FF 3, it crashes constantly on my Linux box (Don’t tell me it’s Flash, because other browsers aren’t crashing). I’ve been experimenting with Opera and Flock for awhile now, and since Chrome has come out, it’s the only browser I use (just got Chromium running in Linux). I would love for Firefox to adapt some of the better features of Chrome — namely Multi-Process!!! and the Javascript engine.

@Twinrova — You do know that Google is the single biggest contributor to the Mozilla Foundation, to the tune of ~$60 Million a year, don’t you? It may not be “ad-supported” directly, but at the moment, it does rely on Google’s ad money to keep it going.

Shane C says:

FireFox saturation amongst non-technical people

I might (but I doubt it) be in an odd situation, but from my viewpoint I know NO ONE that relies on IE as their browser. Firefox has taken over as the default browser for not just technical people, but extremely non-technical people as well. I have several friends that have to “read the instructions to turn on their computer,” and wonder why “the computer doesn’t work when the power’s out.” Nevertheless, even they know to use FireFox. This point has been drilled home to them by ALL of their friends, even the other non-techies.

My point is simple. Firefox has the recognizable name (and I bet saturation beyond what all the fancy reports say). Chrome, Opera, and a host of other browsers out there don’t. Period. In order for Chrome to become anything else but a techie’s play toy, Mozilla would have to screw something up majorly, and keep screwing it up to the point where no one would want to use it.

Non-techies don’t want to learn something new. They don’t care if Chrome is 10x or 100x faster when they are typing out an email. They would rather use something that is slower if they already know how to use it.

winobob says:

Been using FF for a couple years, am in love with it, except for the fact that it takes forever to start and sucks my PC dry of RAM. Add-ons = the best idea EVER! Tried Chrome, fell in love again (especially with Privoxy!). Can’t wait to see how it comes along.

So – FF and Chrome happily co-exist on my machines, and IE…. Well, when a site won’t work with anything else, sure. Other than that – NEVER!

d0n0vAn says:

I am a long time FF user. I tried, liked, and use Chrome. It isn’t perfect but neither was FF when it was released. I use gmail, google docs, calendar etc because it’s online and I can access my stuff from home, work, or cafe. It appears to work better with Vista than IE, but maybe I shouldn’t be surprised about that. FF developers should use Chrome — they may see what I like about the browser.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Mozilla Firefox

“Google knows that SOME people just want a browser to browse with, not loaded down with extensions and plug-ins.”

Thats the beauty of having different browsers on the market. I like Chromes slim profile, but others may prefer the bulkier more feature rich experience of Firefox or even Explorer. Vive la differance!

Craig says:

Re: Re: Mozilla Firefox

“Google knows that SOME people just want a browser to browse with…”

Well said. My dear old retired Dad is famous for “where’s my fucking email?” comments and since I set up Chrome for him and put shortcuts on his desktop to his favourite sites, he’s been the happiest of campers. Now Gmail has that big-assed icon on his desktop and no longer will he struggle to see ‘Gmail’ in a horizontal text navigation.

Chrome for the ol’ man ++

Anonymous Coward #42 says:

Different people have different needs, wants, desires, etc. For me, Firefox perfectly meets my needs and wants for just about everything. The core features are very nice, and the available themes and addons are the icing on the cake. This browser is far more innovative that Internet Explorer has ever been, as far as I can tell. Opera isn’t half bad either, but it just doesn’t have the community around it that Firefox does. Safari is a joke, and IE7 is very sluggish compared to FF3 in Vista on my older work PC.

I honestly don’t have much of an opinion on Chrome yet. I had the beta installed for all of two minutes, and I did not like what I saw. It’s far too minimalistic for me. I like a streamlined interface as much as the next guy, but I also want everything I need or want just a click or two away. Also, the idea of separating processes into tabs is a good idea, but from what I’ve heard it causes huge memory leaks in its current implementation. And yes, I know it’s beta, so we’ll see what happens as time goes on. But the thing is, since the Chrome and IE8 betas both have this feature, I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before FF does too, which means that there’s no reason to switch. And IMO, there’s already no reason to switch, because FF crashes far less than it used to (for me anyway), and has plenty of good crash recovery available when it does.

Chrome’s approach may work fine for some, but it’s useless to me, because in my perspective it cripples itself by being so minimalistic. And yes, I know it touts itself as a cloud app, not a browser, but in this age of convergence, it should be able to do both, since cloud computing and web browsing are becoming more or less the same thing. If it can browse the web in any form, it’s a browser, and people are going to see it as that and compare it to other browsers, no matter what you call it.

Dirk Belligerent (profile) says:

FTA: “He suggests new communication and collaboration features that only work if you have Firefox.

When M$ “embraced and extended” the HTML standards with proprietary folderol that only worked in IE, they were rightfully called out for their behavior. Now we have people seriously suggesting that what Firefox needs to do is add proprietary folderol?!?!? WTF is that about?!?

Elbowman says:

Firefox does improve the experience

The major improvement Firefox has provided me is a dramatic reduction in spyware on my system.

I used to have to run AdAware and Spyware Blaster weekly to scrub off the garbage Internet Explorer sucked in.

After using Firefox exclusively anti-spyware software is virtually unnecessary.

That’s a MAJOR improvement!

TestyTester says:

TestyTestertestingtestables

I presently have pretty much every commonly used browser installed on my work PC (I do a lot of compatibility testing on the web sites I administer).

I have all of my favs/bookmarks configured pretty much equivalently in all browsers (IE6/7/8, FF2.xx/3, Safari for Win 3.1, Opera 8.x/9.x/9.5, Chrome). So I could easily go about my day in any of those browsers. But I always go back to ff, not because I am used to it, or it is the most comfortable. But just because it is the most intuitive and straight forward, I use so many browsers I am not really “used” to any one in particular.

Also funny how I have the lowest opinion of Safari out of the bunch, I also tend to have the most testing issues come out of safari compatibility…

I really really love Opera but it is just not as intuitive as ff, Opera has some great unique features but I find that it is oddly arranged and difficult to get tweaked out just how I want it.

So I stick with ff because it seems like it has the most logical and useful layout both on screen and feature wise.

Overall I was pretty underwhelmed with Chrome it struck me as a naked and frightened version of Opera without some of the best Opera features…

anon says:

ill take enhanced security over useless gimmicks like mouse gestures any day. (thats what they invented keyboard shortcuts and 5 button mice for) plus, it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy knowing that someone can do something for free even better than microsoft can do making me pay for it. i dont understand why all end users dont support open sources. who doesnt like free stuff? who doesnt like constant innovation? do you honestly think IE7 would have all those stupid features you like so much if firefox wasnt there in the first place?

Marcus says:

Firefox vs. Chrome

I tried Chrome excitedly for a week. My excitement waned with each day. Crash Crash Crash Crash Crash. I thought this new technology was supposed to eliminate crashes! – I’m back to Firefox again, and happy.

Add to that the unsettling feeling of knowing the Chrome EULA allows them to basically own anything you push out through the browser, including webmail, for their own purposes, and Chrome starts feeling a little like a Big-Brother version of IE6.

No, thanks, really, but no.

Sean M. says:

What Firefox needs.

I love Firefox. I’ve used it for a while now. I love the add-ons and the feel of the browser. However, I’ve had stability problems since I upgraded to Firefox 3. I recognize that this probably stems from an add-on misbehaving, but I’m not about to go manually turning everything off to track down the problem.

If there is one thing Firefox should learn from Google Chrome is that separate tabs should run in separate processes. I’ve switched to Chrome because I’m fed up with one misbehaving add-on crashing all of my open tabs and occasionally loosing them completely after Firefox restarts. If Firefox can implement this much needed level of stability and security, then I’ll gladly come back to them. I miss those add-ons.

Marketing Man says:

Seth's Real Point

I’ve been a long-time reader of Seth Godin’s stuff and you have to learn to read his comments through his lens as a “conversational marketer”. He doesn’t look at anything from a technical standpoint. Everything he writes helps to promote his concept that the best marketing enables happy users/customers to promote your product/service for you.

I highly doubt that Godin was actually suggesting that FFX set up a walled garden, his real point is that FFX adoption will increase if there is some incentive for users to get their friends to use FFX (beyond the “I lurve FFX” argument).

Jeremy Chone (user link) says:

Agree, community is not only about social networking

Yes, I agree. Social Networking is over hyped these days, and some thinks that it is the only way to build a community. Obviously it is not true, Mozilla Firefox is the proof of that.

I actually think that Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox are genuinely thriving for the same goal which is a better and safer Open Web.

Dr. Klahn says:

I’m a fan of Firefox, but much less so after version 3. V3 stalled my entire machine when it couldn’t get to a site. Had to go back to V2 and re-enter bookmarks manually, because V3 stored bookmarks radically differently and trashed the old files. Thanks a lot, guys.

Everybody needs competition to keep them on their toes, force them to provide a better product, make them listen to their customers, and Mozilla is no exception.

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