Mozilla Firefox hemorrhaged nearly 46 million users in the last three years, the company’s own Public Data Report shows a steady and troubling decline in popularity for a browser that serves as one of the last serious competitors to Apple’s Safari and Google’s Chrome.
Colloquially known as Firefox, Mozilla’s browser exploded onto the scene in 2002 with the explicit intention of disrupting the monopoly Safari and Chrome had long enjoyed and providing web users with a greater diversity of options.
But as a Reddit thread by u/nixcraft recently pointed out, Firefox’s staying power appears to be in jeopardy: While Firefox’s desktop client had about 244 million reported active monthly users in 2018, that number has sagged to just under 50 million in the intervening years. The drop-off suggests that users are migrating in droves to Chromium-based browsers like Google Chrome, which happens to come conveniently pre-downloaded on Android, and Microsoft Edge, which serves as the default web browser for Windows.
In general, websites do tend to optimise for Chrome these days so that their pages will load faster, and Google’s search engine currently promotes the browser to its billions-strong daily user base, providing a substantial boost.
Firefox has made adjustments to stay competitive in recent years, including tweaks to its default tracking protection settings meant to safeguard users’ privacy. But some have argued that the fixes don’t go far enough and that a lack of substantial performance updates — coupled with a confusing series of UI changes for Firefox 89 — have caused the brand to lose its competitive edge in recent years.
Even with the worrisome loss, Firefox’s active monthly users sat at an average of 198 million at the end of Q2 in 2021, which is nothing to sneeze at. As the browser slips in popularity, it’s likely not going away anytime soon — which means there’s still time for you to switch to a less mainstream alternative if you want to keep your range of browser options diverse in the years ahead.