Having stumbled and stood up, but changes in the Internet world may force a once-in-a-time technology pioneer like Firefox to say goodbye forever.
Last week, Mozilla, the maker of the Firefox browser, announced it was laying off a quarter of its workforce, or 250 people. This is waiting for the second layoff of this year. Mozilla also said goodbye in January to 70 employees.
A total of 2 purges eliminated one third of the company’s employees.
Notably, the staffing cut is a common developer tool. According to Medium , if you consider Firefox users to be programmers on a substantial basis, this seems like a “self-destruct” step that will disappoint even the company’s most loyal user base.
Revived from ashes
Years after Mozilla released its most famous product – the Firefox browser – the company struggled to find a way to survive in Silicon Valley.
But, Mozilla is not merely a small name that lives in the midst of big billionaires like Microsoft, Apple and Google. Mozilla’s history is older than most of the public know it, with many contributions in developing web standards.
Mozilla was created from the ashes of one of the software world’s most spectacular failures. This crisis of the company therefore forced the technology world to pay attention.
Netscape Navigator, the web browser company that hit the crowd in the late 1990s, went from king of the Internet to a loser in just a few months. This is because Microsoft forces all computers using its operating system to “live” with Internet Explorer.
However, observers believe that in the future, independent browser companies will have land for development.
Netscape then founded a non-profit Mozilla organization (later renamed the Mozilla Foundation) to develop the company’s suite of browser applications, mail integration, and chat directories. This software initiative slowly collapsed when facing them as competitors with higher financial potential and accessibility.
Over the years that followed, the Mozilla Foundation transformed itself into another kind of organization, dedicated to promoting open web standards and knowledge of the web.
Next, a team of Mozilla developers relaunched the browser project, splitting Firefox into a separate company that is still owned by the Mozilla Foundation to this day.
This is the right move, because if Firefox were still under the control of AOL – the company that bought Netscape – the browser would not exist today. Even AOL gave up the browser they created with Netscape to switch to Internet Explorer, just before the Microsoft child became the subject of photo creation for netizens.
In fact, Firefox is Mozilla’s most famous creation. Although users have different names that are easy to replace today, Firefox in the early days was a pioneer in ad blocking, data security and built-in developer support tools.
But not only that, but Mozilla also left many other legacies such as programming language Rust, HTML5, Asm.js and the Mozilla developer network (MDN).
If the above programming languages make the Internet world smoother for programmers, MDN is a huge source of high-quality documentation for developers. MDN is like modern web development Wikipedia, a much better version than W3Schools.
“The fox” is dying
Mozilla Firefox is not dead yet, but it is dying. The employee dismissal statement because Covid-19 of CEO Mitchell Baker was unable to convince the audience.
A fact not stated by Mozilla but the tech world knows, is that the browser operates on a very precarious revenue model.
Much of the company’s revenue relies on companies paying them to place the default search engine on the Firefox browser.
The revenue includes deals with China’s Baidu, Russia’s Yandex and the most (90%) is from Google in the US as well as most of the rest of the world market. Another part of revenue comes from commissions, subscription fees, and advertising, but only a very small amount of Mozilla’s total revenue.
Google has renewed the deal several times, with an annual payment of around $ 400 million , even as Firefox’s market penetration has plummeted compared to its competition.
Over the years, Google’s renewal has gradually become slower and less enthusiastic. Perhaps this search engine just doesn’t want the public to see them as a giant that monopolizes everything, crushing every competitor in the market. This is also the reason that Microsoft invested in Apple.
But no matter what Google’s intentions are, the fact that Mozilla relies almost exclusively on funding from a tech superpower, which also has its own browser, is a serious strategic mistake.
Over the years, Mozilla has also tried to develop commercial products such as Firefox OS, a new bookmarking service. Most of them fail.
Now, they continue to set “new but old” goals: growing browser revenue, through a differentiated user experience. This is another way of repackaging an existing product, then selling it through new marketing.
In addition, to have more income on the Internet world but still fit with his focus on community development, CEO Baker said Mozilla will focus on products such as Pocket content hosting feature, service Premium VPN, VR Hub chat room, and other privacy and security tools.
But facing Mozilla today are names like Chrome, Safari, Edge. All are free with useful features.
The situation is even tougher for Mozilla, as the company uses its own web engine instead of Google-powered Chromium. As a result, the costs of maintaining and developing new technologies are even greater, in the context of a narrower market share.
From here, the strategy “old wine but not sure new” seems to have marked the decline of Mozilla in general and Firefox in particular.