Add-on incompatibility could be a reason behind Firefox’s decline

Firefox add-on incompatibility

Google’s marketing push for its Chrome Web browser seems to be paying back rich dividends. Microsoft may have also rolled up its sleeves, but that didn’t help much to prevent Internet Explorer dip to almost 40 percent in November 2011 from the 95.5 percent market share it had back in June 2004.

The new-kid-on-the-block Google Chrome (released in September 2008) has rapidly risen to capture 25 percent of the market and will any day now overtake Firefox which is only a few decimal points higher in the Web browser market share, according to StatCounter figures.

My experience suggests that the Chrome Web browsing experience is much smoother and faster than on Firefox (or maybe my Firefox is just bloated with additional tweaks), but I have diligently stuck with Mozilla’s software because I think I know the browser inside out (as a user) and the tons of add-ons available to satisfy my quirks.

Not oblivious of the competition Mozilla has moved to a rapid release development cycle and within a span of four and a half months we have seen Firefox moving through four versions (5.0 to 8.0). And here lies the problem.

Every time I initiate the upgrade process, I am irked to find a list of much-loved rendered incompatible. I understand the responsibility to make the add-ons compatible with newer versions of the browser rests with the individual developers but Mozilla should find a way to make it easier for users to continue using the ‘incompatible’ add-ons. But the rate at which Mozilla is rolling out Firefox updates, it has become hard for developers to keep pace.

Such frequent upgrades take a toll on the add-on developers’ time and not all may have resources to spare to fix the beautiful tools that they had built when they had some time to spare.

There are ways to get around the add-on incompatibility issue and not all users will go under the hood to fix things themselves.

I suspect add-on incompatibility may deter many users from upgrading to newer versions or worse, abandon the browser for another.

StatCounter’s browser share graph shows a constant dip in Firefox’s market share since June 2011. It was in June when Firefox 5.0 came out, the first edition under Mozilla’s rapid release development cycle.

So are incompatible add-ons the reason behind the decline in Firefox’s market share? It may not be THE reason, but I believe it surely is one of the very important ones.

If Mozilla wants to ward off the rise of Google Chrome and a possible resurrection of Internet Explorer, it desperately needs to find a fix in Firefox 9.0. I hope they do. I still have not come to terms with the possibility of shifting to another Web browser and will be glad if Mozilla is able to help me evade any such eventuality.