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Mozilla explores radically different browser as Firefox leaks share

Gregg Keizer | April 14, 2016
It's unclear whether a successor to, or replacement for, Firefox would use Mozilla's Gecko browser engine or switch to Chromium, Chrome's foundation.

In another post, also on Medium, Mozilla CTO David Bryant, while speaking directly about embedding browser components within apps, trumpeted not Electron -- which targets that aspect of development -- but Gecko, Servo and other in-house technologies.

Bryant hinted that Gecko would survive as Firefox's heart when he pointed to yet another project, labeled Positron, that aims to integrate Electron's APIs (application programming interfaces) with Gecko.

It may be impossible to accurately parse Mozilla's plans for a future Firefox; the Tofino team will be isolated from the rest of Mozilla, a move Mayo cast as one to eliminate distractions, both for the Tofino group as well as the larger Mozilla. That means there's a tight lid on the former's work. But it's not that difficult to come up with reasons for all the activity.

Firefox, which accounts for the vast bulk of Mozilla's revenue, has been in trouble for years, gradually losing share to rivals, particularly Chrome. Since its peak six years ago, Firefox has shed more than half of its user share as measured by metrics vendor Net Applications.

Last month, Firefox dropped to a share of 10.5%, the lowest since May 2006, when it was busy battling Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) amid restarting the moribund browser wars.

Mayo tacitly acknowledged Firefox's troubles when he pointed out that the world is quite different than when version 1.0 appeared. "We're long overdue for some fresh approaches," Mayo said. "[And] it's worth noting that we have a ton of work underway on our flagship product, Firefox, that's all about evolving the browser experience."

Mozilla declined to answer questions about Tofino and the browser engine it may end up using. "We don’t announce planned roadmaps for many of our experiments, including this one, because it is just starting," Jascha Kaykas-Wolff, the company's chief marketing officer, said in a emailed statement. "This is how we work and it is open to all. We will share what we learn as we go, as experiments turn into projects and even products."


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