Firefox Uncertainty

August 15th, 2020

This week Mozilla Corporation the company that makes Firefox announced they laid off 25% of their staff. The majority of the engineers were responsible for their developer tools, MDN, servo. Some of you may know I’ve been a fan of Firefox back when it was called Phoenix and I have stuck with it through the bad times, but this is the first time I’m seriously worried about its future. I’ve been worried about its declining market share for a while, but I believe with strong tech/developer advocacy and their Quantum release that they could stabilize and grow their market share once again.

So why am I worried? Those teams were working on some of the best features for developers and geeks. MDN is the best guide for developers on how something works in JS, CSS and HTML. It has a handy browser compatibility table and even proposed features. This should survive since there are a lot of community and other corporation contributions.

Servo was a next generation rendering engine written in Rust. The idea being to create something that supported high parallelization that could be accelerated via the GPU. Portions of that have made it into the Quantum series of releases of Firefox, but this research project is effectively dead now. It’s going to be increasingly difficult for Firefox to keep up with Safari and Chrome if they aren’t pushing the envelope.

And finally the thing that scares me the most is the lack of a team dedicated to working on the DevTools. In some ways they are ahead of Chrome and others they are behind, but the greatest thing is that both teams pushed each other to add new and improved tools so that developers can do their jobs. While the tools are good enough for now, what about a year from now? If I don’t use Firefox as my daily driver then how can I recommend it to others?

I now need to do my due diligence and investigate other browsers and extensions to see if I can replicate the best features of Firefox in something else. Personally I want to avoid Chrome or a Chromium browser because we’ve given way too much power to Google over the years. They can dictate way too much already.