back to article Wait, hold on, everyone – Mozilla thinks Apple, Google, Microsoft should play fair

Mozilla has decided to be more vocal about the ways in which Apple, Google, and Microsoft set technical requirements that have hindered development of its Firefox web browser, and therefore harmed competition. Many of the competitive barriers have been discussed for years – in technical circles, and behind closed doors with …

  1. ldo

    What “market share”?

    A “market” is where people exchange goods/services of value, as well as money. Simply downloading some software and using it for free does not constitute a “market”.

    1. Filippo Silver badge

      Re: What “market share”?

      The ability to place ads in front of my eyes is a service of value. My browsing habits are also a good of value.

      1. ldo

        Re: What “market share”?

        How much do you get for those ads, and for selling your browsing habits?

        1. Dinanziame Silver badge

          Re: What “market share”?

          The internet

        2. Filippo Silver badge

          Re: What “market share”?

          I get a web browser, a piece of software that has value.

          I have a feeling I'm missing your point. I'm saying that there is exchange of value, so the usage of the "market share" term is appropriate. That was all I wanted to point out.

          Are we talking about how much value now, and/or whether the exchange is fair? That's a far more complicated argument.

          1. Robin

            Re: What “market share”?

            I don't think we should be venturing as far as more complicated arguments just yet.

          2. ldo

            Re: What “market share”?

            If you don’t actually have a clue as to what “value” is being exchanged and with whom, then you cannot be (at least willingly/knowingly) participating in any “market”, can you?

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: What “market share”?

      Markets include goods and services offered at zero cost. If there are multiple suppliers, and actors willing to make a choice between them, you have a market. Their decisions are simply guided by factors other than up-front cost.

      1. ldo

        Re: zero cost

        Without trade (getting value in return for value), there is no market.

        1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

          Re: zero cost

          Your assumption is that up-front pricing is the only definition of value in a market. It's a generally good approximation of value, but value exchange can also be realised through indirect means.

          1. ldo

            Re: zero cost

            So how much did you pay in those “indirect means” to use your browser, and how much did you receive in return?

            1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

              Re: zero cost

              You're asking me to quantify Mozilla's market strategy. I'm merely explaining that markets can exist without the need for a sticker price on the goods and services offered within that market. The vendors realise value by indirect means, while the consumers realise value by use of the goods and services offered. What those indirect means might be are not for me to explain, because I'm not interested in them and because they are unlikely to have any direct connection to my use of the browser. That's why they're "indirect".

              1. ldo

                Re: You're asking me to quantify Mozilla's market strategy.

                I’m asking you to quantify your market strategy. What part do you play in this “market”? Are you a trader? Or are you perhaps the product being bought and sold?

                1. doublelayer Silver badge

                  Re: You're asking me to quantify Mozilla's market strategy.

                  I am a trader. I choose which browser to run, paying indirectly by benefiting the organization that makes it. If I use Firefox, I benefit Mozilla by being part of their user base which they monetize in a few different ways. If I use Chrome, I'm benefiting Google by letting them control web standards. If I use Safari, I'm benefiting Apple by having bought one of their products because Safari doesn't run on anything else.

                  The browser makers are also traders. They provide me a service of value and compete with other browsers to offer useful features. Google provided automatic builtin translation with Google Translate. Firefox provides automatic builtin translation in fewer languages but it runs on my device and doesn't require me to send any data to Google. They are competing.

                2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

                  Re: You're asking me to quantify Mozilla's market strategy.

                  I'm starting to think you don't actually understand the words you're using.

            2. Filippo Silver badge

              Re: zero cost

              This is really confusing. You seem to be claiming that there is no market unless there is money? This is a very weird claim. There are barter systems, there are exchanges of goods and services, there's all kind of immaterial values (time, attention, data, etc.) that get monetized at a later time by third parties. None of that is a "market" by your definition?

              I'm not an economist, but I always thought that in order to get a market, all you need is trading and competition. Everything else, including the use of quantifiable value, determines how the market works, but not whether it exists.

            3. big_D Silver badge

              Re: zero cost

              You seem to be confusing value with money. They aren't the same thing.

        2. Adair Silver badge

          Re: zero cost

          Yeah, me leaving my old sofa, TV, and random object d'art outside my front door for anyone to take away does not constitute a 'market', even if Joe, over the road, and Mary, next door, are doing the same.

          Likewise, me releasing my treasured app for random public download, in exchange for nothing, does not constitute a 'market' in any sensible definition of the term. Nor, does software released by corporate entities in exchange for nothing alter the nonsense of calling such access a 'market'.

          1. doublelayer Silver badge

            Re: zero cost

            Yes, it does make a market. A really small one, and one that won't last, but it is one. You provide value: the stuff you don't like but someone else does. They provide value: they take the stuff you don't want so you don't have to do the work of disposing of it. They would choose between the available discarded items and select which ones they want to take. In this case, it's a market you and everyone else doesn't care about, but that doesn't stop it being one. I'm not sure what the point is of arguing this academic point. If we had said "usage share" instead of "market share", would you have been happier?

            1. Adair Silver badge

              Re: zero cost

              Because a 'market' implies a forum for trade, i.e. a benefit passing between people, a benefit that can then be traded on in other contacts of kind/money.

              Where something is simply 'given away' that isn't happening, the item/app/... could just as easily be sitting in a warehouse, or rotting. There is no 'market', because, by definition, there is no tradeable value being exchanged. If there were I could go next door and get a better deal, or haggle over the price, but as the price is zero none of that applies - there is no market.

              1. doublelayer Silver badge

                Re: zero cost

                It has all of those things.

                "a 'market' implies":

                "a forum for trade,": The set of browsers and the set of browser users, and the users pick their browsers.

                "a benefit passing between people,": Yes, I get a browser, Mozilla gets another user which contributes to their licensing fees from Google and someone they can advertise Mozilla VPN and other commercial products to, even if I have ignored them when they do.

                "a benefit that can then be traded on in other contacts of kind/money.": They can trade the money they got from Google because their user count was X for other things, and I can benefit from my having a browser. I am not required to be able to trade my browser for it to be a market. If, for example, you buy a haircut, you cannot trade it to someone else but you have still received value.

                "I could go next door and get a better deal": Yes. While you aren't paying in any case, you can get one that has more control over your data, or you could stick with the Google version that prevents you from doing so. Better deals are available. My opinion on the best one may differ from yours.

                But whether you understand or agree with these distinctions or not, it's still a mostly irrelevant point. Whether it's a market or not, it's still something that can be divided based on how many users each thing has, and that's what we were talking about. I think you're incorrect about this not being a market, but even if I assume you are right, what difference does it make to anything?

                1. Adair Silver badge

                  Re: zero cost

                  The point is that calling 'free' a 'market' is misleading, at best it's an edge case, and that's straining to force it into the 'market' category.

                  'Free' doesn't float on the stock market, doesn't incur tax, and has no meaningful legal obligations attached to it.

                  'Free' is massively important to the world as an antidote and counter-culture the 'the market'. 'Free software' is indeed a tiny aspect of 'free', for most people 'free' is what people do to look after each other - there is no profit motive, no need or expectation of a reciprocal benefit.

                  The fact that some agents do make money off the back of 'free' (Mozilla) doesn't mean that 'free' belongs, of itself, to 'the market. The two can, and do, co-exist, but they are not the same.

                  1. doublelayer Silver badge

                    Re: zero cost

                    A lot of things don't float on the stock market or incur tax and are still a market. If I trade items with friends, we won't be filing any paperwork and there is no tax to be paid as we didn't exchange things with a monetary value. Yet, there is still a market going on, with all participants valuing and exchanging items. This doesn't change when those items become intangible, such as code I can run and the value of a larger user base.

                    And it's still not relevant. "Market share" means "the proportion of all users, customers, consumers, etc of a type of thing that use this specific thing", without having to specify other details about how they choose or what the alternatives do. If you won't give up on the idea that without money, there is no market, then I know there are some browsers that do cost money. They are in a market, and they are competing with free browsers, so those free browsers are in the market as well. It so happens that basically nobody uses those paid browsers, but they do exist.

          2. Jamesit

            Re: zero cost

            Are you saying that there is no market for volunteers? There is great value in volunteering, lots of things wouldn't happen without them no money changes hands, the value you're giving is time, it's still a market.

        3. ragnar

          Re: zero cost

          You're just arguing in a way that sounds obtuse.

          You are getting value: the development of Firefox.

          You are providing value: your usage of Firefox drives advertising revenue and kickback fees from the likes of Google.

    3. Christoph

      Re: What “market share”?

      If there is no value in using a particular browser then please explain why the other browser makers are so intent on excluding Firefox.

  2. david 12 Silver badge

    " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

    The impact of having a clearly inferior product probably had something to do with it too.

    I've still got Firefox installed, along with Edge and Chrome. FF is set as my default browser, so my saved URLs come up in FF. Which serves to remind me why I don't use FF for web browsing.

    1. Grogan Silver badge

      Re: " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

      It's a far better browser than Chrome or any of its bastard step children. You're just used to dictatorial rubbish and wouldn't understand what's wrong with Chrome. Bloated and intractable. We have much more control over our browsing with Firefox, for example we have a much more powerful extensions interface. Chrome is like Internet Explorer 6 all over again, Google thinks the browser defines the Web.

      Firefox is completely free, you can compile and customize the browser and it includes all the codecs you're going to need in the source.

      1. demon driver

        Re: " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

        I beg to differ. IMHO, neither in usability and ergonomics, nor in functionality, performance, ease and amount of customizability is Firefox the best, and Firefox kept annoying the heck out of me (and many others) over time with repeatedly introducing unrequested and at best useless, but sometimes idiotic UI changes just for change's sake.

        On my Windows work PC, Firefox takes ridiculously long to start, one of the reasons I switched to Chrome there early. On my home and side job Linux systems I have more freedom; I moved to Vivaldi on all of them a few years ago after testing it for a few days and deciding that I won't go back – after 15 years of using Firefox. As much as I'd like to support the only browser that's still competing with Chrome, that doesn't make me use a tool that I don't like anymore.

      2. Joe-Thunks

        Re: " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

        -- Firefox is completely free, you can compile and customize the browser and it includes all the codecs you're going to need in the source.

        Ah. The open source argument. Seriously. Nearly everyone does NOT compile Firefox from source. They just want a browser which works. Firefox is not a good experience. Then you blame the users who use Chrome for being stupid (rewording "wouldn't understand"). No. Chrome is a good browser. It works. And it works better than Firefox.

        1. Adair Silver badge

          Re: " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

          YMMV - Firefox works fine for me, so my anecdotal evidence neutralises yours.

          Meanwhile there are very good philosophical, ethical, and practical reasons for retaining a web browser that is not beholden to the self-serving machinations and asshattery of global corporates.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge

      Re: " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

      Which serves to remind me why I don't use FF for web browsing.

      Unfortunately your memory is pretty terrible because you forgot again before you posted your comment so nobody is any the wiser as to what you think is wrong with FF, but it can't be that bad because you keep it set as your default browser.

    3. A. Coatsworth Silver badge
      IT Angle

      Re: " the impact of platform rules and of relentless marketing."

      It is hard to understand the massive downvotes. I want to defend FF, we need an alternative that is not tied to Chrome or Apple, but it is a fact that Firefox's quality has steadily declined during the last years. The sheer number of forks made by people trying to revert the most idiotic decisions taken by Mozilla is a testament to this.

      The decline in marketshare can't be explained only by the predatory tactics of Google or MS: many people -like myself- used Firefox for years, but grew more and more annoyed by the bloat and UI changes and ultimately jumped ship. In my case, I used Palemoon for as long as I could, until banking sites started flagging it as a security concern.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Firefox's quality has steadily declined during the last years

        Firefox's quality has steadily declined during the last years since some "UI designer" introduced Australis.

        FTFY.

  3. Jusme

    Endgame

    We need to start thinking of browsers as modern day cable TV receivers. That's what Google/Apple/Microsoft want them to be - secure content delivery tools for their ad/media businesses. Firefox doesn't have a place in that world.

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Mac OS also selectively ignores the default browser rule. I can set FF (or whatever I want) as default but if, for example, I'm in an app like Mail or Notes and I highlight something and right-click to look up on the web then it always opens in Safari.

    1. Adair Silver badge

      Welcome to the walled garden concept if 'freedom' - you can have anything you want, as long as the owners get to decide what it is you want.

      Kerr-ching!

    2. WolfFan Silver badge

      Hmm. That does not happen on my home systems. Firefox is the default. I click on links, in Mail, Outlook, and others, and the link opens in FF.

      1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

        I don't mean clicking on links. Go into an Apple app. - like Mail, Notes, Music. Highlight some text. Right click and select "Search With <your selected search engine>". On my Mac, unless I'm in FireFox, it always opens with Safari.

        1. WolfFan Silver badge

          I Must Be Doing It Wrong. Highlighting and right-clicking in Hogwasher and assorted text editors, plus Mail, etc., sends me to FF. If it didn't, I would be most irate, perhaps enough to delete Safari.

          Hmm. It's been a while since I last got pissed enough at Safari to delete it. I have to see if that can still be done.

          1. Headley_Grange Silver badge

            Must just be me then. It's always been like that - ever since I started using FF. Links in any apps open in FF but web-searches always open in Safari. Just tried it in MacVim and Audacity and a couple of other non-Apple apps and they all open Safari.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

      4. Cruachan

        One example I can think of is the (rare) occasions when something on the lock screen takes my interest and I click on the link at the top right of the screen (Windows 10). This opens the link in Edge, not the system default browser (FF in my case).

  5. sedregj
    Childcatcher

    Microsoft replied that it had "nothing to share."

    So true in so many ways

  6. Naich

    Amazed that FF isn't used more

    Does everyone love adverts on their mobile or something? I installed Firefox and uBlock Origin on my mobile and I can actually see the websites rather than just a screenful of adverts. Why isn't everyone else doing this?

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

      Because most people just accept the default - whatever it is. Partly due to sloth, partly ignorance that there is anything different.

      1. oreosRnice

        Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

        I stick to the default because there’s no incentive to do otherwise.

        My VPN and hosts file block ads so there’s no need for blocking extensions.

        Im forced to use Edge at work so my Desktop at home is just Edge now. My phone and laptop have safari and their password manager has everything I need. I just have keychain extension on Edge at work and home.

        Done and Done

        There is nothing Firefox and Chrome do that I can’t do on Safari and Edge.

    2. fnusnu

      Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

      Because it won't zoom and reflow like Opera does.

      This renders FF barely usable on Android, especially for those with older eyes.

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

        Install the Text Reflow WE addon.

    3. Len

      Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

      I am very sceptical about browser usage statistics and always have been.

      Firstly, I'm not aware of any serious methodology to measure this. There are things such as Statcounter and NetMarketshare but their methodology is a joke. They sample a tiny amount of (mainly American) websites and then extrapolate, assume, and extrapolate a bit further to get a sense of what's happening on Argentinian or Zimbabwean websites.

      Secondly, some browsers (such as Firefox) are stricter in what additional JavaScript or cookies (that is not necessary for the site to appear) they allow to run. I use Firefox and when I visit some sites where I have access to Google Analytics my visits don't show up.

      Thirdly, ad blockers prevent the loading of many measurement scripts and most block Google Analytics by default.

      The above points would have been less relevant if their distribution was equal over various countries and browsers but it's not. People who use Chrome either don't care about privacy or don't know about it. People who use Firefox are much more likely to care about those things. That skews most measurement tools against Firefox. The only way to get a good sense of browser usage would be to make a globally representative list of the top 1 million websites, ask every single one to share their server logs (Unlike, let's say Google Analytics, server logs don't lie) and use that to get some sense of browsers used to surf the web (though you'd still need to filter out all the bots that lie about what browser they are). As this is unrealistic I don't think we'll ever have a reliable figure for browser usage.

      Add to that that the total size of the market has exploded. When Firefox had a market share of 25% that will have been 25% of 1 billion internet users so about 250 million users. If there are currently 5 billion internet users and Firefox has a market share of 3% that would mean about 150 millions users. Considering Firefox own stats report around 200 million users (based on browser checks to see if there is a new version) the decline in absolute terms hasn't been as big as it may appear.

      Now, this doesn't mean there is no problem. If website operators make sites that are poorly accessible for Firefox users, or worse, they only look at the website stats that Google Analytics (probably one of the world's worst website analytics tools because it's blocked by almost every privacy plugin and ad blocker) they will think their sites are not visited by anyone using Firefox.

      1. Draco
        Windows

        Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

        I am very sceptical about browser usage statistics and always have been.

        Especially since browsers often lie to websites to get them to work.

        Since Firefox automatically updates itself (might be platform dependent), couldn't Mozilla give an estimate of how many FF browsers get updated?

        Of course, we then have the fact that multiple browsers are often installed on a machine.

        1. tiggity Silver badge

          Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

          @Draco

          "Especially since browsers often lie to websites to get them to work."

          Indeed, my FF (using a user agent switcher extension) runs with a chrome user agent by default, just to get around those lazy websites that do user agent text test instead of browser functionality test to reject users.

        2. WolfFan Silver badge

          Re: Amazed that FF isn't used more

          The school where I do adjunct instructing is extremely locked down. FF on the desktops on one campus are all v105; the current version is 122. IT will get around to updating the image with a new version of FF sooner or later, just don't hold your breath. No, I can't do the update myself, I don't have admin privileges. I'm sure that a lot of corporate and educational sites are locked down. Mozilla simply won't see tens of thousands of FF users, they're on locked down machines.

  7. oreosRnice

    Boohoo?

    Each of those other tech companies have giant platforms to push their browsers.

    Firefox got popular because at the time Internet Explorer and Safari sucked. Now they are actually worth keeping. Users are sticking to what they know and apparently Firefox fell behind instead of improving to stay the favorable browser when everyone else was competing.

    Edge got better, Chrome became popular and an alternative to Firefox at the beginning. Safari improved and the average iPhone users just don’t bother downloading another browser.

    So now what? Mozilla got lazy in their high chair for too long and didn’t pay attention to the competition biting at their heels. Now they woke up and realized how far they fell so they complain.

    1. Fred Daggy Silver badge
      Devil

      Chrome considered harmful

      Chrome used a lot of classic PUA tactics, that were very possible but not consistent with good practice. Chrome was bundled with a lot of downloadable software. And it installed itself somewhere under C:\Users if the user was not a local administrator (which user on my estate have not been since NT4 was a thing). "Chrome because popular because it was better than IE AND shoved down everyone's throat by underhanded tactics".

      Now, MS should have made c:\users totally non-executable and a lot of viruses (including Chrome) would never have existed.

      Upon turning the page of history, one may be interested in how MS pushed Teams to all and sundry.

  8. BinkyTheMagicPaperclip Silver badge

    Yeah, going to echo the commentators above who say you reap what you sow

    I am using Firefox here, because I dislike the direction the market is going in : Chrome is clearly becoming the dominant browser, and Google are abusing their position.

    I'm definitely not using Firefox because it's the best browser. Some of the extensions are decent, but a lot of its most appealing functionality is despite Mozilla, not because of it.

    Mozilla spent literally years faffing around with non browser technologies that failed to take off, and were unlikely ever to take off. Chrome improved in leaps and bounds and started to become dominant to the point where we're approaching the bad old days of the 90s to early 00s were sites require per browser customisation or simply only work in one browser (Chrome). Firefox dropped functionality that made it appealing, and then only very slowly added some of it back in.

    You can't put out a load of mostly spurious complaints generally concentrated on mobile, whilst at the same time spending literally years bringing extensions to Firefox mobile.

    Mozilla took their eye off the ball, this is the result. It was entirely predictable, many people have warned about it, and they were ignored.

  9. Len
    Unhappy

    I worry about Apple letting go of the WebKit requirement

    While morally, and possibly legally, dubious I do worry about Apple dropping its WebKit requirement on iOS.

    IOS has an enormous installed base, probably about 1.5 billion users. That is 1.5 billion people that use the WebKit render engine instead of Google's render engine called Blink. Currently even the laziest web designer will need to make sure that the sites they produce work both on WebKit and Blink.

    If Apple drops that WebKit requirement we won't be entering a brave new world where smaller engines such as Mozilla's engine called Gecko suddenly stand a chance. We will probably see 1.3 billion WebKit users move to a browser that uses Blink. Lazy web developers could just say that their sites works fine in Chrome so you should just install Chrome. It will only increase Chrome's dominance in the market.

    Who is to say that Google will stick to interop improvement attempts between render engines? I wouldn't put Google in a top 1000 of trustworthy or reliable tech giants and personally believe it would be the end of the open web.

  10. Mike 137 Silver badge

    inconsistency?

    iOS doesn't allow the creation of memory regions that are both writable and executable [how sensible from the security perspective]

    yet it makes an exception for WebKit and other Apple applications [er... not so sensible maybe?]

  11. 0laf
    Alert

    I still use it

    I've used FF for a very long time and still use it as my primary browser and that is predominatly because of a few security plugins that block traking and ads better than I've been able to do on other browsers. To me the internet is unusable without these ad ons. Ok It might be possible to do on other browsers but I know how to do it on FF and it works for me, I'd have to relearn tools on a new browser. I rarely see any compatibility issues and if I do get any it is normally down to my use of script blockers and tracking blocks.

    I've never seen the performance issues others complain of but I rarely have more than a couple of tabs open.

    I distrust Google more than FF and Edge is appalling marketing nagware from MS endlessly reminding me to try 365 despite me having a family license for it.

  12. DoctorNine

    Trolly! troll troll troll...

    This comment section. OMG.

    FF has been my favorite browser, regardless of whether I am on desktop, mobile phone or experimental device, pretty much forever. The tight commercial vertical integration which Apple, Google, and Microsoft seek is manifestly NOT in my best interest, regardless of any minor technical issue which arise in the FF browser as a result.

    I am personally glad that the discussion of how and why that may be is finally being openly discussed with regulators. It should have happened years ago.

    That's really about all I need to say on the subject. Carry on.

  13. Cruachan

    Firefox definitely isn't the discerning choice it once was, the UI is a bit of a mess and some of the change they've made are incomprehensible. Performance isn't as good either, but in part anyway that can be put down to the internet largely being written around Chromium these days as it is so dominant.

    Personally I think Chrome is a terrible browser, it performs poorly IME and Google's methods to establish their dominance are at the very least as bad as what MS were doing in the browser wars to kill off Netscape.

    Edge isn't great but better (again IME) than Chrome, hampered mostly by MS doing what they do and having it take over things and making it harder than it should be to change.

    As for Apple, their mobile browser is shite and they know it and don't care cos they actively want people using apps where they make their money, largely for doing nothing but charging 3rd parties money for the privilege of being in their store.

  14. DS999 Silver badge

    I guess Mozilla's leadership hasn't figured out

    That Firefox would be dead as a doornail if it wasn't for Apple's browser requirements. If Apple users could download "real Chrome" then web designers would be free to design their pages for Chrome only, and tell people who use Safari or Firefox and complain the pages don't work correctly to use Chrome - bring back the "best viewed by" labels from the dark days of IE6.

    Firefox is far below the critical marketshare to prevent that fate, but the Apple userbase that is effectively Safari only prevents that. If that changes web developers are going to want to make their lives easier - and Google will be pushing HARD behind the scenes because with everyone locked into Chrome or Chrome derivative browsers like Edge, they can prevent functional ad blockers entirely. People will have no alternative, as switching to another browser that supports proper ad blocking will result in all sorts of broken pages.

  15. Matthew "The Worst Writer on the Internet" Saroff

    Maybe if Mozilla Had Been Screaming About this Years Ago

    Instead of trying to sell me a bloody VPN, they would be in a better position.

  16. Andrew Scott

    mozilla

    been using mozilla since it was an ftp download from ncsa, haven't had a good reason to change to a different browser. has broad support across different platforms which makes for a consistent user experience.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like