How We Choose a Browser for Use?

Most of us choose a browser for use based on the ease of use, download pages or just use pre-installed default browser with our machine.  Most browsers collect users data without revealing to their browser users. Among the browsers, Mozilla Firefox stands out putting “data privacy” as the primary focus the browser with an aim of promoting “openness, innovation and participation on the internet”.

Browser Market Share

The global market share of browsers use is dominated by Google’s Chrome followed by the Apple’s Safari and Mozilla Firefox as shown below. Because majority of visitors tend to browse websites on their mobile devises, browser competition in fierce in mobile browsers.

Figure: Screenshot showing worldwide market share of browsers use. Source: StatCounter.
Google Chrome

Google Chrome is market dominant with about 65% worldwide market share. It advocates for “simple, faster & secure websites” is known have their priority to collect users data to provide access to their advertisers. This endeavor is further supplemented by its AMP (accelerated mobile pages) program which saves a copy of website in Google servers and directs the visitor to its server instead of the website address for faster download. Google chrome allows to download and install other browser in its andriodOS devices however with a wrapper around with open-browser window.

Apple Safari

Apple Safari, with about 16% market share, promotes built in privacy & security features to help protect user privacy and keep the Mac devices secure. Other features in the Apple Safari browser include intelligent tracking prevention, built-in website protection with sand boxing safeguard, protection from harmful sites with warning, and private browsing and other features. With regard to using other browsers with Apple iOS, users can download other browsers but does not allow them to set as default browser. Even when a visitor clicks to a website address with other browsers, it still has to opened in Apple’s Safari with its rendering engine. Michelle Baker from Mozilla Foundation says “Apple’s stance is ‘you should trust us and we’re different and better”.

I don’t see Apple listening at all. We make a huge technical investment in this obscure layer, called the rendering engine, because it turns out that’s where there’s a lot of power. In some systems, you can see the powerful thing right up front. But often the real power of the system is under the hood. And that’s true of how you see content on the web. So we invest a lot in it and Apple simply prohibits it. We just can’t use that technology. So I don’t see that changing.
Michelle Baker, Mozilla Foundation Chair

Mozilla Firefox

The Mozilla Firefox browser, developed by the not-for-profit Mozilla Foundation and its subsidiary, Mozilla Corporation has only about 4% of global market share. Its main selling pitch is “your pal on the internet” with respect user data privacy. In the past several years, Mozilla Firefox has lunched several customer privacy focused features including:

  • Firefox Monitor: A data breach monitoring & reporting service. This service allows users to monitor what hackers already know about them.
  • Firefox Lockwise: A password manager service which permits to securely access the saved passwords from anywhere — even outside of the browser.
  • Firefox Send: A privacy focused file sharing service. It allows to share files with end-to-end encryption and automatic expiring link.
  • VPN (Virtual Private Network) Service (currently in Beta development): Firefox Private Network is a desktop extension that helps secure and protect users connection everywhere you use Firefox. This service includes features like (i) encrypting the web addresses a user visit. This stops eavesdroppers on open, public Wi-Fi from spying on your browsing activity. (ii) Also limit what websites and advertisers know about you.

In a recent interview with The Guardian technology editor Alex Hern, Michelle Baker, Mozilla Foundation is quoted saying following about Mozilla Firefox:

  • In the early days, we thought all companies and social networks cared about us and cared for us and increasingly it has become clear that, no, you need someone looking out for you.
  • It’s clear that if you go on Facebook and contribute information in some way – a post, a like or whatever – you’re giving information to Facebook. What’s not as obvious is that there are a lot of times when you’re on some other site, doing something unrelated and, behind the scenes, Facebook is still gathering information – especially if you’ve signed in with Facebook.
  • In Firefox runs sites such as Facebook in “containers”, effectively hiving the social network off into its own little sandboxed world, where it can’t see what’s happening on other sites. It reduces Facebook’s ability to follow you around the web and track you when you’re not on Facebook and just living your life.

Bottom line for any user is while making choices using any products or services, we should make well informed decision based the pros & cons of such services or products.

Note: This post was inspired by a recent article in The Guardian titled “Firefox’s fight for the future of the web” by Alex Hern, a technology editor for the Guardian in UK.