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Mozilla Firefox is still the second most popular web browser in the world, trailing Microsoft's Internet Explorer by a still-hefty margin. But Firefox might lose its number two spot in the battle of the browsers to Google Chrome by year end.

What can Mozilla do to keep that from happening? One possible answer: a faster release cycle.

If you just recently upgraded to Firefox 4, you won't have to wait long for Firefox 5. It's already here, in fact, and ready for download.

Sporting new features like CSS animations, do-not-track functionality and numerous performance improvements, the latest version of Firefox may not represent as significant an update as Firefox 4, but it's being given the version number 5 because, well, Mozilla can give it a new version number.

Brilliant marketing strategy? Perhaps. Or perhaps not.

On one hand, going from Firefox 4 to 5 in a short period of time may create the impression that Firefox is innovating at a faster and faster pace, even if the overall release cycle itself has changed less than the way releases are numbered. After all, as CNET News.com's Stephen Shankland notes, Google releases new versions of Chrome every six weeks, and Google is winning plenty of Chrome converts, not just from IE, but from Firefox as well.

But is the impression that Google innovates faster with Chrome really the reason Chrome is doing so well? Probably not. Arguably, Google's Chrome advertising, which may represent one of Google's largest marketing pushes ever, is probably playing a bigger role. So releasing Firefox 6 and 7 before 2012 arrives may not be as powerful a marketing tool for Firefox.

What really matters: how the browser functions. Is performance improving? Are pages rendered accurately? Is the UI evolving appropriately? Are add-ons breaking with each new version?

From this perspective, Firefox may want to remember that you can fool some of the people some of the time, but not all of the people all the time. In the increasingly competitive browser market, Firefox will need to ensure that each new release delivers more than just a new version number.

Patricio Robles

Published 22 June, 2011 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2377 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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William King

Firefox version some time irritate its users. I was reading the reviews of Firefox and every one was annoy with these. As with the every version some of their add-on do not perform perfectly. Firefox is normally used by businessmen because of its add-on and when they would not be happy with it they will leave it. The most common issue were with its two add-on SEO Quake and Firebug.

about 5 years ago

Stephen Molloy

Stephen Molloy, Sales & Online Marketing Director at TUI Travel - Specialist & Activity

I agree with William that the main benefit of Firefox over any other browser is the add-ons but if new versions of Firefox are released and do not support these then people will either not update their Firefox or will go for Chrome which is faster.

about 5 years ago

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Ben Wynn

Chrome is gaining share because it is has well defined brand proposition

Think Chrome and you think Speed and Simplicity.

This is right at the heart of the Chrome experience and is carried through not just to the end users experience but also to the development/release cycle. Indeed even their logo was simplified recently to make it more on brand.

Sure, Google are committed to heavy ad spend to gain exposure, but the really clever "marketing" money is being sunk directly into making the product itself better.

Contrast that with Firefox and consider their brand proposition.

"Extensibility".

Which means "Add-ons". Which means more feature rich. Which means more complicated and slower.

This might have once been good for a pro-user and was a valid contrast to a once dominant Internet Explorer, and remains the reason most advocates of Firefox stay loyal. But is it right for the mass market in this new era of browser wars?

To compete Firefox not only have to make the browsing experience faster and simpler (fast and easy are just the base standard) they need to carve a new niche. Firefox needs to rethink what it stands for. Perhaps they should pick Security or maybe Social but please don't just "keep-up with-the-Jones" and compete on tech alone.

about 5 years ago

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