Is Mozilla about to shut down Firefox?


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The much-loved Firefox might soon be replaced by one that’s more ‘performant’!

Is Mozilla about to copy Microsoft, and launch a new browser? It now seems possible, following confirmation from a Mozilla developer that Firefox new browser engine, called Servo, is being released in June.

It would be a significant development, because a browser engine is what all browsers – Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer and the rest – use to interpret the code of a web page, using this information to display it on screen. It determines a browser’s speed and stability.

firefox

Mozilla has used the Gecko browser engine since Firefox’s launch in 2004. But during the past few years its developers have been working on Servo. Any browser running on it will be more ‘modular’, which means you’ll be able to choose which tools you want it to contain. This should make it faster and more secure. On its website, Servo is described as a ‘performant’ browser engine, which is developer-speak for software, that performs well in every area.

But might it prove so performant that it grows into an actual browser, devouring the 12-year-old Firefox? Something similar happened with Microsoft’s new browser Edge. What started as a small browser, codenamed Spartan because of its lack of features, quickly became a viable alternative to the slow, old-fashioned Internet Explorer (IE). Edge is now Microsoft’s default browser in Windows 10, while IE is dying a slow, painful death.

So the key question is: will Servo be absorbed by Firefox?

– meaning you’ll carry on using the same browser – or will Mozilla feel Servo is different enough to be launched as a new browser? It’s a decision that might come down to marketing. Mozilla may conclude that Firefox is a ‘tired’ brand, and needs to be replaced by a browser that’s ‘new and improved’.

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Firefox use has certainly peaked. After hitting 30 per cent in 2010, Firefox looked like it would overtake a declining IE to become the world’s most popular browser. But then the popularity of Chrome rocketed, soaring past Firefox in 2012. Google’s browser is now used by 55 per cent of people browsing the web, according to StatCounter. Firefox did eventually leapfrog IE, but not until September 2015. Combined, IE and Firefox are now used by less than half the number of people who use Chrome. You can see why Mozilla might think that Firefox has had its day.

This is all intriguing speculation, of course. Mozilla has said nothing to suggest that Servo will replace FF. Indeed, it has been working on a revamped Firefox. It has big hopes for the new ‘Activity Stream’, which places History, Bookmarks, Downloads and Tabs under one heading. In February, Mozilla released a preview of how it will look

It has also been working on a new tool that makes it easier for developers to build better extensions for FF. Mozilla hopes this will persuade more users to use extensions – only 60 per cent currently do, according to recent estimates. Without this, FF will never gain ground on Chrome.

Mozilla may conclude that Firefox needs to be replaced by a browser that’s ‘new and improved’

Whatever happens, Firefox fans shouldn’t panic. The browser isn’t going to vanish overnight. Instead, it’s likely that Servo will become a testing ground for new Firefox features. But things can change quickly in the world of browsers. It took just weeks for Spartan to be seen as IE’s replacement. We’ll keep looking for similar signs that Servo may develop as quickly.

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