Firefox Is Dead to Me

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The browser wars matter, tech investors.

They matter because the browser is the gateway to cloud computing; it's where an increasing amount of applications processing is taking place through technologies like JavaScript. Firefox used to be good at this, but lately, old red has been showing its age.

A surprising switch
Yesterday, the Mozilla Foundation, which governs the development and upkeep of Firefox, patched five known flaws in older versions of its browser. Three of the flaws were deemed critical, Computerworld reports. The newest edition of Firefox, 3.6, didn't suffer from these issues.

And yet I didn't upgrade. Plug-ins I had come to depend on weren't ready for Firefox 3.6 when I first thought about moving to the new browser edition earlier this month. Around the same time, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) unveiled an upgraded beta version of its Chrome browser for Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) Mac OS X.

Two hours of testing later, I switched to Chrome as my default browser, and I'm not going back.

This wasn't planned. Not entirely, anyway. I'd been holding onto Firefox because I've found it to be more stable than the youthful Chrome and fast enough to perform most Web duties satisfactorily. No longer.

The new edition of Chrome for the Mac is not only faster than my edition of Firefox, but it needed no plug-ins to handle my tricked-out versions of Gmail and Google Calendar.

Grinding gears
More broadly, Firefox's advantage is also its issue. Developers have been happy to treat the browser as its own platform, where plug-ins had become like software applications.

Now, much of this same functionality -- software and services that have allowed Firefox to gradually steal market share from Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) Internet Explorer -- is making its way into the new HTML5 Web standard, which is designed to make Web-accessible software as feature-rich as any desktop equivalent. Chrome is adopting HTML5 natively.

That has ramifications. Last week, Google said in a blog post that would it stop development on a key plug-in called Gears, which is functionally similar to Adobe's (Nasdaq: ADBE  ) AIR in that it allows me to work with some Web-driven applications while disconnected. Why the change? HTML5.

A stiff-arm from Mr. Softy
If Microsoft has been slow to adopt HTML5, it's because the standard makes a browser more like an OS. That's good for Google, which plans an OS based on the Chrome browser, and bad for Mr. Softy, which only now is getting its mojo back with Windows 7.

Firefox is stuck in between. On the one hand, it's been the platform, the browser that demonstrated just how powerful Web-based computing could be. On the other, it's now the old boy. A standard-bearer giving away to a technical standard.

This isn't the end for Firefox, of course. If anything, the cloud-computing era means more, not less, opportunity for creative, functional browsers such as Firefox. But HTML5 support is likely to be the key. With Chrome, Google is moving faster than most.

Is cloud computing technology factoring into your investing decisions? Discuss using the comment box below.

Apple and Adobe are Motley Fool Stock Advisor selections. Google is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation. Microsoft is a Motley Fool Inside Value pick. Motley Fool Options has recommended a diagonal call position on Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days.

Fool contributor Tim Beyers is a member of the Rule Breakers stock-picking team. He had stock and options positions in Apple and a stock position in Google at the time of publication. Check out Tim's portfolio holdings and Foolish writings, or connect with him on Twitter as @milehighfool. The Motley Fool is also on Twitter as @TheMotleyFool. The Fool's disclosure policy is, dare I say it, en fuego.

Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (10)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2010, at 5:00 PM, militauro wrote:

    I like Chrome, but still use Firefox as my browser of choice (and currently reading this article on Firefox). My problem with Google Chrome is security. I had never been a victim to a virus from using a web browser until I started using Chrome more. All I was doing was viewing photos on my Yahoo e-mail when everything shut down and I all of a sudden had a virus.

    Call it bad luck, but that has me a bit shy from using Chrome.

    Also, cloud computing is going to be primarily for businesses since the average user who browses the web won't need a fancy cloud computing, OS-like browser. I think Firefox should be fine for the time being.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2010, at 5:50 PM, TMFZahrim wrote:

    I'm with you, brother. Longtime Firefox addict, but now Chrome handles about 90% of my browsing. There are still edge cases where some obscure FF plugin still does something that Chrome can't match, but Chrome is just snappier nowadays. We'll see how it goes.


    (Just another geek)

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2010, at 6:21 PM, TMFBent wrote:

    I too contracted a virus for the first time ever after starting to use Chrome. I don't know for sure that it was the problem, but with years of FF and IE behind me and never a single virus, I have my doubts that Chrome is as full of awesomeness as Googlefans would like us all to think.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2010, at 6:22 PM, TMFBent wrote:

    I too contracted a virus for the first time ever after starting to use Chrome. I don't know for sure that it was the problem, but with years of FF and IE behind me and never a single virus, I have my doubts that Chrome is as full of awesomeness as Googlefans would like us all to think.

  • Report this Comment On February 25, 2010, at 6:30 PM, TMFMileHigh wrote:

    TyrantBone, SJ --

    >>I too contracted a virus for the first time ever after starting to use Chrome.

    I'd not be surprised if hackers and hooligans were already going after Chrome. Heck, we already know Adobe's Web apps are hackers' new favorite. There are enough holes in scripts for this to be a problem for Google.

    Sticking with Chrome because it fits me, but I'd agree that Ostrich-headed Google fans could use some cold water.

    FWIW and Foolish best,

    Tim (TMFMileHigh and @milehighfool on Twitter)

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