Mozilla Calls Out Microsoft, Google, Apple Over Browsers

Firefox maker Mozilla is taking aim at Microsoft, Google, and Apple for using their operating systems to steer users to their browsers and stacking the deck against rivals who lack the same OS advantages. Like, for instance, Mozilla.

Having these few large companies dominate such an important tech market – Mozilla refers to browsers and browser engines as the heart of the web – has a monopolistic ripple effect that leads to few choices for users, a drop in innovation, a lack of openness, and low quality, insecure code thrust upon us, the Firefox developer concluded in a recent report.

In "Five Walled Gardens: Why Browsers are Essential to the Internet and How Operating Systems are Holding Them Back," Mozilla researchers wrote that they wanted to learn how netizens interact with browsers and how OS makers are stifling competitors and holding back innovation.

Suffice to say, Firefox, once seen as cool and popular, isn't exactly flavor of the month anymore. On desktop, it comes in at about seven percent of market share, versus Chrome's 67 percent, and on mobile, it barely registers, according to StatCounter. So you can see why the Firefox builder is a bit upset. But who or what's to blame for this dwindling interest?

Moz's stance is that although there are alternatives, such as its open source Firefox, to the big three browsers – Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari, and Google Chrome – users find it hard or too much effort to change from those, especially given the way Microsoft, Apple, and Google engineer their OSes – Windows, macOS and iOS, and Android, primarily – to keep people locked in. That cuts off interest to competing browsers, which see limited usage and development effort, and never quite get off the ground to challenge the status quo.

What's more, Google, Apple, and Mozilla are the only major browser engine makers left, another indicator that users don't have much choice. Apple pushes its WebKit engine, at the heart of Safari, onto Mac and iOS users to the point that the iOS Firefox app is required to use WebKit rather than its own engine, stamping out competition, choice, and innovation there.

For other OSes, Mozilla uses its Gecko engine in Firefox. Meanwhile, Google has managed to get its Chromium Blink engine into not just Chrome on desktop and Android, but also Edge, Brave, Vivaldi, Opera, and more, across multiple platforms.