Mozilla missed a golden opportunity with Firefox for iOS

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firefox-for-ios
At long last, Mozilla Firefox for iOS is becoming a reality.
Photo: Mozilla

It’s been a long ride, but Mozilla confirmed that Firefox is in fact almost ready for its official launch on iPhone and iPad. The company announced a limited release of the browser in the New Zealand App Store.

It’s appreciable that Firefox is finally hopping on board with iOS, but at this point it seems Mozilla is far too late to the game to give Firefox a meaningful opportunity for reemergence.

You remember Firefox, don’t you? It never became quite as popular as Internet Explorer, but back in 2009 and 2010 it was the go-to browser for anybody who had even the slightest sense that Internet Explorer was truly awful. Among other things, it gained fame for its enormous selection of add-ons and extensions — all of which typically slowed down the browser or made it atrociously ugly, but hooray for creative expression.

Right around the end of 2011, Google Chrome passed Firefox in worldwide desktop browser market share and Firefox continued a steady decline from there. Today, 52 percent of desktop Internet users browse the web using Chrome. That’s mostly because Chrome was much faster than Firefox or Internet Explorer at its launch, plus had a growing extensions library that didn’t clutter the browser’s appearance.

Well here we are in 2015, seven years after the iOS App Store launched and the app revolution exploded. Just now Mozilla is releasing Firefox for iOS. Uh, shouldn’t this have been a no-brainer a long time ago?

Had Mozilla realized the potential of iOS years ago, it could have possibly saved its dying web browser. When there was less competition among third-party mobile browsers, Mozilla should have captured attention and sparked brand awareness by being the first to ship. Instead, the company was too busy working on Firefox for OS, which wrongfully viewed iOS as competition rather than a marketing aid.

I guess it’s not fair to totally knock Firefox because at least its delivering an app at all. Plus, it does have some promising features. The app includes includes Firefox Accounts, which lets you keep everything in sync across multiple devices. If you sign in with your Firefox account in the desktop browser, you’ll be able to migrate your browsing history, bookmarks and tabs right over to Firefox for iOS. You can also use Intelligent Search, which lets you pick the website or service to search through as you’re searching. It supports everything from Bing and DuckDuckGo to Amazon and Twitter.

Still, Mozilla missed a golden opportunity to capitalize on the App Store’s success. A mobile browser might not have been enough to save Firefox from the torture it has since endured from Chrome, but it would have kept more Firefox users loyal.

Mozilla says that the reason for Firefox for iOS’s limited release is primarily to collect feedback. New Zealand is the first country with access. From there, Firefox will roll out to a few other countries to gather up additional insight, then make a public release worldwide when the app is ready.

For now, New Zealanders can download Firefox free in the App Store and other enthusiasts can sign up to see when Firefox becomes available elsewhere.

Are you a loyal Firefox user excited for the iOS app or are you perfectly content with Safari or Chrome? Let us know in the comments.