I may be PC Gamer’s last committed Firefox user, and so it falls to me to mark, with great pleasure and satisfaction, the venerable open-source browser’s 100th birthday—that is, the release of its 100th update.
Firefox 1.0 was released by the Mozilla Foundation in 2004, after a couple years of pre-release iteration and name changes, to widespread acclaim thanks to innovative features and the fact that its chief competitor was Internet Explorer. A two-page ad in the New York Times containing the name of every single person who had contributed to the 1.0 fundraising campaign attracted further public attention (the print, as you can imagine, was very small), and by 2010 Firefox claimed nearly 1/3 of the desktop browser market share.
They were heady days, but alas, they didn’t last. Internet Explorer was on the way out but in 2008 Google released Chrome, which began a steady, rapid ascent up the charts—and triggered a long, slow decline for Firefox. Chrome surpassed Firefox in late 2011, and while Firefox did eventually beat out IE, by that point even their combined market share couldn’t compare to Chrome’s. Firefox now accounts for just under 8% of the worldwide desktop market share, according to StatCounter, behind Safari, Microsoft Edge, and Chrome, which still dominates with a 67% share.
Still, Firefox has persevered through numerous iterations and a wholesale technology changeover in 2017, when it switched to Quantum. That had the unfortunate effect of disabling pre-Quantum extensions, which—I won’t lie—was a real pain in the ass, but it also brought about significant performance improvements. In April 2021 we declared Firefox the best browser for gamers thanks to its low RAM usage, feature and extension support, and commitment to user privacy and security; our sister site TechRadar also recently put Firefox atop its browser roundup, calling it “the best browser for power users and privacy protection.”
We’re 100 today. And we’re looking pretty darn good for a centenarian, if we do say so ourselves. https://t.co/a8uEf6qFvpMay 3, 2022
Interestingly, the leadup to the big 100 has been something of a headache for the Firefox folks, and the Chrome team too. It turns out that the move from two-digit to three-digit version numbers has the potential to break the internet: It’s technical (you can get a more detailed rundown at Mozilla Hacks if you like) but essentially the situation is akin to a mini-Y2K in that nobody anticipated three-digit version numbers, and now here they are.
The plan when all of this first came to light was to address compatibility issues on the fly as much as possible, and temporarily freeze Firefox at version 99 if things really got out of hand while developers worked to come up with a proper fix. It’s not clear what was done to resolve the problem but it seems that things are sorted out: Firefox 100 is here and the internet is still chugging away.
Firefox is no longer the great machine of innovation that it once was, but it’s still a great browser, and I look forward to using it through another 100 updates. Speaking of which, you can find out everything that’s changed in the latest update (which, aside from the big, round number, is a pretty basic patch) at mozilla.org.