Firefox turns 100, doesn’t break the internet

I might be the last PC Gamer compromised fire Fox user, and so it is up to me to mark, with great pleasure and satisfaction, the 100th anniversary of the venerable open source browser – that is, the release of its 100th update.

Firefox 1.0 was released by the Mozilla Foundation in 2004, after a few years of pre-release iteration and name changes, to widespread acclaim thanks to innovative features and the fact that its main competitor is Internet Explorer. ONE two page ad in the New York Times containing the name of each person who contributed to the 1.0 fundraising campaign attracted more public attention (the impression, as you can imagine, was very small), and in 2010 Firefox claimed nearly 1/3 of the desktop browser market share.

Those were heady days, but unfortunately they didn’t last. Internet Explorer was on its way out, but in 2008 Google released Chrome, which began a rapid, steady rise in the charts — and set off a long, slow decline for Firefox. Chrome overtook Firefox in late 2011, and while Firefox beat IE, at this point even their combined market share couldn’t match Chrome’s. Firefox now accounts for just under 8% of the world’s desktop market, according to StatCounterbehind Safari, Microsoft Edge and Chrome, which still dominates with a 67% share.

Still, Firefox has persevered through multiple iterations and a wholesale technology change in 2017 when it switched to Quantum. This had the unfortunate effect of disabling pre-Quantum extensions, which – I won’t lie – was a real pain in the ass, but also brought significant performance improvements. In April 2021, we declared Firefox the best browser for gamers thanks to low RAM usage, support for features and extensions, and commitment to user privacy and security; our website brother TechRadar also recently put Firefox at the top of its browser list, calling it “the best browser for power users and privacy protection”.

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Interestingly, preparing for the Big 100 was a headache for the Firefox folks and the Chrome team alike. It turns out that changing version numbers from two digits to three digits has the potential to break the internet: It’s technical (you can get a more detailed summary at Mozilla Hacks if you will), but essentially the situation is similar to a mini-Y2K where no one anticipated three-digit version numbers, and now here they are.

The plan when this all came out was to fix the compatibility issues as much as possible and temporarily freeze Firefox at version 99 if things really got out of hand while the developers worked to find a suitable fix. It’s unclear what was done to resolve the issue, but it looks like things are resolved: Firefox 100 is here and the internet is still working.

(Image credit: Mozilla)

Firefox is no longer the great innovation engine it once was, but it’s still a great browser, and I’m looking forward to using it for 100 more updates. Speaking of which, you can find out everything that changed in the last update (which, aside from the big round number, is a pretty basic patch) at mozilla.org.

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