Google Toolbar drops support for Firefox. Why now?

firefoxFrom the ‘Who Needs A Toolbar?’ files:

Google has decided to drop support for Firefox for the Google Toolbar.

No, that’s not a bad thing at all. The toolbar is a relic of any older era. An era when Firefox Sync didn’t exist, an era when the awesomebar wasn’t truly aweseome.

Apparently however, Mozilla is seeing the Google Toolbar issue as being a potential barrier to adoption for Firefox 5.

“We know that a large amount of users are not taking update offers to 5+ due to Google Toolbar incompatibility,” Mozilla’s recent meeting notes state.

And that’s where the problem is. Firefox 5 (heck even Firefox 4) does everything that Google Toolbar does (albeit in a different way with non-Google services). You can sync bookmarks and you can search.

Browser users, for better or for worse, get used to a particular add-on and won’t upgrade until supported. I know I didn’t make the switch to Firefox 5 until late in the beta process when my fav add-ons finally became available, so I can sympathize.

I don’t think it would have been all that difficult for Google to update the toolbar (or make a jetpack version) that supports Firefox. Yet they haven’t.

Officially Google has said, “For Firefox users, many features that were once offered by Google Toolbar for Firefox are now already built right into the browser.”  And that is definately true. But that was also true for Firefox 4 (and Firefox 5 really is just an incremental update).

Add this toolbar issue to concerns from enterprises around Firefox moving to fast, and it could add up to some trouble for Mozilla. Or not.

The magic of the Firefox add-ons is that they are extensible, Google’s APIs are relatively open, and a programmer more skilled than I might be able to replicate some of the things that users think they might be missing.

Or they could just move to Chrome.

Is Google making a play for more Chrome users here? Of course they are, under the guise that Firefox doesn’t need the toolbar. Will Firefox loose some users? Probably. But I suspect that Mozilla, being the user-focussed group that they is already doing everything possible to keep users happy and with Firefox, regardless of what Google does.

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