Mozilla is building an army of volunteers in Indonesia to help customize Firefox and recommend add-ons, as the U.S.-based non-profit organization seeks to retain its massive share of the browser market in the country.
Community groups in eight cities and drawing about 1,000 tech-savvy volunteers, with more expected, are meeting this month to brainstorm ways Firefox can be further localized, said Gen Kanai, Mozilla’s contributor engagement director for Asia.
They will do some of the work themselves in line with Mozilla’s tradition of using inputs from its users, Kanai said.
Mozilla wants that input so it can retain the high market share that Firefox already has in the country. Web statistics company, StatCounter, puts the share at 75 to 80 percent, the browser’s highest in Asia. The worldwide share of Firefox, which competes with Internet Explorer and Google Chrome, is just over 30 percent.
Outreach matters because technology spreads fast by word of mouth in Indonesia, a possible cause of Firefox’s market share, Kanai said. Technology favorites can also lose ground very fast in the country, as was seen in the mobile phone market, he added.
Mozilla does not fully understand why Firefox has caught on in Indonesia, Kanai said. But analysts and users say local Web developers benefit from Firefox’s do-it-yourself plug-ins and extensions, which other browsers may not offer except for fees that not everyone in the developing nation of 238 million can afford.
“It’s because people can design it however they want, however they need to,” said Yofie Setiawan, a web designer and member of a community group in the capital Jakarta. “Then they will tell their friends, who (will) use it also.”
Word of mouth as well as hands-on design options may explain why so many Indonesians use Firefox, said Ray Valdes, an analyst with market research firm Gartner.
“Often the reason (for popularity) is not technical but social,” Valdes said. “The other possibility is that the ecosystem is propagating it.”
Although nothing will be decided until the community group meetings, the 13-year-old Mozilla may try to solidify its position in Indonesia by encouraging new browser add-ons, such as toolbars, expressly for Indonesian websites and web services.
It is also considering new localized versions of Firefox in languages such as Sundanese, which is used by some 30 million people in the western part of the Indonesia island of Java.
“More Indonesian Mozilla developers could lead to new localizations,” Kanai said. “These would be developed by Mozilla community members in Indonesia.”