India is Mozilla’s top market in Asia, Mozilla’s head of product for Asia, Joe Cheng said at official launch of Mozilla’s Firefox Lite app. The app saw a soft launch in August last year, and has seen 2 million downloads since. Cheng said he was surprised that a lot of Indian users are “quite privacy aware”. The app’s private browsing feature saw 50% more usage in India than in Indonesia, which was Firefox Lite’s first market in Asia.

Cheng explained that most Indians users switched to Firefox Lite from Chrome, “since it is faster and lighter”. According to Cheng, the browser has picked up Indian users since many Indian users have entry-level smartphones, which do not have optimal default browsers. On the whole, 30% of Firefox Lite’s users surf the internet on its private browser.

But is the lite app even needed in India? On being asked whether a lite app was necessary in India given substantial reduction in data costs, Cheng said that a lite app may not be substantially beneficial given that data is cheaper, but it could still be useful in areas with poor connectivity. However, according to him, the larger benefit is the speed of the browser, which is especially useful for those with entry-level smartphones. “By making the size small, we are able to make the experience very snappy,” he said. Mozilla claims that the Firefox Lite launches faster than other browsers like Chrome, Opera Mini, and UC Browser, and estimates that it saved users 8,000 hours.

What about video?

Video has been a significant driver for Internet consumption in India. Mozilla has not yet looked into optimizing the browser for video streaming. This is noteworthy, since the browser has curated YouTube and Hotstar websites on the Firefox Lite home page. A significant competitor for Mozilla in India is UC Browser, which also enables low bandwidth browsing: it used to be the top mobile browser in India until it was overtaken by Chrome last year. It’s worth noting that on Monday, UC Browser said that short-video content accounts for over 40% of overall content consumption on its platform. Its data suggests that “each user spends, on an average, 20 minutes a day reading and watching content provided by UC news feed”…”Daily video uploads have increased 100% in the last 6 months, while daily video consumption has increased 3 times on VMate, a life-recording short video app specifically for India market. Short-form content, including short videos and snackable content, is UC’s top content priority for 2019.” UC Browser has, it said, partnered with more than 350 media groups in India.

China and other Asian markets

It’s worth noting that although Firefox Lite launched in China in the first half of 2018, Cheng said the Chinese market is not “bringing the traction we were expecting”, although he did not explain why. China is possibly a larger market for Mozilla since it had 800 million internet users as of August 2018, while India’s internet user base just surpassed the 500 million mark. Cheng also specified that India and Indonesia were Firefox Lite’s leading markets in India.

Firefox Lite is now available in 15 Asian markets including in China, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Myanmar, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines

App details

A look at Firefox Lite’s Life Feed, set to go live next week

In terms of specifications, the Firefox Lite browser is sized at 3.69 MB, a fraction of the 48 MB Firefox Android app and the 44 MB Google Chrome Android app.Mozilla claims that the browser is fast, lightweight, and optimal for low-end smartphones since its designed to minimize resource consumption. Mozilla said the app is equipped for private browsing and tracking protection.

  • Firefox Lite also has a Turbo mode within the browser which blocks third-party trackers, this mode is on by default
  • Mozilla is also launching a ‘Life Feed’ for content discovery, including for news, videos and games, which is set to go live next week

In India, Mozilla has entered into partnerships with DB Digital, Times Internet, and MoMagic.