Firefox 4 Downloads Soar as Market Share Stagnates

News Techno Update : Firefox 4 Downloads Soar as Market Share Stagnates

Worldwide downloads of Firefox 4 reached 100 million during the weekend and exceeded 104.5 million downloads as of Monday afternoon, according to browser maker Mozilla. Despite the brisk uptake during the new browser's first month of availability, however, there are no signs that Mozilla is growing its global market share.

What the milestone does demonstrate is that many existing Firefox users are highly interested in getting their hands on the performance improvements that Mozilla has made to Firefox 4, which includes a new JagerMonkey JavaScript engine featuring faster graphics rendering as well as WebM format support for the playback of HD-quality videos online. Firefox 4 also integrates an open standard for accelerated 3D graphic rendering called WebGL, which eliminates the need for users to install special browser plug-ins.

"If all goes according to plan, we'll be letting Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 users know about Firefox 4 [through an] 'advertised' or 'prompted' update in about 10 days," noted Asa Dotzler, Mozilla's community coordinator for Firefox marketing. "I'll bet we see a nice uptick in the Firefox 4 trend when we actually start to communicate its availability to users of older Firefox versions," Dotzler wrote in a blog.

Premature at Best

According to Dublin-based StatCounter, Firefox 4's market share reached 8.13 percent on Sunday, whereas Microsoft's Internet Explorer 9 market share stood at 2.86 percent. "Firefox 4 has really hit the ground running and has eclipsed the launch of IE 9," noted StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen, "although IE9 has undoubtedly been hampered by its lack of compatibility with Windows XP."

By applying all its resources to modern versions of Windows, Microsoft appears to be willing to sacrifice usage share in the short term to leapfrog the competition in the long run, Net Applications noted. "Although Windows XP currently has 54 percent of global usage share, Windows 7 usage share is following a strong, fairly linear path upward and Windows versions from Vista forward should have a majority share within a couple of years," the web-metrics firm's researchers wrote in a blog.

Although Dotzler noted that Firefox 4's adoption is considerably higher than Microsoft is seeing for IE9, viewing Firefox 4 and IE9 side by side currently does not make for a valid comparison, Senior Director of IE Marketing Ryan Gavin asserted

"At this point [it] is premature at best, and misleading at worst," Gavin wrote in a blog. "In a few months we'll be better placed to look at the share of the latest browser versions and get a sense for relative progress and adoption."

A Broad Rollout

Microsoft is taking its time on a broad rollout of IE9, which won't take place until the end of June, Gavin observed. "We do this because we have hundreds of millions of business customers that rely on Internet Explorer and require an appropriate window of time to plan and test their deployments," he explained.

Microsoft has the luxury of adopting long-term browser market strategy because IE's overall market share currently stands at 55.92 percent, according to Net Application. By contrast, Firefox's market share stands at 21.8 percent, followed by Google Chrome and Apple's Safari at 11.57 percent and 6.61 percent, respectively.

Moreover, Microsoft is making a concerted effort to wean users from its IE6 browser, which has been running on PCs worldwide for the past 10 years and held an 11.6 percent market share in March -- down from 19.7 percent 12 months earlier. The goal is to bring IE6 usage down to less than one percent worldwide, so "more web sites can choose to drop support for Internet Explorer 6, saving hours of work for web developers," Microsoft said.

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