Earlier this week, a blog post on ReadWriteWeb said that Google’s speedy and nimble Chrome browser was eating into the market share of Mozilla’s Firefox browser and other browser competitors, especially amongst the early adopters. Their post was inspired by data from NetMarketShare, a service that tracks browser market share, and set off a chain reaction of other blog posts that glommed onto the Chrome vs. Firefox story line.
There is no denying that Chrome has won the recent battle for mindshare amongst the early adopters. There is no denying that Mozilla has problems that go beyond the pending loss of their chief executive, John Lilly, to a venture capital firm. And no one can deny that so far Mozilla has blown the opportunity to have an impact on mobile platforms. And if my sources are correct, then it is plenty evident that Mozilla has been overcome with a sense of ennui, something which prompted wunderkid and Firefox’s co-reinventor Blake Ross to say, “I think the Mozilla Organization has gradually reverted back to its old ways of being too timid, passive and consensus-driven to release breakthrough products quickly.” Ouch!
How bad are things at Mozilla? Not as bad as one would think. In a recent blog post, Mozilla’s Asa Dotzler pointed out that for every Chrome downloader, there are 2.5 folks who download Firefox. “Firefox gained just over 100 million users in the same period that Chrome gained just over 40 million users,” he wrote.
One of my sources shared with me some internal Mozilla data, and now I’m sharing those metrics in order to give you a better understanding of how Firefox is doing on a day-to-day basis. While longer-term data has been plotted in the accompanying charts, I have carved out the numbers for the most recent two weeks (May 12-May 25). Here’s what they say about Firefox’s daily active users, where they’re from and the number of daily Firefox downloads during the period:
- Firefox’s daily downloads fluctuated between 1.39 million and 1.81 million — averaging out at about 1.5 million downloads a day.
- As expected, a majority of the daily downloads were for Firefox 3.6, though a small fraction still download the older versions of the software.
- Firefox saw between 98 million and 132 million daily active “installations.” Installations equals daily active users.
- During the two-week period, North America had between 26 million and 33 million daily active “installations” indicating that Firefox is more popular outside of the U.S. and Canada.
- There were between 36 million and 54 million daily active installations from the European Union, making it the largest Firefox market.
- Asia saw between 20 million and 25.4 million daily active users.
- On Mac OS X, there were roughly 6 million to 9.5 daily active “installations.”
When I reached out to Mozilla, a spokesperson responded in an email: “Because our user base of roughly 400 million represents both early adopters and mainstream consumers, we see significant daily variations on week day vs. weekend. We also see this when there are local holidays and seasonal effects, and especially during the summer months when people are on holiday/vacation.”
Given that the holiday season has started in many parts of the world, with schools and universities shutting down, we might be seeing a slump in Firefox usage and downloads. Firefox, according to NetMarketShare, is still showing growth on a month-to-month basis — from June 2009 (22.43 percent) to April 2010 (24.59 percent), it increased its market share by 2.16 percent.
That along with the 100 million-plus daily active installations (Mozilla claims it has 400 million users), shows that Firefox is far from having a real moment of crisis. Not only does it have time to course-correct and respond to all its critics, it also has time to regain momentum.
It could do so with Firefox 3.6.4, which will be released next week and will have built-in plugin isolation, allowing the browser to overcome the bloat and problems caused by plugins such as Adobe’s Flash (especially on the Mac version of Firefox.)
What’s more important: Firefox needs to bring in fresh thinking to the organization, which it’s doing by bringing on board Tantek Celik, a champion of open/web standards who in his past life created Internet Explorer for the Mac.
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