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Summary:

There is a lot of talk about Firefox losing to Chrome. And that may be true in early adopter circles, this exclusive data about Firefox’s daily active users and the number of downloads shows that Mozilla’s game changing browser isn’t out of the game just yet.

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.

Related content from GigaOM Pro: (sub req’d):

What Does the Future Hold for Browsers?

  1. Lucian Armasu Thursday, May 27, 2010

    “In a recent blog post, Mozilla’s Aza Dotzler pointed out that for every Chrome downloader, there are 2.5 folks who download Firefox.”

    How is that statement helping them really? It means there’s a 2.5:1 ratio in growth but their current market share ratio is like 4:1.

    To maintain the 4:1 ratio in market share compared to Chrome, Mozilla needs 4:1 ratio in growth as well, but they only have 2.5:1, which means Chrome is catching up and i’m sure the ratio will continue to shrink, reducing the gap between Chrome and Firefox further more.

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    1. The logic above point to a percentage gap between these two players, but does not call out the percentage increase between these two and other players. Growth is growth is growth. Matthew J. Orley in Akron, OH

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  2. The bombast in Aza Dotzler’s statement about 2.5 users downloading Firefox for every Chrome download is interesting. It reminds me of the time when IE absolutely dominated the Internet and Firefox was in Chrome’s position. Mozilla probably needs to stay away from the smugness that Microsoft exuded if they do not want to see Firefox suffer IE’s inevitable fate.

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  3. there’s no doubt that Firefox is facing stiff competition from Chrome, in particular. In terms of raw speed it’s now lagging behind the others when it used to lead the pack — even Opera has picked up its game on the performance front.

    However, I’m not sure that regular consumers really care that much about slight differences in raw speed — stability and features are far more important. Firefox still has the edge in terms of features, with its huge extension ecosystem (which provides a handy lock-in mechanism for Mozilla, as users won’t want to switch to a browser that doesn’t support their favorite extensions). And Mozilla’s still doing a good job of innovating on new features — in-browser contacts management (http://webworkerdaily.com/2010/04/05/mozilla-contacts-0-2-adds-support-for-linkedin-plaxo/) and identity management (http://gigaom.com/2010/04/27/firefox-account-manager/) tools, for example, both of which could be rolled into the browser in a future version.

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  4. I know this goes against their plans, but it would be really nice if firefox used native UI APIs instead of their cross platform kit. Their current UI is what makes it feel clunky, even though the rendering is for the most part very good and relatively fast. This really is an example of what Steve Jobs talks about – lowest (OK its not that bad – but lower) common denominator as far as user experience and UI responsiveness, in exchange for easier portability.

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  5. I used to like Google Chrome as a second browser for my internet surfing because of its simplicity, wide workspace and ease, but now I hate Chrome because it crashes way too often and absolutely for nothing. Right now my alternate browser to Firefox is Internet Explorer 8.

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  6. [...] that Google’s Chrome browser was eating into Mozilla’s market share with Firefox. But Om Malik takes a closer look at the numbers, which tell a slightly different story. Chrome may have won the [...]

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  7. Apoorva Pandya Thursday, May 27, 2010

    I had been using Firefox for 4-5 years and really happy with its performance. But, yes I will have to admit that over the last year or in the recent past I tend to spend more time using chrome, because of its speed and performance. Chrome definitely is giving a stiff competition to the other browsers.

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  8. Google is very close to Apple when it comes to creating buzz around its projects, just the name Google calls for a lot of attention, geeks and non want to associate themselves with Google — Mozilla can’t do much against this power house.

    Google did not only follow the Mozilla model (a strong community, extensions etcetera) but also hired Aaron Boodma, greasemonkey developer, now user scripts run natively in Chrome that means extra 40,000 extension for Chrome (what used to be exclusively a Firefox affair)

    Fighting on many fronts also gives Google a big advantage over Mozilla,just think of a Chrome OS-based Tablet with Chrome as default browser.

    – that’s stiff competition, I love Firefox but I’m saddened.

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  9. Google will fail with Chrome. It is trying to do too many things and is fast losing goodwill. The same happened to Microsoft. Google should stick with what flows with its search engine base and offer genuine products like googlemaps. It is already colluding with governments and is now just another corporate beast. Firefox has retained its startup persona and will always have goodwill. All Mozilla need to do now is raise their game as far as mobile browsers are concerned and they will be fine.

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