Record Firefox 3 downloads crash Mozilla site

Mozilla’s big plan on Tuesday to set a world record for downloads with the Firefox 3 browser hit a snag when its Web site would not work properly.

Though the big “Download Day” was set to begin at 1 p.m. ET, Mozilla’s Web site was down or working sporadically all morning on the East Coast, and users still could not download Firefox 3 from the site more than an hour later.

A Firefox spokeswoman said just after 2 p.m. that the company was aware of the problem and “working to get it back up quickly.”

Mozilla also outlined the problems it was having with its Web site in a blog entry.

“The outpouring of interest and enthusiasm around Firefox 3 has been overwhelming (literally!),” according to the post. “Our servers are currently feeling the burn and should be back to normal shortly.”

Mozilla indeed repaired the U.S. download site and had it up and running by just before 3 p.m. ET. However, the European site for downloading Firefox 3, which kicked off the 24-hour record-setting process, was up and running at about 1:15 p.m. ET, about 45 minutes before the crippled U.S. site.

In a blog entry soon after the U.S. site went up, the company said it was logging about 14,000 downloads a minute.
“This will put us well into the tens of millions of downloads in a 24 hour period if we can sustain it,” according to the post.

Mozilla unveiled a campaign on May 28 to set a Guinness World Record for the most software downloads in 24 hours with its Firefox 3 browser. There is no world record for software downloads; Mozilla is trying to create one.

The company asked users to pledge to download the browser on the day it was released, and was even hosting a Download Day event, the Camp Firefox BBQ, at its offices in Mountain View, California, to promote its cause.

The company also has asked Firefox fans to host parties to encourage friends to download with them, and place “Download Day” buttons on their Web sites as reminders of the big day.

Behind the scenes the open source browser continues to claw its way up the market-share charts.

Statistics gathered in the first six months of this year at Network World’s Web site show the use of Firefox at 36 per cent, which compares with 28 per cent in the first six months of 2007 (a 29per cent increase). In June 2005, 19 per cent of surfers to NetworkWorld.com were using Firefox 1.0, then a 7-month-old newcomer to the Web.

Firefox’s upward mobility has been at the expense of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, which was used by 66 per cent of Network World readers in the first six months of 2007 but only 53 per cent today (a decline of 20 per cent).

Firefox wasn’t the only mover: Safari went from 3 per cent in 2007 to 5 per cent in 2008 — a whopping 67 per cent gain but still not enough market share to battle the big boys.
With Network World catering to a high-tech readership, it is clear, at least in this case, that more savvy Web users are turning to Firefox.

Numbers gathered in a recent report by Forrester also show that in the past 12 months corporate use of Firefox has doubled, going from 9per cent to 18per cent.

But the Forrester report was quick to point out that Firefox is not significantly cracking the intranet applications market where many older applications were written to take advantage of Active X controls in IE.

But as developers move to more standards-based tools, users are likely to find that the need for a corporate standard in terms of browsers could go away.

“It seems when you go to any developers conference these days the machines are Macs and the browser [the developers] are working in is Firefox,” says Brian Kotlyar, an associate analyst at the Yankee Group. “Perhaps some of the legacy intranet applications are not there yet, but the future is applications that work in the browser and the apps are going to have to work on every browser.”

That has not been the case and is one large reason why Microsoft had corporate users locked in and didn’t feel compelled to upgrade Internet Explorer between 2001 (Version 6) and 2007 (Version 7).

Version 8 has a Beta 2 slated for August that features many enhancements for IT including easier integration with operating system images and applications compatibility testing tools.

Executives at Mozilla.com, which spearheads Firefox development, say their browser is now more appealing to corporations.

“In informal discussions with IT executives we see lots of interest mainly because of security features,” says Mike Schroepfer, vice president of engineering for Mozilla.org.

Firefox 3.0 comes with a laundry list of new security features including one-click to identify Web site owners, validated connections to prevent eavesdropping, malware protection, Web page forgery protection, new SSL error protection, validation for plug-ins and add-ons, antivirus integration, and better protection against cross-site JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) data leaks.

While the upgrades, which were three years in the making, are extensive, Schroepfer concedes that internal corporate applications will be the last to make the migration away from IE.
The area that Firefox 3.0 does not directly address is mobile, but Schroepfer says beta versions of a mobile Firefox browser will be out by year-end with a final version perhaps a year beyond that.

He notes that vendors, such as Nokia with its tablet PCs, have used the Mozilla code to create mobile browser versions and that core technology in Firefox is already suited to a mobile world.

The guts of Firefox 3.0 have been rewritten to be faster and use less memory

“We have the best memory usage of any browser on the planet and one of the fastest scripting engines,” Schroepfer says. “That is what you need for mobile devices.”

Yankee Group’s Kotlyar says the mobile pieces will come to all browsers.

“Mobile is crucial for any browser to be relevant in the enterprise,” he says.

Kotlyar says the Firefox 3.0 milestone shows that both the open source browser and IE are good choices given that a few years ago people were disappointed Netscape’s browser had collapsed and IE was in need of a makeover. “Compared to a few years ago, this is paradise,” he said.

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