October 25, 2004 5:18 PM PDT

Firefox aims for 10 percent of Web surfers

Maybe the browser wars really are back.

Bart Decrem, a spokesman for the Mozilla Foundation, told ZDNet UK on Friday that he expects the browser's market share to reach 10 percent by the end of 2005.

"I think we'll get to 10 percent over the next year. We don't have 10 percent of the Web at the moment, but we have the momentum," Decrem said.

He said he is confident of hitting this goal because interest in the browser has been accelerating over the last few months. He said this momentum can be seen in the increasing number of downloads for each version of Firefox: Version 0.8 was downloaded 3.3 million times in four months; 0.9 was downloaded 6.5 million times in three months; and the pre-release version was downloaded 5 million times in just one month.

Check out Firefox
Read about--and download--the latest release of the Firefox browser at the Mozilla site.

ZDNet UK's own figures show that since the beginning of this year, there has been an increase in the percentage of site visitors using a Mozilla browser. In February, about 9 percent of site visitors were using a Mozilla-based browser; this increased to 19 percent in October. Over the same period, IE use decreased from 88 percent to 79 percent.

CNET News.com and W3Schools.com, a Web development tutorial site, have found similar trends. The move from IE to Firefox is also shown by the fact that half of Firefox downloads are from IE users, according to Decrem.

Mozilla is also attracting increasing interest from non-technical users, who see the perceived speed of their Internet connection rise after switching to Firefox, according to Decrem.

"We get user e-mails saying, 'You're 10 times faster than IE,'" Decrem said. "Benchmark tests show we're about the same speed, but home users who have been accessing the Internet for five years may have 15 or 20 pieces of spyware, which means that every time they access a Web page, the malware could be making an additional 15 connections to the Internet, to log the information it has gathered."

Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for security firm Sophos, said spyware and virus writers tend to write malicious software specifically for IE. This can noticeably slow down Internet access for home users who access the Internet via dial-up, though broadband users are unlikely to notice any difference.

"Some spyware hooks specifically into IE," Cluley said. "But other spyware, such as those which log key presses and pass them on to an Internet site, are likely to work on any browser."

Decrem said the recent interest in Firefox validates Netscape's decision to open the source code of its Communicator software in 1998.

"Netscape open-sourced the source code to 'harness the power' of the open-source community," Decrem said. "Now, six years later, this vision is finally coming into fruition. To get over the finish line, we needed a nonprofit organization, which allows us to build new partnerships and do innovative marketing."

Decrem believes that Firefox has been able to exploit public interest in open-source software by providing an easy-to-use, accessible application.

"People have been hearing about open source for 10 years now," Decrem said. "They're intrigued by it and are inspired by the community approach, but they've not been able to experience it for themselves. Firefox is open source and turns up on your doorstep in a way you can consume. It is easy to use with good features."

Decrem said other open-source projects would get more interest from nontechnical users if they took a tougher approach to jettisoning unnecessary functionality.

"At Firefox, we are disciplined about getting rid of features," Decrem said. "It is hard to do that in an open-source development model. You need to take the open-source energy and overlay a product management discipline."

Another open-source project that has accepted the need for streamlining is the Linux desktop GNOME, which, over the last few years, has made changes to simplify the desktop. However, this approach has been unpopular with some GNOME developers, who spun off the GoneME project in July 2004 to develop a version of GNOME for experienced users.

"Current leadership in the GNOME Project have chosen a path that ignores the needs of experienced users," the GoneMe Web site says. "Many features are being added that many established users don't want or need. Some of the best of the old features are being dropped."

Creating a product for the average user also requires strong usability testing, according to Decrem.

"We have spent 10 years watching how people use stuff. For example, tab browsing came from watching people visit the same Web sites every day. Too often, the Linux community lives in a bubble--there is not enough interaction with end users."

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

14 comments

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MY network shows it's ALREADY over 10 percent! :-)
While I'm not one of the types who do nothing but read network logs all day, I've noticed that Mozilla has surpassed the 10% mark, already, and has for a few months, now.

My site gets thousands of visitors a month, so my use of it hardly shows, in case somebody's going to try and claim my visits are having a large effect on the results.

After IE and Mozilla, there is Netscape, Safari, Opera, and Konqueror.

Mozilla's Firefox runs smoothly, and like the article said, a lot of that nasty code is written for Microsoft products. Not to mention the fact that surfing with a Web browser that's tied into your operating system is a scary thought in the first place...

If anybody would like to see more information on Mozilla Firefox and the history of Web browsers, please visit: www.cyberwolfman.com/css_web_browsers_history.htm (Not a real commercial site, and there's no ads on it.)

- CyberWoLfman
Posted by CyberWoLfman (47 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Compare Firefox to My IE/Maxthon, et al
Subject line says it all. Users of all levels need clarity via comparisons of Firefox to other "lone and on top of MS comparisons" browsers like My IE2 / Maxthon, Opera, etc.

Enough already of Firefox being the best in everything and every way -- let's see comparisons and discussions based on OTHER browser alternatives too.

And if CNET would drop notice of such compares into our Email boxes of record, I would think that might be appreciated too.
Posted by josephrot (12 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Then would you want
ZD/CNet to compare all the IE addons to 100s of Firefox extensions that beat IEs by a mile or two?

Guess not.
Posted by chiwawa (8 comments )
Link Flag
Myself...
Myself after reading all of the Firefox stuff from Cnet it has become clear they push it because it is free. Opera is not. Also while Opera is good it isn't great. I have two major problems with Opera.

1. They don't update it often enough. Maybe once a year twice if there is a bug. This is not good enough and it is this lack of updates that is going to kill IE.

2. Opera is lacking some very basic things especially in their e-mail software. For example the address book doesn't have a field for company name. Some of the problems will small have been in Opera for years now and I am sure they have been told about them (I have told them about them) and they continue to ignore it.

Right now I don't feel Opera is worth the money. I like software that is kept up to date as we all know few things in this world move as fast as computer and internet technology. The software we use for these needs to keep up with it. Microsoft isn't doing this and Opera isn't either, though they are doing a better job than Microsoft.

Robert
Posted by (336 comments )
Link Flag
Once you go tabbed...
..browsing, you wont go back. It is great! You can simply control-t a new tab or control-w to close it. So fast. Previously I had three or four windows open alt-tabbing between them. this is much better!
Posted by lewissalem (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Been There. Gave it up.
Tabbed browsing is not the taco on top of the combination platter, let me assure you. I have tried it, and dumped it. It is a pain. In my opinion, it is no better than revisiting the task bar every time I want to see another window.

If you want to be productive, and keep more information at your fingertips, add a monitor and go back to IE. I have 3 large high-resolution monitors and I can keep about 20 IE windows open and spread around if I want to.

Why on earth would I want to keep flipping between tabs? Isn't it just as easy to use the taskbar? And isn't it better yet to just have a bigger desktop?

Tabs schmabs.... another UI gimmick.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
um, Yeah, I mean no
"(2) If a site in a tab crashes the browser (which can occur with badly-written sites), then all opened tabs get closed too. At least with multiple windows you don't have all open sites in one basket."

No, in IE when one window crashes, it not only takes Internet Explorer, it takes the whole shebang, Windows, BSOD!!!
Posted by chiwawa (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
spyware and popup makers already neutralizing FF advantage?
So I was browsing a website the other day searching for better quality cover art for my iTunes tracks and ran across a good site. Too bad I had 1 popup occur and 2 in window popups happen. I think the developers are staring to compensate for FireFox already. By the time they get to 10% the advantage may very well be gone.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
browser competition
The demands placed on browser authors are the same for all browsers. Software is a continual ongoing effort, and a large part of the value of any software package is the provider's ability to support it in the long term without overburdening IT admins with too many frequent updates.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
TBE/Multizilla
Browsing with Multizilla or TBE is much more powerful than with taskbar.
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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