December 12, 2004 2:25 PM PST

Firefox surpasses 10 million download mark

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Firefox, the open-source challenger to market heavyweight Internet Explorer, has surpassed 10 million downloads in a little more than a month since the browser was released in November.

The free Web browser from the Mozilla Foundation surpassed 10 million downloads on Saturday as Web surfers continue to move away from Microsoft's market-dominating IE. The milestone highlights growing frustration with the security vulnerabilities that have dogged IE during the past few months. Nearly two dozen holes in the Web browser have been discovered during the fall, ranging in degrees of seriousness.

Firefox's surge has helped Mozilla cut into Microsoft's dominance of the Web browser market, with the software giant's market share dropping to less than 90 percent. Dutch market researcher OneStat.com reported last month that IE's market share had slipped to 88.9 percent in the third week of November, down 5 percentage points from its share in May. Mozilla-based browsers, including Firefox, rose to 7.4 percent, up 5 percentage points from May.

"It seems that people are switching from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Mozilla's new Firefox browser," Niels Brinkman, co-founder of OneStat.com, said in a statement in November.

Microsoft has disputed these numbers, claiming that they do not represent corporate users.

"It doesn't jibe with what WebSideStory shows, and what neither of these count is corporate intranets where users aren't actually hitting the Web," Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of product management for Windows, said of OneStat's statistics.

On Wednesday, the information technology services department at Pennsylvania State University recommended that students drop IE in favor of Firefox and Apple Computer's Safari to reduce attacks through vulnerabilities in the Microsoft software. The university said "media reports" and a string of warnings by Carnegie Mellon University's computer emergency response team led to its recommendation.

Malicious code writers have targeted security holes in the browser to launch attacks or install spyware. These attacks are often launched when a victim clicks on a specific Web link, opening the door for intruders to take over the person's computer. Once the PC is compromised, the attacker could access account information, load other software and delete files.

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Corporate users have little choice
It's interesting that Microsoft chose to point to corporate users -- users who mostly have little or no choice in what browser they use -- as a defense against the notion that Firefox is stealing IE's users. Many corporate intranets are built very specifically to only work with one browser (usually IE). Even if another browser would fully support everything that the intranet uses, there's usually code that specifically checks if you're using IE. On the other hand, many corporate users are not able to install software on their PCs due to limited permissions on the system, which means they are forced to use what their I.T. manager has decided they will use, even if it's not the best option.

Many corporate intranets (including the one where I work) were built years ago to only support features which are specific to IE, and the developers either have all they can do to keep the system running or are too lazy to make the necessary changes to support industry standards. It is far easier to just say "sorry, we only support IE" than it is to modify existing code to support all browsers. There's no technical reason for my company's intranet to only support IE, that's just the way it was coded and our developers refuse to change it. That's a SCARY thought in the financial services market where our customers have tried to switch to Firefox to avoid IE's security problems only to be told we will only support them if they use IE.
Posted by Freiheit13 (92 comments )
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another thing
Also, a lot of corporate environments prefer IE because it can be configured and updated remotely using active directory and group policies. You can also lock down IE with group policies so that users don't go around changing settings and installing stuff and then blaming IT for it. Firefox doesn't give the IT department this level of control and therefore is not scalable in large corporate environments.
Posted by nrlz (98 comments )
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Corporations being held hostage
Yes, some corporations have stupidly tied themselves to IE and are now being held hostage. If I were the CEO, I would send all those responsible to a risk management course (that is if I didn't fire them first) and then have them come up with a solid plan to phase FF in and IE out. It might take several months or longer but at least I know that my company would no longer be as vulnerable as it is today.
Posted by Not Bugged (195 comments )
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Intranet
Depending on the number of web applications that have been developed over the years in your company, it could be very, very expensive to 'upgrade' those applications to fit every browser.

Also, the more browsers you add, or applications that fit the same niche, the more your support costs are going to go up.
Posted by Sboston (498 comments )
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Firefox just rules
I first heard about Firefox a few weeks ago when our university replaced the default browser IE (now hidden as much as possible deep in the menu) with Firefox. And after a much better experience with Firefox I also switched to Firefox browser at home. I must say I'm very impressed. It is faster, more stable and it looks like it prevent spyware entering my computer. I also wonder how I could ever live without tabs. In my book IE is history and now is the time for the better browser: Firefox.
Posted by JLP (38 comments )
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I downloaded three copies of FireFox
And so what? I am still using IE and being very happy. Those "downloads" figures really means nothing.
Posted by 201293546946733175101343322673 (722 comments )
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I downloaded once¬ł
and passed copys to 3 good friends of mine... what matters is statistic of usage, but if something is downloadad 100 milion times, it is more probable that it will have a bigger market share too... you cant deny that!
Posted by ipernar (2 comments )
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