Wednesday, 18 June 2008 04:04

Firefox 3 launch firing on all cylinders after early stumble

The debut of Firefox 3 on Tuesday morning (US time) ran into a slight hitch, but it's now full steam ahead to establish a world record for the number of downloads of one program in a 24 hour period.

The launch was scheduled for around 10am Pacific Daylight Time, but the level of interest caught Mozilla on the hop. Scalability, or a lack of it, is a recurring problem on the web. It's often seen on e-commerce sites when tickets for extremely popular events or ridiculously cheap air fares go on sale.

"Our servers are currently feeling the burn and should be back to normal shortly," said Mozilla's Melissa Shapiro in the organisation's blog at 10.39am.

The download record period officially began at 11.16am. In four hours, more than 1.5 million copies had been downloaded, which bodes well for the attempt.

Since there is no existing Guinness world record for downloads, there is no specific number that must be reached. Organisers were hoping to at least exceed the 1.6 million downloads of Firefox 2 on its launch day, and that was reached in five hours.

The more optimistic target of 5 million also seems achievable.

"We are currently serving almost 9,000 downloads a minute, which puts us on track to achieve 5-7 million downloads our first day of general availability," said Mozilla's Paul Kim in the organisation's blog at 3.26pm.

Where is demand coming from? The answer is on page 2 .

Understandably, the US is the initial hot spot accounting for around 30 percent of the downloads, but Germany is also making a strong early showing with approximately eight percent.

As the day progresses, downloads to the Asia Pacific region are likely to kick in as people start work. And we haven't seen the last of the US, with the bulk of home downloading likely to start in the next few hours.

The release of the new version seems likely to increase Firefox's market share. Mozilla's Blog of Metrics recently noted "rapid adoption" of the release candidate along with continued growth of Firefox 2 usage.

According to Net Applications, Firefox (all versions) took a 18.41 percent browser share in May 2008, compared with 73.75 for Internet Explorer and 6.25 for Safari. Firefox and Safari have both been gaining ground at the expense of Internet Explorer. Opera has also improved its share by a healthy proportion, but is still a distant fourth on 0.71 percent.

Firefox has a particularly strong following in Europe. According to XiTi Monitor, its average browser share across Europe for March 2008 was 28.8 percent.

XiTi Monitor also reports that Firefox has a 31.2 percent browser share in Oceania, which includes Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands.

Key features of Firefox 3 include a 'smart' location bar which adapts to user preferences, page display that's two to three times faster than Firefox 2, security improvements, and an add-ons manager. In all, more than 15,000 improvements have been made.

Firefox 3 is available for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux from Mozilla's GetFirefox site.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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