Safari numbers still dwarfed by Firefox downloads

Apple is claiming 11 million downloads for Safari, as if this is a victory, but the truth is that Firefox is dominating Safari and IE8.

Apple has been desperately trying to turn Safari into a mainstream browser player. Unfortunately, its numbers simply don't compare to Firefox.

Safari 4.0 notched 11 million downloads in just three days. While significant, this number is almost a rounding error compared with Firefox 3.0.11, which pulled down 150 million downloads in just 24 hours, as Mozilla's Asa Dotzler reports.

With more than 300 million active users of Firefox, Mozilla is miles ahead of Safari in terms of users. Firefox also dwarfs Safari (and Internet Explorer) in community; indeed, it is Firefox's rich ecosystem of add-ons and extensions that arguably render irrelevant any performance advantages Safari claims .

Perhaps for this reason, despite the apparent rise of Safari, Firefox is actually gaining at its expense, as Dotzler calls out:

Safari, just like IE, gets virtually all of its usage by shipping as the bundled and default browser with its operating system...

Safari usage is growing...the explanation, though, is not more people choosing Safari; it's more people choosing Mac. That's a very different thing. Having chosen Mac, Safari users, about 27% of them, have opted out of the bundled and default browser and instead chosen Firefox.

That's an even higher conversion to Firefox rate than we're seeing on Windows.

I'm an example of this. I was one of those 11 million Safari downloads, but I did so because the Apple update system pushed the update to me, not because I actually wanted it. (Nor am I alone in this.) I use Safari roughly twice per month: once when I check my bill on (which doesn't seem to work with Firefox), and once when I review Net Applications for browser market share (which, again, doesn't seem to work properly with Firefox).

Other than that, it's all Firefox, all the time.

I'm a Mac fanatic, but that doesn't mean I swallow Safari along with it. Safari lacks the add-ons that make my Firefox experience so rich. Safari may be fast, but it's like having a fast car without enough room to seat my family or accommodate a stereo and cup holder. I'm sure there's an audience for that, but I'm not it.

So, while Microsoft resorts to charitable donations to goose its IE8 downloads, and Apple claims misleading Safari numbers, Firefox wins because it's simply better.

Update @ 3:50 PT: It turns out that the problem stems from Adblock Plus, not Firefox. I guess I shouldn't blame Firefox for its extensions' problems.

Follow me on Twitter @mjasay.

Tech Culture
About the author

    Matt Asay is chief operating officer at Canonical, the company behind the Ubuntu Linux operating system. Prior to Canonical, Matt was general manager of the Americas division and vice president of business development at Alfresco, an open-source applications company. Matt brings a decade of in-the-trenches open-source business and legal experience to The Open Road, with an emphasis on emerging open-source business strategies and opportunities. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET. You can follow Matt on Twitter @mjasay.


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