Firefox beats million-download deadline

With days to spare, open-source browser meets 10-day goal of 1 million downloads.

With days to spare, the Mozilla Foundation beat its 10-day goal of 1 million Firefox downloads.

Released six days ago, the first preview release of the Firefox 1.0 Web browser passed the million-download mark early in its fifth day, according to the Mozilla Foundation. By Monday afternoon, the download number had swelled to 1.3 million.

"Beaten would be an understatement," said Mozilla spokesman Bart Decrem when asked about the 10-day goal. "I think we're setting new records here in terms of new browser downloads, and it shows that people are ready for an alternative."

An alternative, that is, to Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer browser. With Microsoft having abandoned development of standalone IE, and with Firefox getting an increasingly warm reception from Web surfers and developers alike, scattered statistics suggest that Firefox may be starting to chip away at IE's market share.

The Mozilla Foundation, spun off from AOL Time Warner last year as a nonprofit, carries on the open-source development work launched in 1998 by Netscape Communications and its wing. Considered a pioneer in the realm of company-sponsored open-source work, Mozilla nonetheless failed until recently to produce a strong challenger to IE.

While IE's reputation took a beating after a long string of security problems and years without significant feature or standards upgrades, Mozilla put its efforts into designing Firefox as a smaller, faster version of its Mozilla browser. Months before the preview release of version 1.0, Firefox had begun attracting users, prizes and buzz.

Now Mozilla is facing the problems that come with success: handling increased security scrutiny by security experts and malicious hackers, and coping with hundreds of thousands of downloads per day.

Decrem noted that Firefox had achieved its million downloads despite being a preview release. The final Firefox 1.0 is scheduled to be finished this fall.

The browser's pre-release status hasn't hurt recruitment efforts at the Mozilla Foundation's newly launched volunteer marketing site, Spread Firefox. There, more than 7,500 volunteers have signed up since Tuesday's launch, and more than a million and a half people are visiting per day, according to Decrem.

Decrem said the next few days would bring new initiatives that would deploy Spread Firefox volunteers to market Firefox to a broader audience. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the browser has proved popular primarily with early adopters and technology enthusiasts.

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