Firefox plans mass marketing drive

There's a "strong likelihood" that Firefox 1.5, the next version of the open source browser, will be released on Nov. 29.

Mozilla is gearing up to launch a large-scale marketing drive when Firefox 1.5 is released.

Christopher Beard, the vice-president of products at Mozilla, said on Monday that there is a "strong likelihood" that Firefox 1.5 , the next major version of the open source browser, will be released on Nov. 29.

Beard said the corporation is planning a "big marketing push" that will coincide with the release of 1.5. This will include a community marketing campaign that will encourage Firefox fans to tell the world about their favorite browser by publishing amateur videos on a Mozilla Web site.

"You will have real people telling you about Firefox's features--what's cool and great," said Beard. "People can create the video and upload it to the Mozilla site. The video will then be reviewed and put on our Web site, with a link from their location."

The videos will be hosted on the SpreadFirefox community marketing site, which will display a world map with a dot marking each location where a video has been created.

Beard said he doesn't know how many people will get involved in this campaign, particularly as it is dependent on contributors having video equipment, such as a camcorder or a Web cam.

"It's hard to tell. With The New York Times' ad campaign we thought it would take weeks to raise the money, but in less than 48 hours we had already raised enough for an ad," said Beard. "With this [campaign] it's also uncertain--are we going to get hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of videos?"

As the videos are likely to be posted in many languages, Mozilla will use international volunteers to filter the videos. It has already recruited teams to cover 20 European languages, according to Tristan Nitot, the president of Mozilla Europe.

Prizes for the best videos will be awarded at the end of the campaign. Mozilla is also launching a separate competition to create a 30-second ad for Firefox, which will be open to everyone but will be particularly targeted at film students.

As well as the video campaigns, Mozilla plans to launch a consumer-oriented Web site next week. Mozilla.com, which hosts a placeholder page, will eventually be the main entry point for the Mozilla organization, rather than Mozilla.org, Beard explained.

"Part of our marketing strategy is to target more of a general consumer audience, who don't necessarily have a technical understanding, so we are looking to make our Web sites more approachable," said Beard.

Mozilla is also hoping to improve its consumer focus by offering a major release every six to nine months, rather than every two years--as was the case when it was part of Netscape. In keeping with this new strategy, Firefox 2.0 is scheduled for release in the middle of 2006 and Firefox 3 is planned for the first quarter of 2007.

There has been more subtle change in Mozilla's marketing strategy over the last year. In 2004, before the release of Firefox 1.0, the Mozilla marketing contact predicted that Firefox would obtain 10 percent market share by the end of 2005. This week, Beard refused to provide any new targets, merely saying that Mozilla is "looking forward to continuing growth".

This change appears to have been partly driven by the proliferation of browser statistics, with companies pointing out any decrease in Firefox and many conflicting statistics available over Firefox's overall market share.

"It's difficult to get good statistics. People can use statistics in different ways," said Beard.

Ingrid Marson of ZDNet UK reported from London.

 

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