Firefox, a browser based on the Mozilla Foundation's open-source development work, was made available for free download at 1 a.m. PST Tuesday. (Later in the morning, the site was responding very slowly.)
If the download statistics fromare any indication, the open-source browser could be headed for a big debut.
"Our browser is moving into the mainstream," said Mitchell Baker, president of the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation, based in Mountain View, Calif. "Being an alternative browser in today's market is a challenge, but people have begun to realize that the browser matters, that the browser you get with your computer can be a beginning point and not an endpoint."
The Mozilla Foundation has released Firefox 1.0, a browser based on the group's open-source development work.
The release could make a big impact if pre-release trends propel the open-source browser into serious contention with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
The browser Mozilla released in the wee hours of Tuesday morning won't be significantly different from the preview releases that have launched in recent months. Mozilla changed its default start page to appeal to new users, but other changes are minor performance improvements and bug fixes.
But the release could nonetheless make a big impact if prerelease trends propel the open-source browser into serious contention with Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
While Web analysts have largely ignored the browser market since declaring IE the winner of the browser war, scattered Web site measurement statistics have suggestedagainst the IE juggernaut.
IE continues to command more than 90 percent of the market, with Opera Software's namesake browser, Apple Computer's Safari software and other Mozilla-based browsers making up the difference. Firefox has set its sights on gainingof the market by the end of 2005.
In addition to making apparent market inroads and shattering its own download goals, Firefox has succeeded in blazing an open-source fundraising trail that backers call unprecedented.
To place, the Mozilla Foundation in the first 10 days of a fundraising campaign.
Mozilla owes part of its Firefox success to widespread security concerns about IE. While all the browsers have faced, IE's security reputation has suffered chronic damage amid a targeting IE users.
The Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT), the computer threats division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, earlier this year issued an advisory urging Americans toin favor of its competitors. Independent groups have launched urging Web surfers to consider IE alternatives.
Microsoft in August