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Statistics show Firefox 3 spreading fast

Less than 24 hours after its release, Firefox 3 usage already beats out that of Opera. More than 7 million copies of the open-source browser have been downloaded.

Firefox 3 gained market share rapidly, even before it was 24 hours old.
Firefox 3 gained market share rapidly, even before it was 24 hours old. Net Applications

Firefox 3 is spreading fast, claiming more than 4 percent of the share of Web browser usage less than 24 hours after its release.

According to Net Applications, which monitors browser usage at major Web sites, Firefox 3 rapidly ascended to what I'd call force-to-be-reckoned-with status, something Web designers shouldn't be ignoring. For comparison, Apple's Safari had 6.25 percent share in May, and Opera had 0.71 percent.

Undoubtedly, most Firefox 3 activity is from existing Firefox users, but it's still a notable achievement, given that software companies constantly struggle to get users to adopt the latest products.

Mozilla, which sponsors and oversees development of the open-source Web browser, released Firefox 3 for download on Tuesday. It primed the publicity pump with an effort to set a 24-hour download record, and interest by the abundant Firefox loyalists brought Mozilla's servers to their knees for nearly two hours Wednesday.

Mozilla has been fulfilling pent-up demand ever since. Sometime after 7 a.m. PDT, downloads crossed the 7 million mark, according to Mozilla's download counter, which is fun to watch, even though it's badly formatted.

The download rate, which peaked at 14,000 per minute Tuesday, was about 6,600 per minute Wednesday morning.

For full coverage, including reviews and videos, see CNET's Firefox 3 resource center.