Firefox ad readied as market share increases

Microsoft IE cedes more browser market share to Firefox as the open-source group completes its New York Times ad.

Paul Festa Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Paul Festa
covers browser development and Web standards.
Paul Festa
3 min read
The Mozilla group expects to run a thank-you ad in the New York Times by Christmas as new market share numbers showed continued progress against Microsoft.

The Mozilla Foundation, an open-source group founded by Netscape Communications to develop its browser and spun off last year by AOL Time Warner, has been executing an unorthodox, volunteer marketing campaign. To mark last month's official launch of the Firefox browser, the group planned to take out a full-page New York Times ad thanking financial contributors.

That fundraising and marketing scheme inspired so many contributions that Mozilla volunteers ran into technical difficulties squeezing all their names onto a single ad. Now, with the unsolicited help of an Adobe Illustrator engineer, the group has surmounted those problems and submitted the ad to the Times for what volunteers expect will be a pre-Christmas run date.

"We're looking forward to getting this ad out so everyone can use it as an example of community marketing in action," said Mozilla volunteer Rob Davis, who is spearheading the ad effort. "It was nice to hear from the folks at Adobe and get the tweaks that made the process go faster."

Mozilla, which on Sunday marked its 10 millionth Firefox 1.0 download, has opted for a cheaper rate at the Times by giving the paper discretion to run the ad on any day in a two- to three-week window.

Mozilla promised both a surprise in the ad and a longer term goal of doubling the download number.

"Now it's done and we're pushing to get the ad out in the next few days, giving us just enough time to celebrate our 10 million download success before we make a move to double that number!" wrote a Mozilla volunteer on the group's Spread Firefox marketing Web site. "We'll let you know the day before the ad is set to run. You'll want to be sure to stake out a copy for yourself--we've got a surprise for you!"

Firefox market share increases
While the group and its 10,000 donors wait to see their names in the paper, new numbers from Web site metrics firm WebSideStory indicate that Firefox's first month as a full Version 1.0 release boosted its market share by a point at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

Firefox has won good reviews and a number of awards. But its biggest selling point up until now is that it isn't IE, whose reputation has suffered amid an ongoing series of security problems.

Firefox's "usage share" climbed from 3 percent to 4 percent since just before the launch of Version 1.0 in early November, according to San Diego-based WebSideStory, which sells Web site traffic monitoring software and services. Firefox appears to have taken that percentage point directly from IE, which slipped from 93 percent to 92 percent.

Another Web site metrics firm, Amsterdam, Netherlands-based OneStat.com, last month showed IE dipping below the 90 percent mark.

By WebSideStory's count, non-Firefox Netscape browsers accounted for 3 percent of the market, unchanged from the prior month, and other browsers--which include the Opera browser and Apple Computer's Safari browser--accounted for 1 percent of usage.

On a daily basis, WebSideStory derives its global data from the travels of 30 million Internet users from more than 200 countries visiting more than 20,000 sites.

"Firefox's gains are clearly accelerating," Rand Schulman, WebSideStory?s chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "Much of it has to do with the release of Firefox's version 1.0 on Nov. 9, after several months of offering a preview version. Firefox's stated goal of gaining 10 percent of the market over the next year no longer seems unattainable."

Microsoft declined to comment directly on the new market share numbers, but acknowledged demand for competing browsers.

"While Internet Explorer is the choice of hundreds of millions because of the unique value it provides, we respect that some customers will choose an alternative," a Microsoft representative said in a statement. "We also know that choosing a browser is about more than a handful of features. Microsoft continues to make major investments in Internet Explorer."

In other Mozilla news, the group said it expected to mark the millionth download of its recently released Thunderbird e-mail management software on Thursday.