Posted by: Steve Hamm on October 11, 2006
When the folks from Mozilla prepared to launch their open-source Firefox 1.0 browser two years ago, their hope was to gain enough market share to compel Web sites to adopt open standards—rather than standardizing on Microsoft’s proprietary Internet Explorer browser technology. Job done. Firefox has anywhere from a 10% to 18% worldwide market share among browser users, depending who is counting, and almost every Web site that matters makes it possible for Firefox users to fully access their pages. The turning point came earlier this year when banks and financial services outfits including American Express and Fidelity switched over. Now, with the impending arrival of the Firefox 2.0 browser, you can expect Firefox to gain even more share and make it even more difficult for Microsoft to call the shots, technology-wise, on the Web.
Firefox 2.0 is expected to arrive in late October or early November--whenever it's ready. But demand for the older version doesn't seem to be slackening in advance of the release. Chris Beard, vp of marketing and product management, reports that Mozilla is averaging about 350,000 downloads a day from its site, up from about 200,000 per day a year ago. Mozilla figures it has about 70-80 million active users. Most of them are in the early-adopter and Web 2.0 crowd, but there's also evidence that people within large enterprises are using the product. The peak use day for Firefox is Wednesday--indicating that people are using it at work.
One of the keys to Firefox's initial success was its community marketing initiative. People signed up to help market and distribute the software via their Web sites or blogs, and contributed to help pay for advertisements in mainstream media outlets. The organization now has 180,000 registered community marketing volunteers. One contest last year resulted in 300 video commercials being produced--some of which have appeared on YouTube and other popular video sharing sites. Beard's now trying to figure out how to get some of the commercials aired on cable TV and other video outlets.
Firefox is one of the best proof points I have seen that viral marketing works.