Practical Technology

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Firefox 3: Past, Present, and Future


July 2004 — Internet Explorer has held more than 95 percent of the browser market since June 2002. Over the last month, however, its market share has slowly dropped from 95.73 percent on June 4 to 94.73 percent on July 6.A loss of 1 percent of the market may not mean much to Microsoft, but it translates into a large growth, proportionately, in the number of users running Mozilla and Netscape-based browsers. Mozilla and Netscape’s combined market share has increased by 26 percent, rising from 3.21 percent of the market in June to 4.05 percent in July.—PC World, Mozilla Gains on IE.

June 2008 — Firefox 3 is almost here. The latest version is now at release candidate two and, in a word, it’s great.

It strikes me that we forget, even as many of us look forward to this great open-source browser just what hurdles Firefox had to overcome. Four years ago, Internet Explorer, thanks to Microsoft’s monopoly owned the Web browser market. Netscape, while still around, was already dead and buried for all practical purposes.

Then, the Mozilla Foundation decided to split it’s all in one Web browser/e-mail program into two halves: Firefox, the Web browser, and Thunderbird, an e-mail client. Mozilla hoped that by doing this they’d get more users for each than the combined all-in-one Mozilla program. They were right.

March 2005 — Firefox continues to steal market share from Microsoft Internet Explorer, according to Net Applications, a maker of Web-monitoring software. According to the company’s February figures, use of Firefox rose to 6.17% from 5.59% in January. – InformationWeek, Firefox Eats More Microsoft Market Share.

Firefox knocked Microsoft for a loop. For the first time in ages, a Microsoft desktop application was losing ground. Microsoft had known, in the way you know you should mow your yard even if it is a hot day and the game’s on, that IE 6 needed a refresh. Without any competition, though, Microsoft hadn’t bothered to do anything with it except fix its most glaring security problems.

Now, Firefox showed people that there could be a better Web browser. Microsoft, grown fat and lazy, was slow off the mark addressing this new challenger

February 2006 — Despite the dearth of usage, there are signs that many IT managers welcome the challenge that Firefox is posing to Microsoft’s ironclad grip on the browser market. … Nearly half of the respondents (45 percent) said they use Firefox as their sole browser or in addition to others, such as IE, Safari or Opera. And 21 percent said their IT departments have added support for Firefox.—Computerworld, Firefox finds cracking the corporate market a challenge.

Worse still, from Microsoft’s viewpoint, Firefox continued to surge ahead with significant improvements and began its move from power users and open-source software fans to business users in 2005.

Microsoft tried to play catch up. They failed.

December 2006 – “Simply put, Firefox [2.0] is the best browser of all,” Computerworld, Browser Smackdown: Firefox vs. IE vs. Opera vs. Safari.

In 2007, however, Firefox began to lose some its cachet. Internet Explorer 7, while not the equal of Firefox 2, wasn’t that much worse. More troubling still, Firefox’s own problems: bad memory leaks and some security holes were beginning to get more annoying.

So, Mozilla started working on perhaps the browser’s most significant revision ever: Firefox 3. This revision of the browser not only fixed those problems, but added new, and far more importantly, useful features.

June 2008 – Firefox boosted its share by 0.6% in May, accounting for 18.4% of the browsers used during the month and putting it within shouting distance of a major milestone, according to Net Applications Inc. “Firefox is trending to hit 20% market share sometime in July,” said Vince Vizzaccaro, the company’s executive vice president of marketing. Computerworld. Firefox on track to crack 20% share in July.

On every Web site I’ve ever managed, Firefox is already well over 20%. In fact, on Practical Technology in June, 69.3% of my visitors use Firefox compared to a mere 12.9% who use Internet Explorer. Now, this is a site that’s for people who are tech savvy, so I think I can safely say that people who know what they’re doing on a PC clearly prefer Firefox over IE.

Mozilla plans on setting what may be the geekest world record ever when Firefox 3 is ready for mainstream release. The company plans on trying to set a record for most downloads of a program on a single day. If users want the best, fastest, and most secure Web browser, Firefox has been, is now, and will continue to be in the future the Web browser of choice.


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