Tech Strategy Trends

Apr 3 2011   9:01AM GMT

An Inconvenient Truth: Firefox Edition

Tony Bradley Tony Bradley Profile: Tony Bradley

Firefox 4 was downloaded 7.1 million times in the first 24 hours it was available. As of right now, it has been downloaded more than 56 million times in less than two weeks. Impressive.

Unfortunately, racing out of the gate is not the same thing as winning the race–and it is highly unlikely that Firefox will win the race. Firefox 3 set launch day download records as well, but that hasn’t stopped the Mozilla browser from steadily declining in market share.

Microsoft’s latest browser–Internet Explorer 9–is only available for Windows 7 and Windows Vista. Windows XP, which is still the number one operating system with more market share than Windows 7 and Windows Vista combined, is left with Internet Explorer 8, and rival browsers such as Firefox, Chrome, Safari, and Opera. It should be a prime opportunity for Mozilla to capture significant market share.

However, Firefox has already been available for Windows XP for years. It didn’t stop IE8 from becoming the leading browser version with more than a third of the overall market, and double the second place Firefox 3.6. If every Firefox 3.6 user makes the switch to Firefox 4, the new Mozilla browser will quickly grab market share, but primarily at the expense of previous Firefox releases, resulting in little change to the overall market share for Firefox as a whole.

As Windows XP users transition to become Windows 7 users, though, most of them will stick with the Microsoft browser they are already familiar with and invested in–and embrace the additional functionality and integration that the Internet Explorer 9 provides with the Windows 7 OS. Those Windows XP / IE8 numbers will transition to Windows 7 / IE9 market share.

There is certainly more parity in the browser market today. The days of Microsoft’s 90 percent market share and virtual monopoly are gone. Firefox has a comfortable market share, and Chrome is on the rise. But, downloads don’t equal usage, and launch day spikes don’t equal market share–so we’ll have to take a look at the usage stats a few months from now and see how things are trending.

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