Mozilla has put off its latest Firefox until early 2011. That slippage by a few weeks isn't a big concern---unless you need to rally the base and close what Ed Bott calls "an enthusiasm gap."
Ed looked at his own blog and noted that enthusiasm among Firefox users just isn't what it used to be. Specifically, Ed was looking to measure how much mojo the new Internet Explorer had.
Zooming out a bit, I pulled the figures for ZDNet overall via Google Analytics. Generally speaking, there's an enthusiasm gap for both Firefox and IE. Firefox traffic in February represented more than 36 percent of ZDNet traffic and IE had nearly 39 percent. In June, Firefox fell to 34.44 percent of traffic while IE dropped to 38.57 percent. In October, Firefox represented 33.06 percent of traffic and IE had 36.54 percent.
So what happened? Google Chrome happened. In February, Chrome was 11.84 percent of traffic. By June, Chrome was 15.07 percent of traffic. In October: 18.25 percent.
For what it is worth, Safari traffic has been steady about 9 percent or so.
This Firefox enthusiasm gap was something I was thinking about last week. Mozilla pushed out Firefox 4 and I was disappointed. That news happened to coincide with yet another security update. Mozilla needs to rally its base and I'm part of that group.
Meanwhile, Microsoft has jazzed up IE and is talking HTML5. Simply put, Microsoft is pushing IE forward. See: Internet Explorer 9 beta review: Microsoft reinvents the browser
To put, this browser battle in election terms. Firefox and IE represent the two major political parties. They are entrenched and have partisan groups---open source and Microsoft---behind them. Google Chrome represents the third party for folks that want to vote out the incumbents. Chrome has the enthusiasm among its base. And people are voting with their downloads.
Like many people, I use all three browsers, but Firefox is the one I perceive to be most at risk. There are good things happening, but the lack of a concrete mobile play for now and a shiny new object---Firefox 4---is worrisome. The way Chrome is surging even a stumble by a few weeks can impact Firefox share.
A look at the stats on ZDNet: