Opera: Firefox user figures 'inflated'

Opera: Firefox user figures 'inflated'

Summary: A feature in Firefox could mean that its current market share figures are unrealistic, claims a rival browser maker

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TOPICS: Networking
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The chief executive of Opera Software claimed on Monday that the market share figures for Mozilla Firefox are inflated, due to its support for link prefetching.

Link prefetching is a mechanism that uses browser idle time to download Web pages that the user might visit in the near future. This feature is enabled by default in Firefox 1.0. Google added support for link prefetching to its search engine earlier this year, which means that Firefox will pre-load the top search results into its cache.

Firefox and Opera have a market share of 8.7 and 1.0 percent respectively, according to the latest figures from Web traffic measurement company OneStat.com. Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still the dominant browser, accounting for 86.6 percent of Web surfers. But Jon von Tetzchner, the chief executive of Opera, claimed that Opera's market share is likely to be higher than these statistics suggest, as it does not support pre-fetching and has a more efficient caching mechanism.

"Sadly the statistics are undercounting Opera and overcounting Firefox. Opera has a better caching mechanism so it doesn't access Web sites as often as other browsers. Firefox has added a pre-loading feature that Google has made use of. This inflates the numbers on the statistics," von Tetzchner said, in an interview with ZDNet UK on Monday.

Opera's caching mechanism is not the only feature that could deflate its marketshare. Opera is configured by default to identify itself as Internet Explorer, a setting that users have to manually change to allow Opera to identify itself correctly.

There are between 10 and 15 million active users of Opera, according to von Tetzchner. He said that Opera is being downloaded between two and three million times per month. Opera also produces a version of its browser for mobile phones, which has been downloaded over one million times and "many millions" of licences for this browser have been sold to handset manufacturers and operators, according to the Opera Web site.

James Governor, an analyst at RedMonk, agreed that market share figures can be inaccurate, but said download figures can also be unreliable.

"When they're looking at downloads, they're not counting who uses the thing — I have Opera on my desktop that I don't use. For all that Opera is supposedly being used on mobile phones, do people actually use it?" queried Governer, adding that "you have to be careful about throwing stones."

Although a free version of Opera is available, this version has advertising built-in, while a paid version without advertising is also available. Von Tetzchner admitted that the adverts put off some users, but as his firm does not have independent funding it has little choice.

"A lot of people don't like our ads, which is sad as we don't have a rich sugar daddy like the Mozilla Foundation. They [the Mozilla Firefox team] don't have to think about money as they're being funded. We're not being funded," said von Tetzchner.

Topic: Networking

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24 comments
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  • Souinds sorta like sour grapes, if you ask me.
    anonymous
  • Most stats providers count 'users' not 'hits' or at least claim to. If that's the case it doesn't matter if Firefox users make more requests to websites they should still be counted as a single user.
    anonymous
  • What a bunch of sour grapes from Opera.

    I wrote my own counter in Perl to get a real indication of browser statistics, and one of the things I did in that counter was record the IP addresses of visitors and only count and IP address once in a 24 hour period.
    (My counter ignores my IP's completely so I am not messing up the figures.)

    Firefox still shows massively higher marketshare then Opera. Also my counter searchs for \Opera x\ where X is the version number and it detects just fine regardless of whether it's set to pretent to be IE or not.

    Also I don't know that there are all that many people who have downloaded the firefox google bar, but I'll bet that not even 1/4 of Firefox users have.

    I don't mind Opera, it's not a bad browser and certainly better then IE, but it can't hope to compete with Firefox for several reasons.
    1. They don't offer anything you can't get with a Firefox extension.
    2. You get Ads, or you get to pay.
    3. They have not garnered anything remotely like the Firefox community where the users end up installing it on every computer they come across.

    To each their own, as long as people are not using IE then I don't care what they use.
    anonymous
  • 95% of these 'counters' work by Javascript, not log analysis. Link prefetching doesn't execute Javascript, so its not going to appear as a hit...
    anonymous
  • ahahahahaha ... let'me laughing ...
    The guys at Opera just try to make some desesperate publicity ...
    anonymous
  • Opera is a lame piece of junk, and the whining from this moron is nothing more than sour grapes. FireFox beats Opera hands down any day of the week AND IT'S FREE. I mean, HELLO????
    anonymous
  • Opera Rocks...its fast and doesn't crash or drain memory quite like firefox seems to on all my computers. What I don't like are some of its inability to properly interface with scripts that seem to only work with IE and surprisingly only firefox mots of the time (online shopping carts, proper display etc..) This isn't so much the problem of Opera however as it is of the web-page writers...and poor java script and HTML protocol

    I also find Opera to be the fastest of all the browsers and one of the most full featured...

    Don't knock it for the ads -- they are everywhere on the web anyways (look at this very page!) and they are virtually unnoticed in my browsing anyways. Definitely a very good alternative to that finicky link that won't work...if it won't work in IE, it won't work in Firefox....but it might work with opera ..something about how Opera calls up addresses differently.

    Sour grapes?? Maybe...but don't knock a gracious and very savvy player in the GNU/linux world...before there was firefox, there was Opera for linux...
    anonymous
  • "Don't knock it for the ads -- they are everywhere on the web anyways (look at this very page!)"

    Ads? I see no ads. Maybe you should switch to firefox and install the adblock extension. This small feature makes my internet experience considerably more pleasant. I only realised how much this constant flickering and excessive begging for attention was getting on my nerves when it was gone.

    I remember a discussion on some Opera board where I advocated free software. Dozens of people were shouting me down and ridiculing me. The thought free software could never be something as slick as Opera and the notion of the revolution in the Mozilla foundation that was then just beginning only amused them. They could not imagine that steamboat Mozilla could ever become an elegant ocean liner. One more company that underestimated free software.
    anonymous
  • I do use Firefox, a few reasons to that : speed, no adds, but it does have very strong negative sides.... Being used Opera, I'd choose it any day, only negative side is the big AD which is enough to put people off. Enough to call it a shareware, everyone of us are scared of thouse, no ?
    anonymous
  • Opera has excellent features, like mouse gestures, tabs and its quick.
    The adverts don't bother me one bit, its a tiny piece of screen, that mostly says 'pls buy opera'
    Does firefox do mouse gestures, or the r-click/l-click for the backpage command?
    I can't remember the last time it crashed either.
    Is the advert at the top really that offputting that its impeding operas uptake?
    anonymous
  • Opera and Firefox are neck-and-neck. FIrefox doesn't have hardly any speed benefit for broadband users, but it does have the benefit of no advertisements. However, if you pay for Opera, Opera then becomes dead even with Firefox again. Then tack on the fact that Opera has a full range of support, as well as better RSS compatibility and IE compatibility, and it has Wand... Sorry, a full version of Opera is sounding better and better... Though I'm still all about free ;-)
    anonymous
  • I find it ironic, since I'm reading this through my Opera browser.
    anonymous
  • This shoulds like a load of FUD to me -- more like something Microsoft would be engaged in than Opera.

    If the statistics are based on page impressions, then they're pretty much worthless. If they're based on individual users (like they should be, if the stats company do a half-decent job), then Opera's caching won't affect the count at all.

    Download counters and the (vague) number of licenses sold mean nothing. I've downloaded both Firefox and Opera several times on different PCs, yet use Firefox exclusively. With firefox being Free (as in speech, and beer) software, there are no license figures to compare to.

    I'll accept that link prefetching may inflate Firefox's results slightly, but according to the stats in the article, Firefox has over 8 times the market share that Opera has. For link prefetching to affect anything, the sites that stats are collected on would need to be ranked in the top couple of results, and the user would have to not click them. I don't know about anyone else, but I normally go to sites that I'm looking for (and google normally does a good job of finding them). In addition to this, Firefox also sends a custom header when requesting prefetched pages, so stats companies could easily filter out these requests and present a proper view.
    anonymous
  • I feel that the author has put it in the wrong way.Most probably Jon probably said this single line as a response to low Opera stats and high Firefox stats.But the author made it look like this was the mina subject of the entire discussusion.

    And Jon isnt someone like Asa who goes around making stupid comments punching other browsers down.What he says is based on facts and he doesnt speak crap.
    Have a look at http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/06/23/whos_your_sugar_daddy/
    anonymous
  • This is something I have suspected for some time. I asked Onestat about their methods for compiling data on marketshare and they just did not bother responding. Their web site claims that it uses methods that do not involve just downloads, but they did not specify. I have about 7 browsers installed on my PC, including 3 IE shells, IE, Firefox and Opera. There is one IE shell that I use most of the time. If I am using an IE shell, is that using IE? There's a fine line there, but I'd say "No", but I am pretty certain that their mthodology will count my shells as IE.
    anonymous
  • This is a low blow. IE fall guilty of far more mistakes, why do you not hear Opera pick at them is they care so much?

    If the figures are slightly wrong, it is not by much. FF is without a doubt at least 50+ million ahead regardless.

    It has been download 66 million, so many could say there could easily be 80+ million considering many download once, and use it to install on many comps.

    To say Mozilla is funded and Opera is not is scandalous. IE is funded way more, why don't they attack them? In any case, Opera are funded, and in a worser way. Commercially by adverts forced on users on the free version, and money gained for the non advert one.
    anonymous
  • We're all on the same team here, aren't we? Anything that's good for Firefox is good for Opera... the more people that use standards-compliant browsers, the more websites will be forced to adhere to standards. Eventually, it reaches critical mass, and then users won't be railroaded into using IE. That will be a great day and I believe it's coming soon. Until then, it's all the little guys versus the big bad monopoly, and we all need to stick together. Competition between FF/Opera/etc. is healthy, but this is definitely a case of sour grapes and it's just bad press. They can argue that Opera is under-reported -- that's fine -- but to be so adamant that FF is overreported simply hurts the movement by saying that the alternative-browser community is smaller than it is.

    I mean, the truth should be reported, but as the previous posts pointed out, this is a weak argument. Opera's going to self-destruct, and it's a shame, because more diversity is better for everyone.
    anonymous
  • As long as you arn't using IE what's the big deal. Regardless of all the technical mumbo jumbo everyone is throwing around, its all pretty much based on personal preference. And that my friends is what it is all about CHOICE.
    anonymous
  • Opera Rules. They invented "tabbed" browsing. Opera isn't "worser" for being funded by their own work. It is kinda like google, they started with a BUTT LOAD of start-up money, and a good idea, no wonder they prospered. Opera started with a good idea... and some money. Mozilla started with a broke-dick browser, worked on it, and threw it away. Leaving the money. Then they took an already good idea and made it better. Firefox and Opera are fighting the same war. This is like the Green Party and the Libertariens campaigning against each other. Screw Microsoft for winning with a VASTLY inferior product. Finally, it was REALLY STUPID for opera to complain about firefox... that was some bad PR. In software, any publicity isn't nessasarily good publicity.
    anonymous
  • Fact: Firefox is downloaded ~250,000 times every day.
    Watch out for the Firefox downloads every minute (or day) in Spread Firefox website.
    Firefox has mouse gentures using an extension, and there is a Reload Every extension.
    It seems like Opera has planned this article if it identify itself as IE in default, although it doesnt support all IE features.
    In Firefox you can add how many search keywords as you want while browsing.
    Firefox is very customized and free, and there is a page rendering optimization trick in the mozilla website (and alot more tips & tricks).
    And the BBCode extension is nice for forums, and Titlebar Tweaks extension is nice for customizing the browser title.
    Well, at least Opera has tried to make us think it is better and more popular.
    anonymous