Mozilla has seen steady adoption of its browser since its release last November. After a somewhat higher download rate immediately following its release, the browser has settled into between 200,000 and 300,000 downloads a day, said Asa Dotzler, the Mozilla liaison to the SpreadFirefox community.
"This is a great milestone. Our massive, worldwide community of grassroots marketers and users--not to mention the developers--have helped to put out a product that's really kicking butt," he said.
Firefox has enjoyed an enthusiastic user base the likes of which few companies in the tech industry experience. Thousands of volunteers help spread the word about the browser, participate in free support forums and discussion lists, and scour its code for flaws.
But the browser hasn't been without its problems. The number of reported security holes in Firefox continues to grow, and Symantec recently released a hotly contested report claiming that Mozilla browsers saw more reported vulnerabilities than Microsoft's Internet Explorer in the first half of 2005. In what could be construed as a shift in attitude toward the browser, its marketing Web site, SpreadFirefox.com, was brought down by hackers just last week.
However, the open nature of the Mozilla browsers allows the group to respond to new security threats quickly, and these developments haven't stunted adoption. If anything, Dotzler said, the company has seen a slight uptick in the past two months, which he attributed to new interest in other browsers and a renewed buzz surrounding the upcoming Firefox 1.5 release. If announcements of new security issues affected consumer adoption, it did so in both directions, Dotzler said. "When there's good press or bad press, people look at their overall browsing experience and look at ways to improve it, which can open them up to new browsers."
News of the milestone came on the same day that Netscape released an updated version of its browser, which is based on Firefox software and includes all patches that have been put forth to address security holes to date. Netscape recently made inroads in the browser war with a landmark deal in which Hewlett-Packard agreed to ship its consumer PCs and notebooks loaded with the browser.
While Internet Explorer is still the clear leader in the battle of the browsers, Firefox didn't get to enjoy its underdog status for long. Opera is gunning for Firefox's second-place seat, releasing an ad-free version of its free Web browser last month. The company said its download rate has quadrupled as a result.
But competition hasn't dampened the celebratory spirit among Firefox's users. For the 50 millionth download, a group at Oregon State University marked the occasion by painting a 30-foot Firefox logo on the school's quad under the cover of night. In honor of the 100 millionth milestone, they are reportedly planning to launch a weather balloon called Firefox 1. SpreadFirefox.com hosted a contest to see who could guess the exact minute that the 100 millionth download would take place. The site is also hosting a page featuring photos of users in front of the site's celebration page.
And as Dotzler said, Wednesday is a day of celebration. On Thursday, they'll get back to work on version 1.5, the first release of which should ship in about two weeks.