Silly and Sillier . . .

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Maybe I’m just hot and grumpy, but . . . .

Mozilla announced that they’ve had two hundred million downloads of Firefox.

Unfortunately, their announcement wobbles between silly and sillier.

Silly? To quote:

“Let me start off by saying that YOU ALL ARE AMAZING!”

Really? A free download of Firefox is an amazing feat that makes you an amazing person? Doesn’t that set the bar rather low?

Yes, I can conceive of amazing Firefox downloads and downloaders. If there’s anybody who managed to download Firefox with a tin can and some wire, OK, that’s amazing. Hand-cranking a PC with one hand to download Firefox while shooting in a firefight with the other would be pretty amazing, too.

I’ll even concede amazement to anyone who downloaded it using a 300 baud modem.

But these are hardly typical, much less universal experiences. This is like congratulating people for breathing.

Sillier? Well . . . .

Today the Firefox download counter crossed the 200 million mark. We know that this number doesn’t represent actual users because this number includes both Firefox 1.0 and Firefox 1.5 (soon Firefox 2,) because not every one completes every download, and because not every download results in a new Firefox user.

That’s nice, but he leaves out all the multiple downloads Firefox users have made to upgrade. I know I must have at least five times.

But then look at what he says:

That being said, 200 million people seeking Firefox is a huge accomplishment and we’re right to celebrate our role in driving that number.

I see. One man, one download. That means I’m at least five people. Why bother with the hassles and strains of sex when you can reproduce this easily?

Mozilla does try to make some sort of adjustment when estimating market share, they’ve apparently told the media that their market share is about 15%.

The problem with a figure like that is that there’s roughly a billion PCs in the world today. A 15% marketshare would be 150 million Firefox users, which doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for those who download multiple times for upgrades, or who download and then don’t use it.

There are some Net statistics company that try to track this, but their figures range from somewhat (Onecall’s 12.9% to rather NetApplication’s 11.34% lower percentages.

One should also keep in mind that these business get their data by tracking browser information for their clients, which skews the results. There’s some indications that the skew is in favor of Firefox (OneCall, for instance, shows that Firefox has a 39% market share for Germany, which is so far above any other country (usually in the 10-20% range) as to be heavily skewed.

Taking all this into consideration, a figure a bit north of 10% would probably be about right, and would allow for those multiple upgraders and never-users.

Just one last blurb:

. . . I’d also like to find a better way for our community to measure its success.

Uhhh, isn’t this a bit . . . biased, if not walking down a street that goes only one way? How about something that measures less than success, too, should it happen? And what about the f-word, failure?

I mean, after all, Firefox’s market share measured by places like those mentioned above have slipped a little on occasion, and stalled a bit more often.

More to the point, Mozilla can’t measure Firefox success, period. All it can measure is the number of downloads, but unless you think an unused copy of Firefox is a treasured prize given only to the amazing, possession means nothing compared to actual use. Mozilla can’t measure that; only the web statistics people can provide an approximation of that.

It would be like Microsoft measuring the number of IE users by the number of copies of Windows sold the last five years.

Keep something else in mind about downloads: the number only goes in one direction, up. Let’s say medical researchers proved that Firefox causes cancer on contact tomorrow. Let’s say 99.9% of Firefox users stopped using the program over the weekend. Obviously, in real life, Firefox’s market share would vanish, but any calculation based on overall downloads wouldn’t be affected at all, and would only be slowly eroded away.

That’s not a very good measurement.

The Silliest Part of All

Firefox has done well. But it has done well because it is good, not because somebody piles it up higher and deeper.

However, it hasn’t done as well against IE as IE itself did against Netscape nearly a decade ago. For that matter, it hasn’t done nearly as well as AMD has done with Opterons over the same timeframe, and Opterons cost money!

After the initial rush when the product came out, Firefox has gotten 4-5% more marketshare in around a year. Good, but hardly spectacular.

One also should keep in mind that that 4-5% of marketshare came against a product undeniably inferior and uncontestably unimproved for the period in question.

Mind you, I use Firefox. I’ve gotten others to switch to Firefox (and not just the other Mes Mozilla counts). I like Firefox; I’m just not feather-brained about it.

I just don’t find the product’s success amazing, much find myself amazing for downloading and using it.

The Mozilla people still have much to be modest about, and it ill-behooves them to make public statements that seem to define success as “Anything we do.”

Ed


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