"The number definitely took us by surprise," said Chris Hofmann, the director of engineering at Mozilla. "Last summer, when US-CERT made a recommendation to abandon Internet Explorer, we blew out 200,000 to 300,000 [copies] a day, but when Firefox 1.0 released, we were doing more than a million a day for several days."
Firefox has garnered media attention in part because it's been stealing market share away from Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which before May, 2004, accounted for 95 percent of the world's browsers. The most recent reports from Web metrics firms, however, peg IE's share at under 90 percent, with Firefox climbing from nothing to almost 5 percent in a matter of months.
"People are frustrated and fed up with Internet Explorer," said Hofmann. "That's the thing driving the look for other solutions. It kind of starts out as a security concern about IE, but once they bring up Firefox, they see it has a clean and simple UI, and has several powerful features that IE lacks, like tab browsing."
Hofmann also took exception with the criticism that Firefox is attracting only the "early adopters," the tech-savvy who gravitate to the newest thing.
"We're reaching further into the mainstream market," said Hofmann, "through word of mouth. There is definitely a major chunk of users who still don't know about Firefox, but there are also major chunks of people who are having problems with their browser." That's Firefox's target audience, he added.
But even with its rapid success, Firefox isn't, even in Hofmann's mind, a Microsoft killer.
"Our goal is to provide choice and ensure that we have continued innovation in browser," he said, not necessarily to unseat IE.
In other browser news this week, the group announced it had posted the latest preview version of its Mozilla browser suite. Dubbed Mozilla 1.8 Alpha 5, the newest re-release edition -- which includes a browser as well as an integrated e-mail client -- can be downloaded from here.
Versions for Windows, the Mac OS, and Linux are available.