The new web browsers Firefox 4 and Internet Explorer 9 were released within a week of each other. One day after Firefox 4 was launched, it had three times as many downloads as Internet Explorer 9 logged in the first 24 hours of its availability. While some point to further evidence of Microsoft’s decline, the fact that Internet Explorer 9 won’t work with Windows XP has skewed the numbers in favor of Mozilla Firefox 4.
Firefox 4 eats IE9’s lunch
Just 24 hours after it was launched Tuesday, Firefox 4 was downloaded almost 7 million times. One day after Internet Explorer 9 was launched, 2.4 million users had downloaded the upgrade. Firefox 4 is eating IE9’s lunch, but it couldn’t match Firefox 3.0, which scored 8 million first-day downloads thanks to a “Download Day” campaign by Mozilla that set a Guinness World Record. Most of the Firefox 4 downloads came from Europe, where Mozilla has a huge following. Users in Europe logged 44 percent of Firefox 4 first-day downloads. North American users logged 26 percent. Asian users followed with 20 percent. The remainder of the connected world accounted for the rest.
Microsoft ditches Windows XP users
Microsoft handed Firefox 4 an unbeatable advantage over IE9 in the first day download competition and perhaps beyond. Microsoft developed IE9 for Windows 7 and Windows Vista only, a strategy that could find company CEO Steve Ballmer in need of a personal loan. IE9 won’t support Windows XP, even though the 10-year-old operating system is used by more than 61 percent of Windows machines that went online in February, according to the Web metrics company Net Applications. Firefox engineering director Johnathan Nightingale told GeekWire that offering Windows XP users a high-quality experience with Firefox 4 was difficult, but the user group was too big to leave behind. In a statement about dumping Windows XP, Microsoft said it didn’t want to develop IE9 “to the lowest common denominator.” Analysts have said that Microsoft is trying to force Windows XP users to upgrade.
How Firefox makes Mozilla money
The stakes in the browser market for Mozilla are high. While Microsoft and Google make their money by tracking user information for advertisers, Mozilla gets money for sponsored links displayed by the built-in search bar of the Firefox browser. As users for Firefox multiply, Mozilla, a non-profit foundation, generates more revenue. In 2009, the foundation made $104 million — up 34 percent from 2008, when revenues were $78 million. Internet Explorer still leads the industry with a 56.8 percent market share, but that share has eroded from 68 percent in 2009. Due largely to Firefox 4 launch delays, Firefox has lost 2.5 percentage points in the last year and has a 21.7 percent market share. The big winner in the browser war is Google Chrome, which has grown from nothing to capture about 11 percent of the market in the same period.