I've just finished reading a very interesting article about Firefox (hat tip: Slashdot), which thinks that Firefox might not just be an IE contender, or an IE destroyer, but a Windows killer too.
Personally, I'm not sure Microsoft are quaking in their boots just yet. Okay, so Firefox is credited with knocking 2% off of IE's dominance in the browser market, but as it's still at around 93% I don't think they need to be panicking just yet. And, as we've seen, the Application Service Provider (ASP) model of computing (basically a slightly modified version of mainframe computing with powerful servers and dumb-ish terminals) where everything runs through a web browser, while great from many standpoints, has not proved popular, so far at least. I think it's a little early to be celebrating Firefox's impending victory.
Don't get me wrong, I love Firefox, I use it as my main browser, wouldn't use anything else, but I'm not sure it has the legs to beat IE in the near future. I definitely doubt it can do it before Longhorn is released. Why? Well, with all the bad press, the security warnings, the high profile media coverage and the ongoing support from the web community it has managed to grab 2% market share. Now, it may grab more when version 1.0 is released in November, and that may be the biggest decline in dominance by IE since it took the mantle of No. 1 from Netscape, but it's hardly conclusive. With all that support, it still only managed 2%, just what else can be done to increase uptake?
Blake Ross, one of the lead developers of Firefox, hopes that it will have 10 million downloads in 10 days when the final release is launched. A big figure, but I'd guess that, on average, most Firefox users have 2 machines, so already we're down to 5 million people, globally that's a drop in the ocean. London, New York, San Francisco, Beijing, in fact most major cities have a population bigger than that. India and China, two countries not known for their support of MS, have a combined population well in excess of 2 billion. If you could get even 1% of them using Firefox it'd be 20 million people. The same 1% from the US gets you another 2.4 million, lets estimate the same for Europe and likewise for the rest of the world. Total figure: 27.2 million. I'd guess that as a conservative estimate, and that's for 1% of the population. Now, when Firefox hits 10%, roughly 270 million downloads, that's when you call it a revolution, an IE beater.
Anyway, I digress. The line in the article that caught my eye:
...Firefox version 1.0 is set to be released in November. With that, Ross will issue the first truly formidable challenge to Internet Explorer that the world has seen in seven years. Dead right when you think about it. As I explained above, I don't think Firefox will have those at MS worried yet (and I definitely don't think it will spark some sort of computing revolution where we abandon desktop computing in favour of web-based applications -- though I can see an increase of specialist online apps from the likes of Amazon and Google), but this is the first challenge to IE since Netscape gave up the ghost, that's got to be significant, and important, in itself. Let's see how those in Redmond handle it.