- 19 Jun 08, 16:34 GMT
The people at Mozilla, the organisation behind the open-source Firefox browser, are punching the air and claiming a world record. They reckon there were 8.3 million downloads of Firefox 3 within 24 hours of the launch, and they've asked the Guinness Book of Records to put them in the book along with all those strange types who hold their breath underwater for 15 minutes or sit in a tub of baked beans for days.
But not everything went to plan - first the servers just could not cope with the traffic, leaving many potential downloaders fuming, and then a security firm announced that it had discovered a flaw that left the browser open to attack.
So, I suggested to the president of Mozilla Europe, Tristan Nitot, not quite the triumphant launch that you were hoping for?
"Way better than our wildest expectations," he countered.
What about that security problem?
"No piece of complex software is without a security issue," he told me, before suggesting that it was a curious coincidence that the flaw, which is also present in Firefox 2, had come to light on the very day of the launch. He was keen to stress that it would be remedied very quickly and that users were not at risk because the firm which discovered the breach in Firefox's defences was not going public with the details of how it might be exploited.
But seeing as security was one of the big selling-points for Firefox in its battle to break the near monopoly of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, where does this leave the browser wars?
Mozilla says those eight million downloads gave Firefox 3 alone a 4% share of the global browser market - and Tristan Nitot says that by Thursday afternoon that had risen to 6%. Now many of those will be existing Firefox users but it looks as though this latest version has provided the "big push" Mozilla was seeking.
An independent web research institute, Xiti, said in March that Firefox had just under 30% of the European browser market, so this week's efforts should have taken it above that level. There are big variations though - in Finland and Poland, Firefox has around 45% of the market, in the UK the figure is under 20%.
Tristan Nitot says that, unlike Internet Explorer, Firefox puts a lot of effort into producing local versions - it's available in Catalan and Basque for instance - and that gives it an edge in smaller countries. There is no Welsh version yet, but Sebastian told me I was welcome to have a go, perhaps not realising my shortcomings in both coding and language.
My experience so far with Firefox 3 has been that it is both stable and fast, though one big disappointment is that two of my favourite add-ons, a TinyUrl creator and Google Browser sync - which enabled me to synchronise bookmarks across different computers - are not yet working on this new version.
Microsoft has responded to the innovations in Firefox, with Internet Explorer 8 coming soon, and Tristan Nitot says he's happy about that because it means Mozilla has improved the browser experience for everyone. No doubt Opera fans will be rushing to point out that their browser beats all the others into a cocked hat. But whichever browser you use, we now have a far more competitive and innovative market than five years ago. And that has to be good news.
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