In the Big Scheme of Things
So Firefox 1.0 finally made its way out today. On a day of many anticipated releases, as today is also judgment day for the Xbox as the much anticipated Halo 2 comes out. But back to Firefox. It's nice to see that finally a significantly better product than the blue "e" has come out with a mission to dethrone the dysfunctional king of browsers.
Mike has put together a very extensive article criticizing the numbers that the Mozilla Group has put out for Firefox's market penetration. Just to reiterate, they have said that they are expecting a 10% penetration rate within the next 15 months. Although it does seem low, I wanted to take a different look at the situation using some of the tools I use on a daily basis.
Like Mike said in his article, this entry is purely opinion. I am sure I am being misled in some of my observations, but this is a purely subjective take to the issue.
Accoring to RE_Invigorate, a visitor tracker that I use for all my sites, since its introduction has recorded 74% of users utilizing IE6 and tack on another 14% of users using IE5 for a total of 88% of visitors using the program. Now mainly designers and savvy web programmers use this service, as its popularity has come mainly through word of mouth although it isn't nearly as popular as The Counter and their rivals. There is a lot of ground to make up.
I believe that the biggest obstacle to Firefox's ultimate domination of the browser market are those obvious users that our generation and our market fail to look at. How about 85% of the users that visit Yahoo and eBay on a daily basis? The soccer moms, the retired grandfathers, the people that we don't usually look at when we design web pages. If you were to say "web standards" to them, they wouldn't know the difference between tables and divs even if you held a flash card in their face. Going further these are also the people that usually cringe when told to "install" a new piece of software. Unless one is referring to the type of people that can describe themselves as any meaning of the word savvy, it's like pulling teeth to get them to change.
Those are the people that are producing those high numbers, not our demographic. We know how important these new technologies are, appreciate them and will fight to the bitter end to make sure more people experience them. But again, the large portion of internet users don't really care.
So now it comes to a question of what markets you want to analyze and target and the steps needed to be taken to achieve those objectives.
What are we talking about when we say "10%" of browsers? Is there a specific demographic that we're trying to market to and is it 10% of that niche? This is something I have failed to find in the articles I have read. I seem to find many righteous calls to action but if we were to go and forcefully install and introduce Firefox that many users would become uncomfortable or even worse, offended that something like that was done. Again, these are likely cases, some more likely than others.
I would definitely side with Mike and join in saying that we do need to keep moving and make sure that web standards compliant browsers dominate the market within the next 12-24 months. However, I observe the fact that Microsoft owns so much market share at the moment that it will be an uphill battle until the people in Redmond get the picture. Firefox has been a flagship product in the fight for seeing the internet as it should be, and it is very unwise of Microsoft to take this sitting down. With Project Longhorn coming along though, we could see the company start to actually take a hint and listen or suffer further market share loss by the competitors. Or maybe they just don't have a sustained interest in the browser market anymore. There are so many assumptions, and many more will surface as the next generation of browser software follows whether it's from Microsoft, Mozilla or not.
All of this aside, if you haven't gotten Firefox, please do. You no longer have an excuse."