Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hey BBC would you like to know how releasing software works?

Dear BBC,

Today on the front page of your technology section you said that downloads for Firefox 4 have been lower than they were for Firefox 3 and that:
The lower figure may be explained by the widespread availability of pre-release versions of Firefox 4 in the months ahead of its launch.

First of all, you forgot that we've had 3.5 and 3.6 between those two and so we now have users spread out a bit across versions. Second, here's an overview of how we're organizing the release of Firefox 4:

  • We put out the RC and picked up users from outside of our usual beta testing pool in order to give our final candidate some solid tire kicking
  • Firefox 4 went live but our users on 3.5 and 3.6 are not offered the update automatically yet, they must "Check for updates" in order to be asked if they want to upgrade to Firefox 4 
  • Once we have more coverage of the new release for a couple of weeks and are even more confident that we've got an amazing browser out there we will turn on the Major Update notification which will offer our 400+ million users the chance to come on up and experience the next level of the web
According to W3C school's stats(which are measured by visits to their site) the browser distribution of their visitors looks like this:

2011 Internet Explorer Firefox Chrome Safari Opera
February 26.5 % 42.4% 24.1% 4.1% 2.5%
January 26.6 % 42.8% 23.8% 4.0% 2.5%

2011 Total FF 4.0 FF 3.6 FF 3.5 FF 3.0 Other
February 42.4 % 1.9 % 35.8 % 2.9 % 1.5 % 0.3 %
January 42.8 % 1.5 % 36.1 % 3.1 % 1.7 % 0.4 %

What this says to me is that our more than 8 million downloads since yesterday morning PDT only shows us how many people are paying attention to the fact that Firefox 4 has launched and is available for download. It's not representative of our 400+ million active daily user base (the people who just use the browser but perhaps don't read your blog or mine).  These people will soon learn about Firefox 4 through their browser's update notification window. We'll be seeing a spike in downloads in a couple of weeks and I hope you'll report on that.