Firefox 4 soars, thanks to Microsoft’s luddite customers

Maybe it’s time for Microsoft’s Internet Explorer team to reconsider that whole Windows XP thing?

Firefox 4 clocked about 5 million downloads on its first day and is fast approaching has already topped 7 million this morning, as the new browser from Mozilla attracts huge interest from around the world.

That doesn’t match the record-breaking performance of Firefox 3, but it trounces the 2.35 million downloads that Microsoft reported in the first 24 hours after the Internet Explorer 9 release.

But keep in mind that Microsoft is voluntarily limiting its market, not only by making Internet Explorer exclusive to Windows but also by declining to make the new browser work on Windows XP. Even though Windows XP is nearly 10 years old at this point, more than 40 percent of Internet users are still clinging to it, putting IE9 at a disadvantage in the numbers game by not supporting XP.

Firefox, in contrast, continues to support Windows XP. Mozilla knew coming in that it would have a built-in advantage, based on Microsoft’s choice to support only the newer Windows Vista and 7.

“That’s a decision that they get to make, but it sure did surprise us, because the best metrics that we’ve got say 40 to 50 percent of the web is still on XP. That’s too big for us to just leave them behind,” said Johnathan Nightingale, the Firefox engineering director, in a recent interview.

[Related Post: Firefox 4 Do Not Track: How it works, what it really means]

Why no IE9 on XP? Microsoft’s reasoning is that browsers “should require the modern graphics and security infrastructure that have come along since 2001.” The company says in a statement that “Internet Explorer 9 is intended to be run on a modern operating system in order to build on the latest hardware and operating system innovations.”

Of course, it’s also in Microsoft’s business interest to get people to buy a new Windows version.

The latest browser market-share stats, from just before the release of the new browsers, put Internet Explorer at 56.8 percent, down from 68 percent two years ago. Firefox has held relatively steady over that period, but the big gainer has been Google Chrome, which rose up from practically nothing to now boast nearly 11 percent of the worldwide market.

And Google this morning looked to build on that momentum, releasing a beta of its Chrome 11 browser with advanced speech-recognition capabilities and other new features.

And yes, for the record, Chrome 11 does work on Windows XP (and Macs).

Todd Bishop of GeekWire can be found on Twitter and Facebook when he’s not installing browser betas.

  • http://www.jrotech.com/ Jeff Rodenburg

    Would be interesting to know the OS/Version numbers on the download totals. This is purely speculative but I’m not sure I would find XP users to be a significant number of those downloads. The notion of someone running an OS that’s 10 years old who is also waiting to jump on the latest browser release? Doesn’t seem like a likely scenario.

    • Anonymous

      Jeff, I wasn’t able to get that OS breakdown, but I did confirm that users of earlier versions of Firefox are being prompted to upgrade to Firefox 4 when they boot up. So even if they’re not up on the latest tech news, they’re getting the word.

      • http://www.jrotech.com/ Jeff Rodenburg

        Ah that’s interesting (the prompting.) Does make sense, although I didn’t get prompted with my recent version of FF (v3.6.xx).

    • http://profiles.google.com/rickgutleber Rick Gutleber

      Your logic is ridiculous. I use XP and have been running Firefox Minefield nighties for months. There is no reason for me to pay all that money to upgrade when I won’t get anything new that I need or care about.

      The problem with XP isn’t that it’s old; it’s that it’s good. When I bought a Vista laptop I hated it so much I bought an XP license just so I could downgrade. Based on my experience with Windows 7, I would keep that, but there’s absolutely no reason to upgrade. I’ll get it when (or if) I buy a new machine that has it installed.

      You see, some of us don’t follow the upgrade cycle in lockstep. Some of us choose to use what works best for us and suckered into marketing and hype.

      • http://www.jrotech.com/ Jeff Rodenburg

        Thanks for the education. If you believe you’re experience equates to generalizations about a large group of users, then I understand your basis much better.

        • Joe the Coder

          Jeff, if you think that your point of view generalizes to a large group of users then you are guilty of exactly thing that you claim Rick is.

          It turns out Rick’s point of view is quite valid. I’ve had discussions with a fair number of non-techie people about upgrading and it’s quite common to hear “but it works fine the way it is”. And Rick didn’t even go into the part about upgrading the OS often means you have to go buy new HW. Try running Win7 on a 512MB machine. Might as well just buy a new pc.

          • http://www.jrotech.com/ Jeff Rodenburg

            Wow, think I’ve opened a can of worms I didn’t intend to open. Getting back to the main point — I wonder how many of the initial FF downloads can be associated with XP users. My perception is that it may represent a portion, but isn’t necessarily significant. The reasons for that being what I’ve associated with XP users – the works-fine-the-way-it-is basis. That may not apply to browsers, however.

        • JC

          I am using XP. My circumstances are similar to Rick’s though perhaps a little closer to what I suspect is the more common reason. I like XP better than Vista, and the last time I updated my hardware, Windows 7 wasn’t available. Around that time, enough other people eschewed Vista that it was a major technology news story, and many suppliers offered XP downgrades that were purchased by people who wanted it for one reason or another. Since then, we’ve had a significant economic downturn and though I don’t have ready access to sales data, I presume that affected sales of new PCs. That leaves a situation where a lot of people have XP and are in no hurry to replace it.

    • erehwon

       Apparently you are not aware that FireFox pushes out updates to every copy of its browsers. Not only do people get the security updates, which happen often and regularly, but the browser itself suggests updating from 3.6.xx to 4.0.x. Extensions and add-ons were pushed out a day or so later. So your comment implying that XP users are Luddites is silly ant best, and seriously mis-informed at worst. Many of us have excellent reasons to avoid upgrading to Vista (the Windows ME of the 21st century) or Windows 7 because we have neither the cash money or the desire to spend a huge amount of money to replace hardware that performs perfectly well on the internet just as it is, rather than further enrich the Dark Prince of Redmond and his Monkey Boy.

  • Homi02

    Saw your article on MSNBC and let me tell you…I hate when “news” sites pick up you crappy bloggers and post your articles without giving a read to them. What kind of writer uses the headline to actually insult a group of people!??!

    Hey Todd Bishop! There may be some luddites out there using IE, but you’re an ass using whichever browser you choose.

    • Anonymous

      Love it, that’s the best comment of the day so far. :)

      Just to clarify a bit, as a Windows XP user myself (on one of my secondary machines) I meant the headline to be more than a little tongue-in-cheek.

      It’s also important to remember that Microsoft itself contributed to the situation by releasing a delayed and buggy OS (Windows Vista) that made a lot of people reluctant to upgrade, even when they came out with a decent one (Windows 7).

      But really, ten years is more like a century in technology. It’s probably time to upgrade.

      Sincerely yours,
      Crappy Blogger

  • Phil

    C’mon Todd, you’ve been covering Microsoft long enough to know better than what you wrote here.

    Yes XP was first released about 10 years ago but the service packs changed it to a much greater extent than the difference between Vista and 7. Vista was released worldwide about 4 years ago so XP was Microsoft’s production just over 4 years ago not 10 as your statements would have readers think.

    And the whole Luddite thing, well I can only hope it was an editor that punched up the title with that kind of nonsense.

    • Anonymous

      Fair enough, and you’re right, SP2 alone was a big upgrade, particularly in security. But the core of the OS is still approaching a decade since release.

      As to the broader point, that’s my mistake — I forgot that everybody loses their sense of humor when it comes to operating systems. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/carlos.osuna.roffe Carlos Osuna-Roffe

    If by using a tried-and-tested OS like XP, one becomes a Luddite, then we all are.

    In the early 20th century, most car companies criticized Henry Ford for using the obsolete “petrol” (gas) engine (first used by Karl Benz on 1878) on its Model T. They said that the real deal would be electric cars and that Ford was just being a stubborn guy working against the bests of all the car industry.

    What Ford did, was deliver a cheap car for the masses, something that electric couldn’t achieve at that time. (Ironically, though, Studebaker and others with their electric cars could easily compete with the other high price cars from Buick, Oldsmobile and Nash).

    So then again, Mozilla might be the new Ford and Windows Vista and 7 might be the 1910′s and 20′s electric car.

  • Dennis Hamilton

    It’s interesting to me how switch-throwing can create openings for entry of competitive products. Firefox and Chrome continue to support Windows XP, which allows them to sustain a level of customer loyalty that Microsoft has willingly abandoned. It’s an interesting bet.

    I notice that Libre Office 3.3 and presumably the other OO.o code-based office products continue to support Microsoft platforms back to Windows 2000. (They just took NT 4.0 off the list.) as well as operating on Linux.

    Back in the mainframe days, IBM made an even bigger bet in supplanting its different families with S/360. This gave Honeywell, for one, a big opening by offering to “liberate” IBM 1400-series users onto their low-end platform. If it had actually been code compatible, they might have succeeded against the emulator support that IBM quickly incorporated in enough of the S/360 products.

    Bottom line, the life cycle of a product from the standpoint of producers is just not the same as it is for adopters and operators of the products. I drove a 1989 Ford Probe until 2007 and I still have an operating 1998 Dell Inspiron laptop that shipped with Windows 98 and runs Windows XP SP3 just fine for my needs. On the other hand, my 2006 Tablet PC will never see Vista or Windows 7 because of configuration limitations and a manufacturer (who will never see more of my money) that no longer provides updates, even ones previously-offered within the admittedly-short manufacturer-supported life of the product.

    I do keep my systems current relative to whatever the operating system is, so they all have IE8, MIcrosoft Security Essentials, and the latest version of Windows Live that will install on them. I haven’t checked to see where the cutoff on versions of Visual Studio might be, but I’d not be surprised to find one there too. I would have upgraded to Windows 7 on the Tablet PC except the default display driver is bottom-end VGA and XP does better (and so did Vista Ultimate but that was a tight squeeze).

    I am still holding onto Microsoft Money because of the years of archives I still need to be able to access. I think I’ll reinstall Encarta too, simply because nothing else has the nice task-bar access.

    I am grateful for the XP Mode in my new high-end Windows 7 Ultimate developer system, and I am even running a Vista VM just for fun and some beta testing I need to do. I even use the Services for Unix Applications (SUA, the descendant of the NT POSIX subsystem) not to help convert Unix to Windows but to help me develop Windows software that ports to *nix, with SUA as a nice intermediate demonstration that my code is portable to within the POSIX standards. For me, those other long-adoption cases are an important audience.

    Of course, that is all individual anecdotal experience. Producers are making a bet that this does not materially impact the customer base and market populations that are the most valuable to them. My personal experience hardly figures in that calculus. Unless there are too many of us. For example, how many who experience being turned-away by Microsoft will buy a WindowsPhone? And what is the contribution to the word-of-mouth that folks pay attention to.

  • Mike Mathieu

    Ahhh, these new-generation fast browsers (Chrome, IE9, Firefox 4). Now I can stop complaining about slow browsers and javascript and go back to complaining about the high latency of the web services used to build modern web sites

  • Joe the Coder

    I sure didn’t see the headline as tongue in cheek. More like “poor MS, stuck with a bunch of losers for customers”.

    Anyway, I have to laugh when I read MS making comments about “modern graphics and security infrastructure”. Talk about self-serving. They should be honest that they are trying to push the latest version of the OS. Free browser drives $120 upgrade. I’m sure there’s some whiz-kid MBA at MS with a spreadsheet showing the drag along revenue but forgetting that browser share is important.

    I have several machines that run XP. They work fine for what I need them to do and really don’t want to go through the effort that upgrading the OS entails. A new browser – sure – but not a new OS. Heck I have a machine that still runs 2K because of a specific application that doesn’t run on anything later. It really bothers me that MS still thinks that you HAVE to upgrade

    • http://www.JakeMilla.com Jacob MIlla

      *sigh

  • Xp

    Most people here who has still using Windows XP are those who can’t afford to buy either a) a modern PC and/or b) a newer Windows. I would recommend those XP users to shift from XP to latest Ubuntu release. I understand that most of you are non-techie but as far as security and proper use (optimization) of hardware resources i’d go to the newer one. In fact, companies like Microsoft spends millions of dollars in research for better, secured, cleaner and faster operating system :)

    • erehwon

       I haven’t seen a single comment here that would lead me to believe this is a ‘non-techie’ audience. On the contrary, nearly every comment refuted Bishop’s snarky comments, and gave specific reasons fro disagreeing. Bishop’s several comments backtracking on what he actually wrote in both his headline and his article could no way be taken to be humourous. As someone else pointed out, it was, ‘Poor poor Micro$oft, whose users are too stupid to spend tight money unneccesarily.

      As  to Rodenburg’s comments, both the original and the subsequent replies, I just take him to be a M$ fanboi, and let it go at that. A certain mensurable amount of prior ‘Dain Bramage’ seems to be endemic with that crowd.