Firefox Gets Ready for Ad Splash

Mozilla is kicking off a campaign to promote Firefox and its supporters in a New York Times advertisement. Meanwhile, downloads keep climbing for Web browsing alternatives to Internet Explorer.

The Mozilla Foundation is getting ready to take the browser wars to a new front: the advertising pages of The New York Times.

The open-source development group on Tuesday plans to launch an online campaign to raise money to fund the ad, along with other marketing initiatives for the November launch of its Firefox Web browser.

"Were billing this as the worlds first national print ad for the open-source community," said Rob Davis, a Firefox advocate and executive director of Inc. who is leading the campaign. "To date, the majority of our marketing initiatives have been done online. This will be one of the first large, physical, tangible things people can hand to mom or that someone new to Firefox can read about."

Firefox went out in a Version 1.0 preview release last month, generating widespread attention as a major alternative to Microsoft Corp.s market-dominant Internet Explorer. The preview release also kicked off Mozillas Spread Firefox initiative, a community marketing Web site where supporters can collaborate on promoting the browser. About 25,000 people have joined Spread Firefox.

The New York Times campaign will launch on the Spread Firefox site, complete with the ability to make online donations.

Mozilla is targeting the ad to include the names of at least 2,500 donors who contribute $30 or more, Davis said. Along with displaying the names, the ad will highlight Firefoxs features and download information.

"While this will be a very public celebration, it also will generate dollars for the Firefox 1.0 launch," Davis said.

Mozillas latest marketing effort comes as it enjoys its fastest download pace ever for its software. Over the weekend, downloads of the Firefox 1.0 preview reached 5 million within a month, Mozilla spokesman Bart Decrem said.

"Its an historic high for us and shows the continued momentum and accelerated pace of adoption of Firefox," Decrem said.

Firefox and other alternative browsers, such as Opera Software ASAs namesake browser and Apple Computer Inc.s Safari, have increasingly made headway into IEs market share, although its been slight. For a three-month period ending in mid-September, Microsofts browser market share dropped by 1.8 percentage points to 93.7 percent, according to Web analytics vendor WebSideStory Inc.

The market-share numbers for the past month were not immediately available.

/zimages/2/28571.gifIs IE at risk? Click here to read an eWEEK Labs opinion.

Even Netscape Communications—the first major Web browser maker, now owned by America Online Inc.—appears ready to take advantage of the potential chink in IEs armor. Netscape, which has been largely silent since it spun off Mozilla into an independent group in July 2003, last week issued a news release about reaching 4 million downloads of Netscape 7.2.

Netscape 7.2 was released in August as an update to the browser and is based on Mozillas browser technology.

Netscape already is preparing another browser update. AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said Netscape would put out a "more significant" browser release within the next few months. He declined to specify any upcoming features or to discuss Netscapes plans for promoting its browser.

The Netscape plans coincide with another Web browser track planned by AOL. The Dulles, Va., company reportedly is testing a new AOL Browser, which is based on IE rather than Netscape and, according to sources, will be available as standalone software.

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