Firefox 4 Passes 100 Million Downloads

Firefox 4 passed 100 million downloads over the weekend, although it's far too early to determine the new browser's ultimate effect on a crowded market.

Firefox 4's downloads stand at 104 million and counting, according to a handy download-stats Website run by Mozilla.

That 100-million-downloads milestone comes a little more than a month since the browser's March 22 launch. According to analytics firm Net Applications, Firefox's market share stands at 21.8 percent, trailing Microsoft's Internet Explorer franchise at 55.92 percent but ahead of Google Chrome at 11.57 percent and Apple's Safari at 6.61 percent.

Net Applications' numbers suggest little short-term movement for Firefox's share, which has barely ticked from 21.74 percent in February. Firefox 4's share stands at 1.68 percent, lagging previous versions 3.5 and 3.6, the latter of which trails only Internet Explorer 8.0 as Net Applications' most-used browser version.

Firefox 4 represents Mozilla's first full-point browser release in nearly three years, and includes a variety of updated features-including a "do not track" privacy function and a newly integrated Firefox Sync that enables synchronization of bookmarks, preferences, browser state and passwords between Firefox and Firefox Mobile. A new JavaScript engine, JagerMonkey, offers a significant upgrade in speed: in eWEEK's testing, Firefox 4.0 proved between four and eight times faster than Firefox 3.6.15, depending on the JavaScript benchmarks used.

In keeping with its rivals' latest browser versions, Firefox 4 boasts a streamlined design that seeks to place Web content front-and-center, shrinking icons and eliminating the "status" bar that ran on the bottom of the application in previous Firefox versions. The tabs interface is sleeker, with an App Tabs feature for quick access to frequently visited Websites. Mozilla has also paid special mind to security, with a Content Security Policy designed to stop both XSS attacks within the browser and execution of malicious code when pages are loaded.

Mozilla had been issuing new beta versions of its Firefox 4 build every few weeks, for both desktop and mobile, in an effort to build buzz for the release and weed out any significant bugs. Firefox's position, sandwiched between Internet Explorer and upstarts like Chrome and Safari, essentially forces it to battle on two fronts.

While Microsoft held a comfortable lock on the browser market for many years, the rise and gain of Firefox and other rivals has goaded the company into aggressively pushing the new Internet Explorer 9, which offers a stripped-down browser interface and tight integration with Windows 7. Microsoft announced April 14 that it would start offering IE9 via Windows Update.

Microsoft has also been trying to kill IE6, to the point of starting a Website, "The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown," which claims, "Friends don't let friends use Internet Explorer 6 ... and neither should acquaintances."