Resellers Not Embracing Firefox Despite Its Popularity

By Rebecca Rohan  |  Posted 2004-12-17 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Firefox's popularity may be spreading like wildfire, but resellers are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the open-source Web browser.

Several recent announcements have highlighted the growing popularity of the open-source, Mozilla-based, multiplatform browser Firefox 1.0. Yet spot calls to resellers found none of them peddling the increasingly popular and free Firefox browser to Windows desktop customers.

The first announcement by WebSideStory Inc., a Web analytics firm that uses Web beacons to track the aggregate online behavior of more than 30 million Internet users on a given day, found that in the "one-month" period from Nov. 5 to Dec. 3, Firefox's online usage share in the United States grew 34 percent, from 3.0 percent to 4.1 percent, compared with growth from 2.7 percent to 3.1 percent for the "month" from Oct. 8 to Nov. 5.

"We're tracking usage, not downloads," said Erik Bratt, director of public communications at WebSideStory." People can download all they want, but if they're not using it, they're not truly adopting the product."

Mozilla.org claims 10 million downloads for Firefox between Nov. 9 and Dec. 11.

On June 4, Bratt noticed a decline of about a percentage point in usage in Internet Explorer for the first time, and Firefox was the main beneficiary. "I didn't know if it was going to be a fad or a trend, but it turned out to have some legs," Bratt said.

"What we've noticed," Bratt continued, "since just before [Mozilla] released their 1.0 version of Firefox on Nov. 9, is that the month of Oct. 8 to Nov. 5, the 34 percent increase in Firefox usage corresponded to the release of the 1.0 version. Before that, they offered the beta version. Maybe there are lingering concerns about security for Internet Explorer, as well as consumers seem to like the Firefox product."

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The second announcement, on Dec. 16, was actually an event: a two-page ad (large PDF file) in The New York Times paid for by supporters of Firefox.

The ad lauded the Internet Explorer alternative to the world and raised $250,000 from the contributions of the people named in the ad, which cost the Mozilla Foundation less than $100,000 for the reduced nonprofit advocacy ad rate.

The Firefox drum beat also reached the campus on Dec. 8, when Penn State University recommended that the school's computer users switch away from Internet Explorer.

In the announcement, "Change in Internet Browsers Recommended," Penn State's ITS (Information Technology Services) urged "that the university computing community use standards-based Web browsers other than Internet Explorer to help minimize exposure to attacks that occur through browser vulnerabilities. Web browser options include Firefox, one of several alternatives available for Windows, Mac and other operating systems."

So, where are the VARs (value-added resellers)? A VAR can install the Firefox browser free atop Windows and set it as the default browser without removing Internet Explorer, so customers can have choices.

At this moment, the field seemed wide open during our unscientific spot checks. No one we spoke with was bundling Firefox yet.

Daniel Duffy of Valley Network Solutions Inc., an IT solutions provider in Fresno, Calif., said, "I'm personally taking a wait-and-see attitude. I want to see wider market adoption, see the product continue to mature, and see increased customer demand." Duffy also noted, "Those who are creating the demand are capable of implementing it themselves."

John Butler, president of AnySystem.Com Inc., a Sun hardware VAR located in Paramus, N.J., said, "We do what our customers ask us to do, and nobody has asked us to install that yet."

Mike Hong, manager of Special Purpose Systems Inc. (aka Computers & Applications), a Bellevue custom solutions provider, said, "Nobody wants to put something on, whether free or for a price, unless someone asks for it," Hong said.

"Corporate America is sometimes used as a guinea pig when new technology comes out. IT departments have been used for that and have run into problems and spend times fixing errors and bugs, and most of them are shying away and waiting until everyone has run through it and taken the bugs out," Hong said. "A new technology is not necessarily what corporations really want. Consumers want new toys, but corporations don't want them. They have to expense for bugs, for support and for implementations," he said.

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