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Firefox: browser ballot glitch cost us 9m downloads

  • Firefox
  • Mozilla chart

By Nicole Kobie

Posted on 31 Oct 2012 at 10:40

Mozilla has claimed that Microsoft's failure to run the browser ballot cost it nine million users - suggesting the EU-mandated system does have some affect on the market.

In 2009, the EU ordered Microsoft to show a "ballot" of other browsers to Windows users, to help mitigate Internet Explorer's dominance of the market. However, Windows 7 Service Pack 1 failed to include the ballot, which Microsoft pinned on a technical glitch.

The EU has formally started proceedings against Microsoft, and while the company has admitted the failing, it could still face a massive fine.

Daily downloads of Firefox fell by 63% to a low of 20,000 before the ballot was reinstated, Harvey Anderson, vice president of business affairs and general counsel at Mozilla, said in a post on his personal blog.

After the fix, downloads jumped by 150% to 50,000 a day, he said - estimating that between six and nine million downloads were "lost" during the 18 months the browser ballot was missing.

Mozilla chart

"After accounting for the aggregate impact on all the browser vendors, it seems like this technical glitch decreased downloads and diminished the effectiveness of the remedy ordered in the 2009 Commitments," he noted.

Based on stats from Net Applications, Firefox's markets share certainly slipped during those months. However, using those stats alone it's impossible to say if it was the missing ballot or other forces - notably the arrival of Chrome.

Firefox's share held steady around 23.5% in the months leading up to SP1's arrival, with Chrome's gains mostly coming at the expense of IE. From January 2011 to February 2011, Firefox lost a full percentage point, and fell 3.5% over the next 18 months.

IE didn't post gains through that time, instead continuing a steady decline that flattened out this summer, but Chrome has posted solid gains throughout - suggesting Google's entrance into the browser market may have had more effect than the ballot itself.

Net Application's numbers are global, but rival data firm StatCounter also breaks it down by geographical area.

In Europe across that time, Firefox and IE both appear to be falling together, suggesting Chrome is the one benefiting from the lack of browser ballot.

It's worth noting Chrome has its own advertising platform for Chrome - Google's search page - and the company has invested in more traditional ads during the time as well.

Mozilla, unlike its rivals, doesn't have a built-in platform to promote its browser - one possible reason why the organisation considers the browser ballot so important to its success.

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User comments

ElectricPics

Firefox losing downloads wouldn't also have anything to do with the release of 16, complete with a security vunerability, would it?

By ElectricPics on 31 Oct 2012

@ElectricPics

What for the whole of that period shown on the graph? :-/

By treadmill on 31 Oct 2012

But...

"one possible reason why the organisation considers the browser ballot so important to its success."

I'm not convinced and we all know that big wads of cash from Google are the only thing that really keeps Mozilla afloat.

The browser ballot is just a way for EU bureaucrats to get MS to pay for their big fat expense accounts and gold plated pensions.

And another thing, given that the iPad is the dominant player in the tablet market, why don't Apple have to implement a browser ballot?

By rjp2000 on 31 Oct 2012

a load of codswallop

There was never at any time no ability to download a browser of your choice even before the ridiculous court ruling.
If MS had decided to fully implement the EU ruling no one would have been able to connect to the internet through IE to download anything as they were suggesting they would not install IE at all to pacify the moaners.

By curiousclive on 31 Oct 2012

The ruling was flawed

The only ruling that would have made sense would have been to force MS to make IE fully uninstallable. So could use it to download your browser of choice then uninstall IE if not wanting it.
Just like you can uninstall safari on Apple OS's.

By curiousclive on 31 Oct 2012

Rubbish

Of course it has nothing to to with the fact that Firefox has become bloated, clunky and slow. I'm one of the 'lost downloads' as I switched back to Chrome or IE because of it. Take some responsibility for your flawed product.

By everton2004 on 31 Oct 2012

Looks an uninterrupted decline to me

Just working by eye on that graph, but I can convince myself that the smoothed out tendency from the start in early 2010 to virtually the end of 2011 is a gentle decline, so that the "lost" downloads are simply the result of a continuing process that has to be non-ballot related.

By AdrianB on 31 Oct 2012

@everton2004

Agreed, Firefox used to be my only choice but I use Chrome now. I only use FF now for the Download Helper addon for YouTube videos.

By kingjulian on 1 Nov 2012

Haven't used Firefox for ages, mostly Chrome/IE/iBrowse.

By Coltch on 1 Nov 2012

ElectricPics

@treadmill - fair point! In that case I can only agree with everton2004 in that Firefox has evolved from why it stood out from IE into just another bloated browser. I used IE from the early days, believing other browsers to be 'also-rans'. I dabbled with Firefox but eventually its unreliability and crashes prompted me to try Chrome over two years ago, and I haven't regretted it at all.

By ElectricPics on 1 Nov 2012

Grammar Error!

"have some affect on the market"; shouldn't that be "have some effect on the market" or is it correct in Canadian English?

By BornOnTheCusp on 1 Nov 2012

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