July 5, 2008

Mozilla officially scores a world record

Author: Amber Gillies

They did it -- Mozilla now holds the world record for the most software downloaded in 24 hours, according to Jamie Panas, press and marketing assistant at Guinness World Records.

Download Day 2008, designated by the Mozilla Foundation on June 17 in celebration of its 10th anniversary, saw the release of Firefox 3, the free Web browser for Linux, Windows, and Mac OS X. An intensive marketing campaign to set the first Guinness World Record of its kind, for the most software downloaded in one day, resulted in more than 8 million copies downloaded in one day, according to Mozilla.

Guinness did not have a category for the most software downloaded in one day, so there was no set number to break. "We had to notify and work with Guinness for the world record. First, Mozilla had to submit a query with Guinness World Records to see if such a record category existed. Once we found out it was new, we applied to set the record and described how we'd go about the attempt," Mary Colvig, Mozilla's marketing manager, says.

The category was approved by the records management team at Guinness. "Guinness World Records approves new categories every week," Panas says. "Some categories are prompted by an external inquiry, as in this case, when Mozilla contacted us, and others are opened by us as a result of our continuous monitoring of the world's news channels and our team of special consultants around the world.

"Our role as the arbiter and recorder of the world's most amazing feats and facts means that we are constantly searching for superlative achievements to include in our annual book. With around 1.4 billion Internet users around the world, we see this as an important feat and a welcome addition to our vast database of records."

In order for the attempt to be legitimate, experts at Guinness established new guidelines stating each download must be human-initiated. "They [Guinness] have a group of experts knowledgeable about the Web and software who established these guidelines," Colvig says. Mozilla counted only complete downloads and discarded duplicate downloads with the help of a cookie system, according to a press release. Mozilla did not count downloads from Linux distribution repositories, or FTP and BitTorrent downloads. "We are only counting downloads that come directly from our mirror redirection service," Colvig says. However, Guinness would have counted all digital distribution methods if Mozilla had submitted those downloads for the total count. "We would naturally consider HTTP, FTP, and P2P systems as valid delivery methods," Panas says.

To validate the record attempt, Mozilla used Apache to log and monitor downloads. Two judges at Mozilla reviewed the download logs, and signed statements of authentication confirming the download numbers and verifying that the rules established by Guinness were followed, according to Mozilla.

"Their [Mozilla] job is to ensure that the evidence submitted directly supports the number of downloads that they are claiming. Any numbers in the total that are not properly supported will not be considered toward the final total," Panas says.

Mozilla surpassed its goal of generating 5 million full downloads of Firefox 3 by more than 3 million. The release of Firefox 2 in October 2006 generated only 1.6 million downloads on its first day, Colvig says.

Firefox saw an increase in market share of about 4% following the release of Firefox 3. At the height of Download Day 2008, Mozilla logged 17,000 downloads per minute, or 283 per second, and saw sustained download rates in excess of 4,000 per minute, according to a blog entry by John Lilly, Mozilla's corporate executive officer. "Firefox's share ended last week [June 20] at 19.17%, according to Net Applications. Net Applications tracked our market share at 18.41% at the end of May," Colvig says.

Mozilla claims Firefox 3 is two to three times faster than its predecessor and offers more than 15,000 improvements, including a smart location bar, malware protection, and extensive under-the-hood work to improve the speed and performance of the browser.

Early adopters may live to regret their haste; a zero-day exploit against Firefox 3 was announced just five hours after the software's release. Though Mozilla says the risk is minimal, developers are said to be working on a fix.

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