Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Firefox distribution

There's no doubt that Mozilla is on a roll. Their main product - Firefox 2.0 - is still increasing market share every month. Firefox 3.0 is due out very soon, and looks incredible - it absolutely blows the socks off any other browser I've used. With Weave, Prism, Mozilla 2, Mobile Firefox, and Mozilla Messaging in the pipeline, they have a string of blockbusters lined up for years to come.

It's especially impressive given that Mozilla relies totally on downloads. All of their competitors come pre-installed on the major platforms (Internet Explorer on Microsoft Windows, Safari on Apple OSX, Opera on mobile phones). Mozilla have to work uphill, persuading every single user individually they need to download Firefox and register it as their default browser.

Mozilla is an organisation with an intense focus on its mission - to improve the web for everyone. They have a unique and powerful culture that non-technologists find difficult to understand - they are passionate enough to treat their mission as a moral campaign. Firefox is just a means to deliver this mission.

To achive their goals, Firefox must have a high market share, otherwise they can't influence the industry. Can downloads be enough? I think Mozilla should be more ambitious. Firefox has gained a reputation as a secure, well designed, fast, intuitive browser.

Taking the next step: distribution strategies

Mozilla should persuade OEMs to distribute Firefox as the default browser. Everyone in Silicon Valley knows that Firefox is better than Internet Explorer. The likes of Dell, HP, Lenovo, Acer and Toshiba can surely be persuaded this too, especially by offering a cut of Mozilla's search engine funding.

This would be money well spent. It would further the Mozilla mission by bringing the full power of the web to even more people around the world. Mozilla could target certain countries - for example China, where it only has a 2% market share but a freshly signed revenue agreement with a local search engine.

The arrangement could also apply in the mobile space, where default applications are even more entrenched. What about an arrangement to ship Mobile Firefox with Symbian, Nokia or Sony Ericsson?

Obviously, Mozilla should maintain their downloads channel. Starting an additional channel by signing agreements with manufacturers would take Firefox to the next level, helping them influence the industry with openness, standards and the power of the web.

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