Take this statistic with a grain of salt, but Mozilla said more than 8 million copies of Firefox 3 were downloaded in its first 24 hours online.
Mozilla, which is behind the open-source Web browser, was trying to set a download record for the software. The 24-hour period lasted from 11:16 a.m. PDT Tuesday to the same time Wednesday, and Mozilla said it’s waiting for the Guinness Book of World Records to review the results.
The download rate, which peaked at 14,000 per minute Tuesday, was still going strong at more than 6,000 per minute Wednesday morning.
Next question: will it make a difference?
Mozilla fanned the fanboy flames with its download record attempt, but it’s likely the majority of those who downloaded Firefox 3 at this stage will just use it to replace Firefox 2, not a competitor such as Microsoft’s still-dominant Internet Explorer or Apple’s third-place Safari.
There’s also a big difference between downloading Firefox, installing it, using it, and switching to it as the primary browser. One early sign shows at a minimum, though, that Firefox 3 usage is significant at more than 4 percent share, according to Net Applications.
And don’t forget the error bars: it’s impossible to say how many of the Firefox 3 copies were installed by enthusiasts trying to goose the number.
And while 8.3 million might well become an audited record, Adobe blogger and evangelist Ryan Stewart pointed out that Adobe gets 8 million installations of the Flash plug-in on an average day.
Don’t let my note of skepticism detract from the occasion, though. This might have been just a PR stunt, but the fact that Mozilla’s Download Day drew as much attention as it did indicates that Firefox is more than just a piece of software. It’s a movement people want to belong to.