June 17th is Download Day for Firefox 3.0. That's the day that Mozilla.org is using for the launch of Firefox 3.0 with the intention of gaining the Guinness World Record for most downloaded software program in a day. This should be a pretty easy record to beat, because as far as I can tell, no one holds the record yet.
Firefox 3.0 has been heralded as a major rerelease of Firefox, adding some new capabilities while addressing some lingering problems. One of the biggest problems that Firefox 3.0 is supposed to address is the nasty memory leak that Firefox 2.0 suffers from. I've noticed it to be not unusual for Firefox processes to consume over 256Mb of memory while doing normal Web surfing. This occurred with both Linux and Windows versions, so it wasn't a problem isolated to one OS or another. I haven't done any direct comparison between Firefox 2.0 and 3.0 for memory usage yet, but right now I have two windows open with a total of 4 tabs, and Firefox 3.0 is chewing up 145Mb, which doesn't bode well.
Not to be left out, Microsoft is working on the next version of Internet Explorer — IE8. It's not supposed to launch until sometime in the second half of 2008, so Firefox 3.0 will have a little head start. IE8 promises better compliance with Web standards, faster loading times, and new features like WebSlices.
Of course, that's not to say that Microsoft and Mozilla are the only players in the game. Apple has Safari, not only for the Mac but also for Windows. And there's Opera, which is now up to version 9.5.
The business impact of browsers
Back in the 90s there was a huge pitched battle between Netscape and Microsoft for control of the browser. At the time, Microsoft was concerned that the Internet would render operating systems irrelevant. Netscape ruled the Internet through its Navigator browser, which ultimately became Firefox.
Businesses were trapped between the two programs. Web sites had to be designed to support one of the platforms or the other, which lead to confusion. Finally, when IE finally overcame Netscape's challenge, businesses standardized on IE and started using IE technologies like Active X on Web applications.
Security problems with IE, Active X, and other Microsoft technologies opened the window a crack for Firefox to regain acceptance a few years ago. Now Mozilla.org has launched Firefox 3.0, riding the success of Firefox 2.0. Even though Microsoft still has a 75% market share of the desktop, many businesses have defected.
What's your take?
Are the browser wars completely irrelevant? Or does Firefox 3.0, on top of the lackluster response to Vista, represent the possibility of a crack in the Microsoft fortress? Take the poll below and sound off in the Comment section.