Firefox: browser ballot glitch cost us 9m downloads

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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