Firefox 3.5 downloads surpass 2M within hours

At that clip, needs to pick up pace to equal last year's 24-hour record of 8.3 million

Mozilla's Firefox 3.5 browser had been downloaded more than 2 million times by late afternoon, Pacific time, according to a company counter.

The new browser, which was released earlier today, was being downloaded between 30 and 63 times per second worldwide at about 3:35 p.m. Pacific.

At about noon Pacific, Firefox director Mike Beltzner said that a million copies of Firefox 3.5 had already been downloaded, and that the download rate was close to 80 per second. "We didn't do as much outreach this time," said Beltzner, comparing the low-key approach Mozilla took in the days preceding today's launch to last summer's promotion for the then-new Firefox 3.0.

"But it looks like we're not too far off Download Day's numbers," Beltzner said.

Last year, Mozilla said that more than 8.3 million copies of Firefox 3.0 had been downloaded in the first 24 hours of its availability, in part because of the aggressively promoted Download Day, an attempt by Mozilla to set a single-day download record that it hoped would be sanctioned by the Guinness World Records organization.

In October 2006, Mozilla said it recorded 1.6 million downloads of Firefox 2.0 on that version's launch day.

Today, the U.S. led all countries on Mozilla's real-time download counter, with nearly 600,000 by 3:35 p.m. Pacific, followed by Germany with more than 260,000, France with 110,000, and the U.K. with nearly 90,000.

Internet metrics firm Net Applications may be able to confirm Firefox 3.5's growth, if not its numbers, tomorrow. The California-based company releases its monthly browser market share numbers on the first of every month.

Firefox 3.5 accounted for only 0.19% of all browsers used in May, meaning that the newest version -- then still in preview -- represented less than 1% of all Mozilla browsers, according to the most recent data from Net Applications. Firefox's total share for May was 22.5%.

Mozilla isn't the only browser maker to brag about download tallies. Two weeks ago, Apple said more than 11 million copies of the new Safari 4 had been downloaded in the first three days of its availability, with more than half -- six million -- by Windows users.

Firefox 3.5 downloads in action.
Firefox 3.5 downloads in action.

Tuesday's debut of Firefox 3.5 seemed to go smoother than last year's 3.0, when Mozilla's servers went dark under the strain and were offline for more than an hour. Although some reported slow download speeds, there were few complaints from users saying that they had been unable to access the update.

Beltzner said that Mozilla's servers and the mirror sites that also host copies were handling the load, but acknowledged that there had been some slowdowns early in the day.

Firefox 3.5 can be downloaded in Windows, Mac and Linux editions in 58 languages. Current users can update by choosing "Check for Updates" under the "Help" menu.

Users running the most recent Release Candidate (RC) of Firefox 3.5, however, won't be offered an upgrade, because Mozilla deemed that build bug-free and made it the final "gold" code.

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