After three release candidate builds, Firefox 1.5 is expected to be made available for download this week. And when it does arrive, it will be accompanied by a marketing campaign aimed at getting Firefox 1.0 users to upgrade and convincing users of other browsers to switch.
The centerpiece of the marketing blitz will be user-submitted videos of Firefox users evangelizing their favorite web browser made available at the SpreadFirefox website. It sounds kind of like Apple's "Switch" campaign all over again ("I launched Internet Explorer and my computer was all like 'beep beep beep'...") Personally, I'm not dying to watch home videos made by computer geeks around the world explaining why Firefox is the best browser available. However, the VP of products for Mozilla, Christopher Beard, feels otherwise.
"You will have real people telling you about Firefox's features--what's cool and great," said Beard. "People can create the video and upload it to the Mozilla site. The video will then be reviewed and put on our Web site, with a link from their location."
In addition to the home videos will be a 30-second commercial. The commercial will again be user-driven, as anyone will be able to film one and submit it. The best ad will be aired... somewhere. Mozilla hopes that along with would-be commercial directors, the competition will attract talent in the form of film students. I'd love to see some noteworthy directors take a shot at a Firefox commercial. (Cue Mars Blackmon saying "it's gotta be the browser!")
What Mozilla won't be doing this time is making predictions about market share. Prior to the release of Firefox 1.0, Mozilla said it hoped for 10 percent of the browser market by the end of 2005. While it managed to break the 10 percent barrier earlier this month according to one web metrics tracking company, Mozilla is leery of forecasting future growth. A couple of years ago, no one really paid much attention to browser market share—it was Internet Explorer with about 95 percent and everything else. Now, there are a number of companies offering up statistics on browser usage, so any downward tick in Firefox's market share draws a lot more attention.
Marketing aside, Firefox 1.5 looks to be a promising release. In addition to a handful of security and bug fixes, version 1.5 of the popular open-source web browser will offer a number of new features. Users will get drag-and-drop tab placement support, browser cache enhancements, faster rendering, a robust automatic update system, and support for SVG (scalable vector graphics) and rendering pixel graphics (Canvas—check out Canvascape for a cool demo of the technology). Mac users will finally be able to migrate their profiles from other web browsers to Firefox with this release as well.