Thursday, January 05, 2006

observed: what is special about 10% market share?

In a TechWeb article from yesterday, reporter Gregg Keizer cited a study from NetApplications claiming that Mozilla's Firefox browser is within "half a point" of capturing 10% of the browser marketplace.

He goes on to quote NetApplications' VP of Marketing, Vince Vizzaccaro, who said, "Firefox is very close to hitting a critical mass of 10 percent, which could mean a more rapid adoption rate."

I remember reading about Firefox hitting 10% share last year based on a report from, but this is the first time I've seen someone mention that there is something magical about a 10% share.

What is so special about 10% in the browser marketplace?
  • Does 10% put you into the realm of the post-chasm pragmatists?
  • Does it signify a tipping point in market reach beyond which word-of-mouth begins to accelerate adoption?
  • Does it mean you're big enough for larger competitors to take seriously?
In the case of Firefox, a product without a big marketing budget, no direct mail, no journal advertising, none of the "traditional" marketing you'd see in other products, I'm wondering if the 10% share really matters. Other than the obvious lovely feeling it gives the Mozilla people, and the agita it gives the MSFT people (though they'd never admit it, naturally).

Firefox is already growing by word-of-mouth. People who are in a position to choose browsers (and this isn't everyone) use it and love it. I use it because I appreciate the experience it gives me - tabbed browsing, an easy plug-in model and update function are tops on my list. I also value that there seem to be fewer security issues associated with Firefox.

So while I think a Firefox share of 10% is cool, I'm not sure if it is as meaningful as capturing 10% share in other software spaces - because not everyone is in a position to choose what browser they use, especially the home user. Let me explain.

If you're one of the millions of non-technical home computer users, are you going to know about Firefox, much less go to the effort of replacing your existing browser? You have to have some measure of computer fluency to be able to reach out, acquire Firefox, install and use it.

If the folks at Mozilla can get over that hump - to make Firefox available on more and more hardware by default - then they should blow by 10%. Seems axiomatic, but what the heck.

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