In the early 2000′s about a million people would download a release of the Mozilla Application Suite, which was our product offering before Firefox and Thunderbird. We were extremely proud of this number. For 2000 or 2001 it was a very surprising number, quite large for an open-source consumer product. It was a tiny number compared to IE of course, and that product never cracked the barrier into general consumer awareness or adoption. But everyone who heard that number was astonished. In fact, that million-a-release download number helped us obtain some early support when we formed the Mozilla Foundation a couple of years later.
With Firefox, we had a million downloads well before the product reached a 1.0 phase — something like 3 million people were using Firefox as we came up to the 1.0 release in the fall of 2004. That’s partly how we sensed we had something big on our hands during the long summer of 2004 trying to finish the 1.0 version.
Today we crossed the billion download mark for Firefox. That’s an astonishing number. It reflects both the popularity of Firefox and the enormous growth of the web. The latter — the growth of the Internet — is not so surprising. The Internet is a fundamental tool for human interaction, it will grow for a while yet. The Firefox number is something else. Born of the impossible, coming into existence because it had to be, from a small band of seemingly outdated browser-centric dreamers to hundreds of millions of people.