Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Firefox to Break World Downloading Record Today...

Today at 10am Pacific Time, the latest version of the Firefox web browser will be released. And what a sideshow it has created.

Amid all the hype, a few notable things stand out. First, there has been an organized movement spreading virally in cyberspace for the past few weeks to try and break the Guinness world record for "the software most downloaded in 24 hours". Of course, more discerning eyes might consider this misleading - the "record" doesn't actually exist, and Firefox supporters have basically invented it to add hype to today's release. But who am I to be a Debbie Downer.

In fact, if you check out the website that asks for record-breaking recruits, the most interesting feature on it is the map of the world showing how many people from each country have pledged their commitment. Yes, we all know the internet is everywhere, but it's still quite amazing to see that hundreds of people from backwaters like Uzbekistan, Zambia, and the African Congo have pledged to download Firefox today, not to mention in countries with totalitarian regimes like Iran, Sudan, and North Korea. Aren't these people supposed to not even have electricity?

Also notable is the role that social media has played in spreading the viral message. Websites like Digg and Reddit have accumulated thousands of shows of support, bookmarking services like Del.icio.us have been filled with thousands more links to assorted Firefox material, and the blogosphere has been hyping it ceaselessly with over half a million articles published BEFORE the software release has even happened.

Setting the Guinness world record may be the stated goal of all this activity, but in the end that's only a novelty. The real show is the online mass mobilization that's taking place.


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