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Firefox penetration in Japan March 8, 2006

Posted by fukumimi in IT, Japan.

I attended the Mozilla Japan seminar last week, and got to hear a couple of folks from Mozilla Corporation (John Lilly, VP BD, and Mike Schroepfer, VP Engineering) talking about Mozilla and its plans for the future.

I also got to meet Gen Kanai, although he was pretty busy running around making sure that the event went smoothly, as well as taking photos of the event. Hopefully we’ll meet up again soon for a more extended conversation.

Anyway, one of the issues came up was the topic of Firefox penetration and market share. Of all of the major markets, Japan has the lowest share of FF penetration, at an estimated 4%. (vs 13-14% for the US, and approx 20% in Europe)

Several issues relating to this fact were raised by the floor in the Q&A session.

Firstly, the apparently conservative nature of the average internet user in Japan.

Secondly, the fact that there are many sites which don’t work (properly, in some cases, and not at all with others) with FF. (Dell Japan‘s system customisation page returns an access denied message)

Regarding the first point, many Japanese consumers do have a fairly conservative outlook, and are pretty leaden footed when it comes to embracing new technology. They seem to subscribe to the “if it ain’t broke…” school of philosophy, and they also are probably less inclined to proactively seek new solutions when an adequate one already exists. (I wonder what FF extension and themes takeup is like for Japanese users (vs elsewhere), although the current market size suggests that the current user base is virtually all early adopter profile users, who are likely to be more inclined and capable of importing extensions and themes. Additionally, there is the adpotion barrier of the extensions and themes pages on mozilla.org being in English, as is the case as for the UI for most extensions)

Regarding the second point, an interesting statistic that was raised was that FF users are, as a group, more active users of the web (based on search and portal activity statistics). This can be attributed to the larger share of early adopter (and likely IT savvy) type profiles within the user group. By extension I would hypothesise these frequent internet users are more likely than average to spend money on-line. Especially in IT related purchases.

Mozilla Japan apparently is contacting and engaging with companies when they are notified of the fact that certain sites do not support FF. Perhaps companies underestimate the number of people using FF being turned away.

Maybe Mozilla Japan can organise an easy way to let users motify Mozilla Japan of non-FF compatible sites. To make it easy and painless, create an extension which adds a button on the toolbar which can be clicked everytime a user encounters a non-FF compatible site. Put some anti-spam measures on the server side, and off you go. Real numbers should mean a lot to corporate management together with the user profile distribution of FF users.

(and make the extension description available in Japanese, for Jpn users, please. Even if it is just on the Yahoo! Japan download site. Actually, what about creating a Mozilla Japan specific download page for extensions and themes for the Japanese market. Would in many cases only require translation of the description and maybe a little bit of translation of UI. Although most extensions have minimal text, making Japanese users suffer through reading an English description seems to be a big useability no-no.)

Obviously IE7’s (and Vista’s) release will be an interesting event in the browser wars. Such obvious functional differences such as tab browsing are being incorporated into IE7, so in my opinion there is a fear the differences will become even more difficult to market when IE7 comes out. As such, I would urge Mozilla to do a big push on the consumer marketing side before the IE7 release.

Security is a pretty hot topic in Japan lately, with news of files being inadvertently shared on the Winny P2P network due to a Winny virus (the Antinny virus). Police files, files on nuclear powerplants, customer information, as well as the obligatory pictures of oneself in a compromising position have all found their way onto the Winny network. It is unfathomable why there are such huge private networks (which deal with sensitive data) have such slack IT security policies (or implementations thereof). In any case, the relative security of FF compared to IE should be used much more vocally as leverage to get FF on more corporate and governmental networks. This last point seems ripe for expansion in a new post…..


1. Yasu Miyata - March 10, 2006

As a heavy FF user, would I recommend my mom to swith to FF? No. It would be a tough job to persuade ordinary folks (ie non-nerd) who are just satisfied with IE.

Here is an idea. Promote FF compatible pages to public organizations like city goverments. They would love to have a “barrier free web site” for everyone in the city. I know a city goverment that requires their web engineers to make their web sites still compatible to Netscape 2.x.

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