Mozilla is preparing to use an "open source marketing" drive online to promote the next generation of Firefox, its free web browser.
The group, which is run as a charity and relies on a global army of volunteers to build its products, is due to release Firefox 1.5 next week. It expects to roll out Firefox 2 next summer.
Through a series of online viral videos, made by volunteers who enter a competition, Mozilla is hoping to repeat the success of the last year’s campaign to promote the launch of Firefox 1.0. Such was the cult status of the first Firefox browser, tens of thousands of supporters, recruited through www.spreadfirefox.com, donated money to buy a full-page advertisement in the New York Times to promote it.
"We want to repeat what happened before, which was more sophisticated computer users taking up Firefox and telling their friends, family and co-workers about it," Chris Beard, the head of marketing and product management for the Mozilla Corporation, told Times Online.
"The video campaign will be about tapping into the same source of advocates and evangelism."
Mozilla is planning to ask amateur film makers to make 30-second video ads to promote Firefox. The films will be judged by a panel drawn from the film industry and prizes will include high-end computer systems.
The software house, which is wholly owned by the non-profit Mozilla foundation, is also to unveil further commercial partnerships, including deals with about.com, a website owned by the New York Times Company, and eBay, the online auction house, which also owns PayPal, the online payments company, and Skype, the internet telephony company.
Mozilla already holds commercial arrangements with companies such as Google, which pay the group for pre-installing web addresses on the Firefox browser.
Word-of-mouth recommendation and a reputation for superior security and privacy features have helped Firefox claim 50 million active users over the past year. The free product has taken a significant portion of the market away from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, the long-time dominant browser. Industry estimates rate Firefox’s penetration at between 10 and 20 per cent, though some websites claim that more than half their users now use Firefox.
Firefox 1.5 will probably be released on November 29, Mr Beard said. It is currently being tested by some 750,000 volunteers.
Mozilla plans to push Firefox 1.5’s improved security and privacy features, which will include a keyboard shortcut that will allow users to wipe personal details, such as passwords or browsing histories, from the browser.
There will also be an automatic updating service, through which the browser will automatically dial Mozilla for security updates before asking users if they want them to be applied.
Mozilla also claims the new browser will be faster than its predecessor.
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