The geniuses (or should that be genii??) behind the Firefox project have come up with a nifty bit of marketing to get everyone to download the latest release of their web browser. Instead of just releasing it, they’re hyping it up and going for a world record to see how many downloads they can accumulate in the space of 24 hours. Firefox 3, available for PC, Mac, and all those ‘other’ operating systems, should be a massive step forward compared to Firefox 2, and challenges most other browsers too. It claims to be faster than Safari on the Mac, and faster than IE7 on the PC, and with the enormous community base and a massive library of add-ons available, Firefox’s finger in the pie is surely set to grow.
However, there has been significant confusion in the world-wide-web community, because it’s still not available. We were told that Firefox 3 would be available on 17th June. It’s been 17th June all day, and here in the UK we’re running out of day in which to download the darn thing. And yet there is no sign of it on the Firefox web site. There are some clever people who have managed to locate the actual download separate from the web site, but that’s cheating somewhat, and I wonder whether those results will count in the world record stats. Take a look at the comments on this news item and you’ll see people from around the world thoroughly confused at the lack of the promised download, wondering how, why and who screwed it all up.
Read a little closer, however, and the reason becomes apparent. Since the internet is a truly global phenomenon, the concept of a ‘date’ and ‘time’ is a little difficult to quantify, so for all useful purposes we have to tie it down to a particular physical location on the globe. When the folks at Firefox said their browser would be available on 17th June, what they meant to say (they probably did say it, but ought to have made it a little clearer) was that it would be available from 1pm Eastern Time, as in the time zone inhabited by those people on the east coast of America, and the 24 hours being recorded for the world record will be measured from that time. The upshot of that is that here in the UK it won’t be available until 6pm, and people further round the globe will probably have to wait until tomorrow, by their calendars. Practically it does come out at exactly the same time across the world, it’s just that the measurement of time varies depending on where you are. Confused? So were a lot of other people.
As I write this I’m pleased to note that in theory there is less than an hour before FF3 is available. It’s also less than an hour before everyone else gets it, but if you’re in Syndey, Australia it’s currently almost half past two in the morning, 18th June. Obviously if they download their shiny new FF3 when they wake up then their download will still count for the record, but I can understand if the hard-core Firefoxers are somewhat disgruntled to have to wait a full day before being able to download what everyone else had yesterday. Of course in the global sense that’s not quite accurate, but you know what I mean.
Basically, time is a bit silly, really. What we really need is a way of fast-forwarding and rewinding time so that we can all experience the same 1pm on the same date at the same moment, just for special moments like this. There’s a phrase that says “Time is nature’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen at once”. I hate to disagree with nature, but it would be cool to be able to experience life in a non-parallel fashion, dipping in and out of time as the fancy takes us. That way I could get tomorrow’s work done yesterday so I don’t have to do it today.
EDIT: It’s now 7:15pm and the Firefox web site has been updated. Curiously though there seems to be some disparity between what’s advertised and what’s being offered. Check out this screenshot from the front page, and note the version number listed – are they trying to tell us that Firefox 2 is the new Firefox 3??