Apple at its best: Safari 4 an “incredible” success

Cupertino (CA) – Safari today announced that Safari 4.0 has been downloaded more than 11 million times during the first three days following its launch. Market share numbers provided by Net Applications seem to confirm Apple’s claim, but we also know that the success is not as “incredible” as the company describes it. Mozilla’s Firefox 3 launch is still the benchmark.

You gotta love Apple’s press releases. Sometimes I miss them just like a cup of coffee in the morning before work. Here is an excerpt of today’s release, announcing the number of Safari 4 downloads: 

“Safari 4 is an incredible success on Mac and Windows with more than 11 million downloads in the first three days,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “Safari users love the incredible speed and innovative features like Top Sites, Full History Search and Cover Flow.” And, we were also reminded of the “incredible” features such as Top Sites.

We journalists who have been around for a while have learned to take especially Apple’s press releases with a grain of salt and while we tend to chastise companies for exaggerations, we overlook them in the case of Apple. So, congratulations Apple for a successful launch of Safari 4, which is, admittedly, a much better browser than Safari 3 and hit some impressive milestones in terms of speed and web standard compliance.

But, we also have to note that the success of 11 million downloads is not really as incredible as Apple’s marketing would want us to believe. According to Net Applications, Safari 4 gained about 0.51 points of market share on its first day availability and jumped to a gain of 0.84 points after three days, indicating a download number of about 8-10 million. As of yesterday, Safari 4.0 is estimated by Net Applications to hold a market share of 1.96%, which would mean that close to 20 million Safari 4.0 browsers are in use around the globe. Apple somewhat beat Microsoft’s IE8 trainwreck, which gained only 0.09 points on its first day and 0.80 points after three days. IE held about 2.25% of market share after day 3, but had been available (as beta software) before its official launch much longer than Safari 4. 

Of course, there is really no comparison to the launch of Firefox. Firefox 3 gained 0.66 points on day 1, 2.57 points over 48 hours and 2.79 points over three days. On day 3 of its availability, Firefox 3 held a market share of 3.72%, according to Net Applications.

As a side note, we also know that these 11 million claimed downloads may not have been active downloads, since Apple pushed the software out to its users as an automated update anyway. So let’s calm down a bit. This success is not quite as incredible as Apple makes it sound like.