Update: Ken Kovash studied the Firefox 3.6 downloads and found a wonderful reason for them! See here for more details.
I was asked this evening if the nightly report was correct in showing that we had a 128% increase in Firefox downloads today. The answer is a resounding yes that figure is correct, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to put a bit more detail on it.
Wednesday, February 17th, 2010 was a release day for both Firefox 3.0.18 and 3.5.8. Starting around noon Pacific time yesterday, hundreds of millions of Firefox users would eventually see a prompt notifying them that there was an upgrade available to install.
If the user was running the latest security release for their version of Firefox, the upgrade would consist of a small patch file that would quickly bring them up to the new security release.
If the user was not on the latest security release, they would instead download a special file that was the full size of the Firefox application. The upgrade process would then automatically install the upgrade.
The question at hand is, “why do we see an increase in people visiting the Mozilla website and downloading a new installer?” In the past, we’ve had concerns about whether people were having trouble with the automatic update system and were being forced to download the application and install it manually. From the data I reviewed today, I think it is safe to say that is not a common scenario. Instead, I’m happy to report that what I see is a lot of people who get a reminder that they should upgrade Firefox and they decide that it is about time for them to go ahead and download the latest and greatest Firefox 3.6 instead.
The chart above (generated courtesy of Tableau Software) shows that manual downloads of the 3.0 and 3.5 versions remained relatively flat, but manual downloads of Firefox 3.6 climbed by almost 3x over the previous day’s peak traffic time.
I would also like to point out that an infrastructure that can handle in increase of over 5 million requests per hour in a three hour window isn’t too shabby.
While my Pentaho Data Integration ETL processes do slow down considerably when processing this huge influx of data, they keep up, managing to process these 10 or so million requests per hour in 30 to 40 minutes. It could actually be much quicker if I moved this processing to a separate server, but the primary reason it is slow is because once it falls outside its normal 5 minute run time, it has to compete with other ETL processes that are scheduled to run later in the hour.
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