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The Mozilla Foundation has officially set a previously non-existent Guinness World Record for the largest number of software downloads in a day.

Firefox 3 clocked 8,002,530 downloads on the popular web browser’s launch day (18 June), according to GWR judges who confirmed the figure yesterday. It tallied up the numbers after auditing and checking Mozilla servers to ensure duplicate and unfinished downloads were dismissed.

"As the arbiter and recorder of the world's amazing facts, Guinness World Records is pleased to add Mozilla's achievement to our archives," confirmed Guinness World Records manager Gareth Deaves in a statement.

However, the record attempt nearly fell flat on its face, with the official launch turning into something of a PR fiasco as servers buckled under the strain of demand. For almost two hours after it was supposed to kick off, Mozilla’s websites were either unavailable or publishing html error messages.

The open source organisation, which had claimed 8.3 million downloads for the 24-hour period, finally allowed the clock to start ticking when the servers returned to life and – eventually – the publicity stunt paid off.

Regardless of Mozilla’s heavily-marketed “Download Day”, there was something inevitable about Firefox 3 grasping a tiny bit of Microsoft’s market share with its Internet Explorer web browser, which – according to stats tracker Net Applications – still holds a sizeable 73 per cent of total usage.

And while Mozilla may be popping the corks on a few bottles of bubbly for becoming a record-breaker, what might be more significant over the coming months is that, amidst a browser war, Firefox 3 sports a significant hole that is yet to be patched.

Indeed, within five hours of the launch of the open source browser, which now holds 19 per cent market share of total worldwide usage, security firms DV Labs and Tipping Point reported a backdoor vulnerability in the software that could potentially allow an attacker to take over a PC.

Mozilla admitted yesterday that it’s still working on a fix for that particular security cock-up. In the meantime it’s also released patches for 13 bugs in Firefox 2, five of which the firm rated “critical”.

Unsurprisingly, Mozilla advised earlier this week that Firefox fanciers should upgrade to version 3 and added that support for version 2 would end mid-December.

Of the five critical flaws listed, three could be exploited by attackers to execute malicious code, while the last two involving potential memory corruption in JavaScript could lead to code-execution exploits. ®

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