After a few hiccups and false starts, downloads of Mozilla’s highly-anticipated Firefox 3 web browser are flowing smoothly. But for a period of about two hours, the demand for the open-source browser was too much for Mozilla’s servers to handle.

Tuesday marks the official start of Mozilla’s attempt to set the Guinness World Record for downloads in one 24-hour period. This is the first record of its kind, so there’s no hard goal, but the company is shooting for 5 million downloads. The goal appears within reach, as Firefox 3 passed the 1 million download mark shortly before 2pm.

But things didn’t start off so well Tuesday morning. When the download window began at 10am Pacific time, page requests sent to the and website were timing out. Other Mozilla and Firefox websites hosted by the company were also unresponsive. Users trying to be among the first to download the application a few minutes before 10am saw connection interrupted errors in their browsers. We here at Webmonkey also noticed some cryptic errors while trying to use Firefox’s own internal update tool just after the official release was supposed to have been made available.

The high demand continued to tax Mozilla’s servers for about two hours. A company representative says the downloads stablized just before 12pm Pacific time in North America, and about half an hour before then in Europe, where the local time was late Tuesday evening.

Once Mozilla got the kinks worked out, downloads quickly peaked at about 14,000 per minute. The total downloads had passed 1 million at about 1:50pm. After the initial rush, downloads have settled down to about 8,000 per minute.

Such heavy traffic isn’t uncommon for new highly-touted releases. However, considering Mozilla asked for it by inviting users at a certain time on a certain day to download the browser, the influx of downloading customers was expected. Instead, the company ended up orchestrating its own Denial of Service attack.

via webmonkey & Wired