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11/23/2004
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Firefox Browser Takes Market Share From Microsoft's IE

Although Microsoft has nearly 90% of the browser market, its share is down a full five points since May of this year. Mozilla Firefox is doing the damage, with 5.6 million copies downloaded in the last two weeks.

Microsoft's stranglehold on the browser market continues to loosen, a Dutch Web monitoring company said Tuesday as it released new numbers that show the open-source Firefox making inroads.

According to OneStat.com, an Amsterdam-based Web metrics firm, Microsoft's Internet Explorer still rules the browser roost with a 88.9 percent usage share, but that number's down a full five points since May.

The decline in Internet Explorer was picked up entirely by Mozilla's browsers, particularly its stand-alone Firefox, which just released in version 1.0 two weeks ago. In that time, more than 5.6 million copies of Firefox have been downloaded from the Web.

"It seems that people are switching from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Mozilla's new Firefox browser," said Niels Brinkman, the co-founder of OneStat.com. "The total usage share of Microsoft declined 5 percent and the total usage share of Mozilla increased 5 percent," he added.

OneStat.com has Firefox pegged at 4.6 percent of browser usage, with Mozilla accounting for 2.8 percent. As recently as May, the Mozilla Foundation's total share -- the foundation produces both the Mozilla browser suite and Firefox -- stood at just 2.1 percent.

OneStat's numbers come on the heels of another report by a U.S.-based competitor. In late October, WebSideStory published its own usage results. Although the San Diego, Calif.-based company also noted an IE slide, its numbers showed a less dramatic drop in IE and a less substantial boost in Firefox. WebSideStory had IE at a 92.9 percent share, 4 points higher than OneStat, and Firefox at about 3 percent, a number 1.5 points lower than OneStat. According to WebSideStory, IE has lost only 3 percent of the market since May.

Brinkman attributed the difference between the two companies' number to a larger sampling size for his data and the later reporting period. OneStat, for instance, claims it monitors Web usage at some 50,000 sites in 100 countries, while WebSideStory says it counts about 600 enterprises as its customers.

"And we did our research just last week," he said. "WebSideStory's research is already a couple of weeks old."

Like WebSideStory, OneStat sees the continued slide of IE as more than just a blip on the browser radar. "It's a long trend, this IE decline," said Brinkman. "First it was very slow, but now it's accelerating rapidly."

By the comments of one executive, Microsoft doesn't seem overly concerned with the IE fall-off.

"While IE is the choice of hundreds of millions...we respect that some customers will choose an alternative," said Gary Schare, the director of Windows product management. "We've done a lot of work to ensure that Windows customers have an opportunity to choose from the broadest set of third-party applications," he continued.

But Schare couldn't resist a backhanded dig at Firefox. "We also know that choosing a browser is about more than a handful of features."

He cited Microsoft investment in a more secure IE in Windows XP SP2 as an example of the company's efforts, and said that its strengths -- from customer support to site compatibility -- make it a "compelling choice" still.

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