If Firefox Is Actually Gaining On Internet Explorer, Automatic Update Will Fix It - InformationWeek

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Commentary
10/10/2006
10:28 AM
David  DeJean
David DeJean
Commentary
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If Firefox Is Actually Gaining On Internet Explorer, Automatic Update Will Fix It

As Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla.org's Firefox round the clubhouse turn and head toward the release of new versions, it's interesting that Firefox continues to get press for increasing its share of the browser market from month to month (the latest story puts Firefox at 12.5%, up for the third month in a row). Maybe it's because we all love an underdog. But is Firefox's reputation as a giant ki

As Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla.org's Firefox round the clubhouse turn and head toward the release of new versions, it's interesting that Firefox continues to get press for increasing its share of the browser market from month to month (the latest story puts Firefox at 12.5%, up for the third month in a row). Maybe it's because we all love an underdog. But is Firefox's reputation as a giant killer deserved, or wishful thinking?Net Applications, one of the companies that measures this kind of thing, says Firefox accounted for 12.5% of September's global browser market vs. IE's 82.1%. In September, those numbers were 11.8% and 83%, and in July 11.3% and 83.5%, respectively.

That seems good. I like competition in the browser market. There hasn't been much since Microsoft played Godzilla to Netscape's Bambi. But does it seem right? Not if you believe Ed Bott's site usage stats for his blog, Ed Bott's Windows Expertise.

Bott wrote recently that his tracking software showed the share of visitors using Firefox or Mozilla dipped roughly 1% between April 30 and September 28, from 35.2 down to 34.18. (It's still up over August 2005, though.) IE's share in the same period crept up by 1.5%, from almost exactly 60 to 61.47.

Bott's site has an audience of tech-savvy early adopters obviously, which would account for the higher percentage of Firefox users, but does it account for the reversal he notes in Firefox usage? It might, if you have a suspicious mind like me. I suspect that Bott's readers include a high percentage of charter members of the Browser of the Month club--people who aren't bonded with any particular browser, but use whatever is latest and greatest in a sort of ongoing product review.

Bott's blog entry predicted that IE7, when it's released, will gain back some lost market share for Microsoft. I'd say that's particularly true if Microsoft does what it's rumored to be planning--to include IE7 as an automatic download in Microsoft Update or Automatic Update. The pundits are already pooh-poohing the idea, but not dismissing it entirely--it won't happen in today's Patch Tuesday flood, but it might happen later this month, according to some.

It makes perfect sense: Older versions of IE are a massive security problem, and Microsoft is doubtless well aware of what it's spending to put band-aids on its past mistakes. Automatic Update for IE7 would save it much dinero. The fact that this muscle-flexing take-it-or-else move would also help reestablish its control of the browser market is surely only coincidental, isn't it?

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