"IBM recognizes a bandwagon when it sees one," says Andy Jaquith, an analyst at the Yankee Group. "Besides, it's migrating its whole operation to Linux."
Firefox clearly has momentum. It has been downloaded more than 50 million times, and members of the open-source Mozilla project have provided funds for advertising to promote the browser. Firefox has features that aren't available in Internet Explorer. And some experts think it's more secure than IE, reason enough for businesses to consider it as an alternative browser.
Jaquith likes tab browsing in Firefox that lets him display multiple sites in one window. "It's the greatest thing since sliced bread," he says.
Internet Explorer had 95% of the Web-browser market in 2002, according to analysts. But software code from the Netscape browser and developers who worked on it moved over to Mozilla and helped to develop Firefox as competition for IE. The latest market data gives Firefox around 8% of the browser market, with Apple Computer's Safari grabbing around 3% of it.
Microsoft's market-share decline is caused, in part, by the company's not refreshing IE or adding many new features over the past three years, as well as the perception that IE is riddled with security flaws that require constant patching, Jaquith says. "Firefox doesn't support Microsoft's Active X standard, and that's probably the No. 1 hole for spyware," he says. "The combination of no innovation and a dreadful security reputation has companies looking to the Firefox alternative for IE."