Internet Explorer's share of the market declined to 92.9 percent by October 29, said Web metrics firm WebSideStory Wednesday, almost a one percentage point fall since the company's September report of 93.7, and coming close to a three-point plunge in the last five months.
"It's interesting that we're seeing Microsoft's IE continuing to move backwards," said Geoff Johnston, an analyst with the San Diego-based Web monitoring provider.
"This summer, after just six weeks of decline, we didn't know if it was a trend or just a fad," he added. "It now looks like a trend. And if it is a fad, it's a really long fad."
Internet Explorer has been attacked by analysts and security experts since this past summer for its large number of security vulnerabilities, with some recommending that users consider switching to other browsers until Microsoft gets its house in order.
Users seem to be taking to that advice, said Johnston. According to WebSideStory's numbers -- which are collected from more than 600 large, mainstream Web sites, including those run by Walt Disney and FedX -- the Netscape/Mozilla/Firefox franchise has been the beneficiary of IE's drop. Since June, Netscape/Mozilla-brand browsers have picked up 2.5 percentage points, and now account for just over six percent of all browsers used.
Johnston believes that Firefox, the Mozilla Foundation's free stand-alone browser, account for the overwhelming majority of those new non-IE users. For the first time, WebSideStory broke out Firefox separately from Netscape and the Mozilla suite; Firefox alone has about three percent of the browser market.
"All the decline in IE has shifted to Firefox," Johnston claimed.
And although switching from IE got started with a rash of very public vulnerabilities in the summer of 2004, the continued move toward Firefox now seems to be driven by something else.
"I suspect it's because of the quality, or the perceived quality, of Firefox," he said, "and not just the fear of vulnerabilities in IE. In other words, this isn't just an issue for Microsoft haters any more."
They may not all detest Microsoft, but they are well organized. Supporters raised $250,000 in ten days using the Spread Firefox site, and will spend the money on full-page ads in the "New York Times" when the final version of the browser goes public later this month.
Johnston doesn't expect Firefox's challenge to Microsoft's dominance to end any time soon.
"Internet Explorer's dropped from 96 percent to 93 in just five months," he said. "And the momentum of change is at least holding steady, perhaps even strengthening a bit.
"This isn't just a shift in habits by gearheads any more."
Firefox 1.0 is currently in release code form and available for download from the Web.