Browser wars: Internet Explorer drops below 90 percent in the U.S. but Firefox gains slow

Friday, May 13, 2005

A report on May 10 by web analytics company WebSideStory estimates usage in the United States of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) web browser to have fallen to 88.9% by April 29, 2005, from 89.9% on February 18, 2005. Microsoft's strongest competitor, Mozilla Firefox, improved its market share from 5.7% to 6.8%.

All browsers based on Mozilla program code combined have a market share of 9%, while other browser alternatives combined make up a share of 2.1%.

The report also contains data from Germany and Japan. Firefox was found to have a much higher usage share in Germany (22.6%), and a lower one in Japan (2.8%), where Internet Explorer still holds 93.9% of the market.

While Firefox's market share is still increasing in the United States, its growth has slowed down compared to a very rapid increase after its widely reported 1.0 release on November 9, 2004. Technology writer Paul Festa speculated in an editorial for that the decreasing growth rate "could mean that the browser has converted a substantial proportion of its natural constituency, thought to be early adopters and the technically savvy." Mozilla Firefox is an open-source web browser developed by the non-profit Mozilla Foundation in collaboration with a team of volunteers.

In most countries, Microsoft's Internet Explorer has long enjoyed a market share above 90 percent. Many have attributed this to the browser's deep integration into the Microsoft Windows operating system.

Browser usage also varies strongly for different demographics. PC World, for example, reports only 67% of their visitors use IE.

While Firefox's market share continues to increase, its growth rate has slowed and it may not reach its target of 10% overall market share by the end of 2005.

Perhaps in response to inroads in a market it has dominated so heavily for many years, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates announced plans in February for a new release of the IE browser before the release of Windows Longhorn. The focus of the new release is improved security, which is much sought by users as IE is thought to be the vector of most security flaws in the Windows environment. Two new vulnerabilities have been reported within the past two months which affect Windows NT, 2000, and XP. [1] [2]

Microsoft's new release may be late, as some corporations are taking steps towards promoting Firefox as an alternative to Internet Explorer. CNET News reported on Thursday that technology giant IBM is encouraging its employees to use Firefox. IBM is also promoting other open-source technologies such as the free Linux operating system.

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