Internet Explorer keeps losing market share

The Mozilla suite, Netscape and Firefox browsers are gaining ground

Although Microsoft Corp. still dominates the Web browser market, its Internet Explorer product continues to lose share to open-source rival Mozilla.

Internet Explorer held more than 95% of the U.S. browser market for several years, but its share dropped to 94.7% in July and had declined further to 92.9% as of Oct. 29, Web metrics company WebSideStory Inc. said yesterday.

Benefiting from high-profile security vulnerabilities in the Microsoft browser and recommendations by experts to switch, The Mozilla Foundation saw its market share rise. The Mozilla Suite, Netscape and Firefox held 6% of the market at the end of October, up from 3.5% in June, according to San Diego-based WebSideStory.

"It is not a fast drop for Internet Explorer, but it might be considered a fast gain for Mozilla," said Geoff Johnston, an analyst at WebSideStory.

Firefox is The Mozilla Foundation's stand-alone browser. The Mozilla Suite includes a browser, an e-mail client, an Internet Relay Chat client and a Web page editor. Netscape, distributed by Dulles, Va.-based America Online Inc., is based on Mozilla technology. The Mozilla open-source project was started in early 1998 by Netscape Communications Corp.

The rise of Firefox has been especially remarkable, Johnston said. The browser -- a 1.0 version of which is scheduled to be released on Tuesday -- held 3% market share at the end of October. Firefox was introduced in February when Mozilla renamed its Firebird project.

"It was one thing in July to see Microsoft starting to lose market share for the first time in a trendlike fashion. But we did not know whether it would continue. It has," Johnston said.

Taking advantage of the momentum, The Mozilla Foundation is drumming up support for Firefox. The Mountain View, Calif.-based group has collected $250,000 in donations to take out a full-page ad in The New York Times to promote the upcoming 1.0 release of Firefox. The money will also be used for other promotional activities.

Meanwhile, Microsoft delivered some updates to Internet Explorer with Service Pack 2 for Windows XP and is working on a new version of the browser that will ship as part of Longhorn, the code name for the next version of Windows due in 2006, a company spokesman said. Also, the Internet Explorer development team at Microsoft has emerged from obscurity by starting a weblog.

Microsoft sees the market-share fluctuation as the "natural ebb and flow of a competitive marketplace," the spokesman said.

Users who try other browsers ultimately will come back to Internet Explorer, the spokesman said. "As they check out the alternatives, we think they'll discover that critical factors such as Web site compatibility, application compatibility and enterprise management and support are just better with Internet Explorer," he said.

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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