Internet Explorer keeps losing market share

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

Internet Explorer held more than 95 per cent of the U.S. browser market for several years, but its share dropped to 94.7 per cent in July and had declined further to 92.9 per cent on Oct. 29, WebSideStory Inc., a San Diego Web metrics company, said Tuesday.

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 six per cent of the market at the end of October, up from 3.5 per cent in June, according to 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 with WebSideStory.

Firefox is the Mozilla Foundation’s stand-alone browser. The Mozilla Suite includes a browser, e-mail client, Internet Relay Chat client and Web page editor. Netscape, distributed by America Online Inc. (AOL), is based on Mozilla technology. The Mozilla open source project was started in early 1998 by Netscape.

The rise of Firefox has been especially remarkable, Johnston said. The browser — a 1.0 version of which is scheduled to be released Nov. 9 — held three per cent market share at the end of October. Firefox was introduced in February this year 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 trend-like 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 group has collected US$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 (SP2) for Windows XP and is working on a new version of the browser that will ship as part of Longhorn, the codename 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 Web log.

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.”

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