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Browser Wars: Who's Winning, Who's Losing

  |  February 11, 2005   |  Comments

Firefox's market share is on the rise -- at what cost to Netscape, IE, and the rest?

Adoption of Mozilla's Firefox browser has accelerated to make it the number two browser in North America, with just under a 4.5 percent market share, according to the "First Quarter 2005 Browser Market Share Study" by Janco Associates.

FoxFire Growth Trend
Click on graphic to view Firefox growth trend
As recently as July 2004, Firefox had less than 1 percent market share. Since the browser went out of beta in November, it's been rapidly adopted, sneaking past some of the top browsers of years past. Firefox is officially a "major" Web browser, says M. Victor Janulaitis, Janco's chief executive.

"If you include Apple and Linux, then Mozilla has more market share than all other browsers combined, except for Microsoft," Janulaitis observes in the study. "This is a shift. Users are beginning to see an alternative to Microsoft and are willing to try it."

Browser 2001 to 2005 Quarterly_Trend
Click here to view browser quarterly trend
According to the data, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) maintains its preeminence among North American browsers, with a combined 84.85 percent market share. Firefox comes in second with a 4.48 percent stake, followed by Netscape (3.03 percent); AOL (2.20 percent); MSN (0.58 percent); and the still-obscure Opera (0.34 percent).

The study tabulated statistics for North American Web sites, excluding sexually explicit destinations, through January 31, 2005. Janco publishes its browser market share report on a semi-annual basis.

According to Rafael Ebron, a Mozilla spokesperson, Firefox's penetration into various sectors of the digerati, or early-adopting members of the Internet elite, is even more widespread.

"Among traffic leading news sites, we estimate that Firefox has an approximate penetration of 11 percent," Ebron said. "Throughout the blogger community, it's perhaps as high as 35 percent."

Other key findings and conclusions of the study include:

  • Netscape and AOL have a combined browser market share of just over 5 percent, and that percentage is declining.

  • IE's market share has declined in the last 12 months.

  • Virus attacks have prompted many to use automatic update features to get the latest versions of IE and alternatives to IE.

  • Users are staying current, downloading the latest versions of IE and Netscape.

  • A significant number of users are looking to solutions other than Microsoft, a sign Firefox stands to gain even more market share.

Not all analysts see the same rosy picture for Firefox on the horizon. According to a recent study by Gartner, if and when Microsoft chooses to respond to the threat posed by Mozilla's new browser, it will probably easily regain any market share it lost in recent months. Firefox's recent, impressive growth is consequently "not inherently sustainable," the report concludes.

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