Firefox Adoption Shows Signs of Cooling

Firefox adoption has slowed slightly in recent months, but it’s still stealing market share from Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, according to figures released by WebSideStory.

Firefox’s U.S. market share across all operating systems reached 5.69 percent as of February 18, 2005, an increase of 0.74 percent in share since January 14. After gaining 1.03 percentage points of market share from November to December, adoption of the new Mozilla browser cooled slightly to a 0.89 percent increase from December to January. It slowed further between January and February.

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, meanwhile, now commands an 89.95 percent share of the market, a decline of 0.43 percent from the preceding month.

“This has been an ongoing story,” said Jeff Johnston, a WebSideStory analyst. “We first discovered that Microsoft was losing share last June, which had never happened before. Now, it’s been going on for eight or nine consecutive months. The current numbers reveal steady growth for Firefox, primarily at the expense of Internet Explorer.”

WebSideStory’s findings were based on an aggregate study of the more than 30 million daily unique visitors to the 700 enterprise businesses and thousands of small businesses using its analytics tools.

“The question since the launch of Firefox’s 1.0 browser in November, has been, ‘When will it taper off?'” Johnston said. “Well, the current numbers show that if you thought Firefox was going to keep growing at a percentage point a month, you were wrong. The good news for Firefox is it is still growing at over a half point per month, which is faster than it was before November.”

Johnston downplayed the potential impact of the release of an upgraded version of Internet Explorer expected sometime this year.

“I don’t think that a new iteration of Internet Explorer is going to change things too much,” Johnston said. “The early adopters of Firefox have created a kind of counterculture, evangelizing use of the Mozilla browser. It seems to indicate that there is a certain percentage of the market that simply wants an alternative to IE.”

Internationally, the pace of Firefox adoption appears to be by no means homogenous. In Germany, for example, the Mozilla browser has gained an 18.82 percent stake of the market across all operating systems, with Internet Explorer penetration measured at 73.01 percent. In China, however, Firefox has taken just 1.10 percent of the market, which is commanded by Internet Explorer’s 98.46 percent stake, according to WebSideStory’s analysis.

WebSideStory’s estimates place Firefox in a more robust position than a recent study by Janco Associates, which measured Firefox’s market share at just under 4.5 percent.

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