Software

Firefox Claims Bigger Chunk of Browser Market

Mozilla’s open source Firefox browser continues to creep up on Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Firefox’s share of the global browser market grew to 12.93 percent in July, according to a new report.

Although that number is still small, compared to the whopping 83.05 percent enjoyed by IE, Firefox’s total usage share increased by 1.14 percent since May, while Explorer’s decreased by 2.12 percent, according to the report by Web analytics providerOneStat.com.

Apple’s Safari came in a distant third with 1.84 percent, followed by Opera with 1 percent and Netscape with .16 percent.

“It seems that the global usage share of Mozilla Firefox [started] to grow rapidly again after a period of no growth,” said Niels Brinkman, co-founder of OneStat.com.

That growth is likely to continue at a slow but steady rate as an increasing number of IE users make the switch to the Firefox browser.

Security Woes

“There are people making active choices to go away from IE,” said Carol Baroudi, partner at Hurwitz and Associates and author of Internet for Dummies. “People are clobbered with [crippling] security issues.” They are abandoning Explorer in favor of Firefox out of frustration, she surmised.

A Mozilla spokesperson told LinuxInsider she was unable to comment on Wednesday’s news, which comes the same day that Mozilla announced the official beta release of Firefox 2.0, originally scheduled for Tuesday.

The new version contains built-in phishing protection — an extremely significant addition in light of consumers’ rising security concerns.

Internet Explorer 7.0, released in its third beta version on June 29, also has a phishing filter. It also includes a security status bar, address protection bar and URL handling security.

Still, because of its dominant market position, Microsoft attracts much more attention from distributors of malware.

“Every time I run IE, I have to purge my machine again,” said Baroudi. “I find 44 infections. It’s gross.”

So why continue running it? Most PC vendors set IE as the default browser — so even customers who decide to switch to Firefox are likely to continue using both. Baroudi attributes that to Microsoft’s legacy and believes that both options will be more widely accepted over time.

“There are people who are really reliant on Microsoft and are getting what they want, and I don’t see those install bases jumping the fence,” she said — but she believes they may think twice when it comes time to upgrade their systems.

Global View

Many organizations are turning to open source alternatives, especially on a global level. “It’s a philosophical as well as a political issue, and it is a European trend as organizations start to understand the importance of not having to pay license fees for proprietary software,” Baroudi said.

“Open source tends to lag — it’s less robust at first, but there’s huge economic advantage. [Also,] Microsoft is not a popular name in Europe,” she remarked.

When it comes to marketshare in specific countries, the numbers can differ dramatically from the overall view. While Firefox owns 15.82 percent of the U.S. browser market, that number climbs to 20.41 percent in Italy and a significantly higher 39.02 percent in Germany. In Australia, Firefox has 24.23 percent of the browser market — nearly double its global average.

Distant Contenders

Despite the gap between Firefox and third-place Safari, it is important to note that Safari is the default browser on Macintosh computers, which are themselves gaining market steam.

Still, Apple should not sit by complacently, Baroudi cautions, because it is fast and easy to download Firefox on a Mac as well.

In November 2005, when OneStat.com reported that Firefox had a total global usage share of 11.51 percent, Mac users already were switching from IE to Safari, Brinkman noted. However, Netscape users and some IE users were more likely to choose Firefox.

Netscape’s future as a browser is all but shattered, however, according to Baroudi. “Netscape was the browser of our dreams 10 years ago,” she said. In the third edition of Internet for Dummies, she defined Netscape as “the first software to really scare Bill Gates.”

Microsoft was quick to catch on and “crippled Netscape’s advantage,” she said.

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