RealTime IT News

Firefox Thankful for Strong November

Firefox use in the United States climbed 34 percent in the last month, according to a report published by Web analytics company WebSideStory Monday.

The report comes hours after the Mozilla Foundation, an open source organization working on several consumer-based applications, announced it had reached the 10 million mark in downloads for its Web browser.

Firefox is a standalone Web browser based on the Mozilla Suite version 1.7.5, a combination browser, IRC chat, e-mail and newsgroup client and HTML editor.

San Diego, Calif.-based WebSideStory only this summer started tracking Firefox numbers, separate from Netscape and Mozilla-based browsers, but has seen a steady rate of growth in that time. In the last month, that growth has increased: November's 34 percent growth is noticeably larger than October's 13 percent jump.

Officials credit much of last month's growth to the launch of Firefox 1.0 Nov. 9, which saw 5 million downloads in 11 days and 10 million by Sunday.

According to WebSideStory numbers, Firefox's gain was made at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), the long-dominant browser in the market, which slipped more than a percentage point.

Geoff Johnston, an analyst at WebSideStory, said the impact of the numbers depends largely on who's reading the report. IE still maintains more than 90 percent of the browser market, while Firefox use is little less than five percent. He said people shouldn't set their hopes on seeing another browser war, like the one between IE and Netscape in the 90s.

"If the question is, 'are we heading down to a true browser war' where we're neck and neck at 50/50 [browser market share], I don't think that's ever going to happen again," he said.

Johnston said there IE was able to drive Netscape out of the market in the first place was largely because it was better; in the case of IE 5 versus Netscape 4, significantly better. This time around, Netscape's successor doesn't have the clear advantage, and the security issues that have beset IE in recent times won't be enough to make the switch to Firefox a "no-brainer," he said.

"What we may see, though, is a significant sub-culture of people who use [Firefox] and are loyal to it as an alternative to Internet Explorer," he said. "The question really is, then, where will that stop -- will it stop at five percent, 8 percent or will it make it all the way up to 15 percent? That's hard to say. All we know for now is that for the last six-plus months, it's been growing at a consistent rate."

Numbers have varied in browser market share. Earlier this month, another Web analytics company, Dutch-based OneStat.com, reported IE market share down to 88.9 percent, with the Mozilla browser at 7.35, though Johnston had issues with the findings at the time.

The browser stats page at W3Schools.com gives even bigger credit to the browsers at the Mozilla Foundation (they aren't broken down by Firefox and Mozilla Suite); the site's December numbers show Mozilla has 21 percent of the market and IE at 71 percent.