Firefox gains market share at slower pace

After an initial surge in market share gains that followed the release of Firefox 1.0 in November, the pace at which the open-source Web browser is winning market share has slowed down, new research shows.

At the same time, Microsoft Corp.'s dominant Internet Explorer (IE) browser has dipped below the 90 percent level in market share, according to two tracking surveys released on Monday.

As of Feb. 18, Firefox held a 5.7 percent share of the U.S. browser market and IE stood at 89.9 percent, according to San Diego-based Web analytics firm WebSideStory Inc. In November, right before the Firefox 1.0 launch, IE held 92.9 percent of the market and earlier versions of Firefox held 3.03 percent, according to WebSideStory.

According to OneStat.com, an Amsterdam-based Web metrics firm, Firefox now holds 8.45 percent of the browser market on a worldwide basis, while Microsoft's IE continues to dominate with an 87.28 percent share, down 1.62 percent compared with the end of November.

However, the speed at which Firefox is gaining market share has slowed down, WebSideStory said. Firefox's market share grew 15 percent over the last five weeks, compared to growth of 22 percent in the period between Dec. 3 and Jan. 14. From Nov. 5 to Dec.3, right after the launch of Firefox 1.0 on Nov. 9, the browser's market share grew 34 percent, it said.

The initial high adoption rate had Firefox on a path to reach a 10 percent market share by mid-2005, according to WebSideStory. With the slower growth, the browser may reach that milestone by the end of the year, WebSideStory set. That achievement would be in line with the goal set by the Mozilla Foundation.

"Growth in Firefox's usage has slowed slightly since its big surge in November. This is probably to be expected as we move beyond the early-adopter segment," WebSideStory Chief Executive Office Jeff Lunsford said in a statement. "Growing concern over potential security holes in the browser might be another factor to consider."

The Mozilla Foundation, the distributor of Firefox, last week warned of serious security flaws in the browser and released an update. In an about face two weeks ago, Microsoft said it would release a test version of IE 7.0 in mid-2005. Previously, Microsoft had said it would not offer a browser upgrade until the next version of Windows ships in late 2006.

Both WebSideStory and OneStat.com measure browser market share by tracking what Web browsers are used when visiting certain Web sites.

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