Firefox use growing around the world, study says

After a brief period of little growth this spring, The Mozilla Foundation’s open-source Firefox Web browser is again gaining ground on Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer (IE).

In its latest study on Web browser usage, Netherlands-based OneStat.com said Sunday that Firefox gained 1.14 percent in June and is now used by 12.93 percent of surfers. That’s up from 11.79 percent who used Firefox in May, while IE use declined by 2.12 percent to 83.05 percent.

“We thought that Firefox growth had slowed down,” said Niels Brinkman, a co-founder of OneStat.com. “It seems it’s increasing again. That’s a little bit of a surprise to us.”

The study results were released just before Mozilla.org released the first public beta of the next version of Firefox. Beta 1 of Firefox 2.0 was made public Tuesday.

Last November, OneStat.com’s survey pegged Firefox browser usage globally at 11.51 percent, up 2.82 percent from April 2005. IE at the time had a global usage share of 85.45 percent, down 1.18 percent from April 2005.

OneStat.com uses real-time Web analytics to look at which broswers are being used to view Web sites and to determine their popularity across the Internet, Brinkman said.

The other popular browsers globally, according to OneStat.com, are Apple Computer Inc.’s Safari, with 1.84 percent usage; Opera, with 1 percent usage; and Netscape, with 0.16 percent usage.

In the U.S., the most popular browsers are IE, which is used by 79.78 percent of surfers; Firefox, which is used by 15.82 percent; Safari, which is used by 3.28 percent; Opera, which is used by 0.81 percent; and Netscape, which is used by 0.2 percent of Web surfers.

Usage rates for IE and Firefox in Canada and the U.K. are similar to the U.S. statistics. But in Australia, Firefox is much more popular and is used by 24.23 percent of Web surfers. Microsoft’s IE is used by 69.35 percent of Australian surfers, according to the study. In Germany, Firefox is even more popular: 39.02 percent of surfers there use it, compared with 55.99 percent who use IE.

Dana Gardner, an analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC in Gilford, N.H., said the growing use of Firefox arises from several factors, including better performance and fewer security problems than IE.

“I think it’s been an astonishing ramp-up that Mozilla’s had,” Gardner said. “And of course, there’s been a long period of time [since the original release of] IE 6. We’ve only got the beta version of IE7, so Microsoft gave people an opportunity to check out other browsers” by not regularly updating its own, he said.

The continuing shifts in browser usage should show vendors not to take their status for granted, Gardner said.

“It indicates how quickly people will move to a new software when they have that choice,” he said. “To think that there’s a great deal of security in your market position is not something to be lazy about. People will go somewhere else that will better suit their purposes.”

Carol Baroudi, an analyst at Hurwitz & Associates in Waltham, Mass., said another reason for the growing use of Mozilla is that it’s open-source software.

“For a lot of people, Mozilla happens to be a political choice,” Baroudi said. “And IE has been problematic” with viruses, spyware and other security issues, she added.

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