Explorer Slides, Firefox Gains in Latest Browser Rankings

Firefox continued to gain ground on Internet Explorer in September, according to the latest browser usage statistics from Net Applications. What’s more, the firm reports increasing browser fragmentation among users.

Internet Explorer has been the dominant Web browser for many years — and remains king of the hill. However, Microsoft’s browser has been slipping in usage rankings since Mozilla launched Firefox in November 2004.

Internet Explorer fell to its lowest market share percentage in over two years last month with 82.1 percent, according to Net Applications. Mozilla’s open source browser was in second place, boasting 12.46 percent of the browser market. Apple’s Safari ranked third with 3.53 percent.

Netscape and Opera, meanwhile, each only served less than 1 percent of the market.

Market Share Shift

Firefox and Safari are enjoying their highest usage numbers of the year at the expense of Internet Explorer. Firefox has seen increased adoption on Linux, Windows and even OS X systems, and is a favorite in the open source camp.

“We’re seeing the strongest Firefox appeal among 18- to 24-year-olds. There’s a couple of reasons for this,” JupiterResearch Analyst Joe Wilcox told TechNewsWorld. “Younger users are probably a bit more tech-savvy. For some, there may even be some philosophical appeal with open source.”

Safari is emerging as a popular choice for Mac users, however, especially since Microsoft decided to quit making IE for Mac and no longer provides support for older versions that work with Apple computers. A year ago, Safari had less than 2 percent of the total browser market share.

Firefox and Safari have been taking advantage of the fact that Internet Explorer users haven’t seen a new browser from Microsoft since Windows XP SP2 was released over two years ago. With Microsoft readying to release a new version of Internet Explorer, though, Mozilla’s impressive browser usage gains could slow.

Bring on IE7

Internet Explorer 7 is scheduled for release later this month. Not only does the new version incorporate security updates that users received with XP Service Pack 2, the upgrade also offers a complete overhaul with a new user interface.

On the security front, IE7 is designed to help protect users against malicious software and keep personal data safe from fraudulent Web sites and online phishing scams.

Microsoft is also adding several other enhancements to its next-generation browser, including an ActiveX Opt-in and a Fix My Settings feature. The company is highlighting a cleaner look and a more streamlined setup that includes tabs for browsing multiple pages in one window.

Some believe Firefox users might come running back to Microsoft when IE7 is released; others aren’t quite so sure there will be any immediate move away from Firefox. Mozilla is preparing to release Firefox version 2.0, and corporate IT departments may need to take some time to test the application.

“The drawback with IE7 is that because the browser is part of the operating system, you are not just installing a browser, you are installing an update that affects other components,” Wilcox noted. “On the one hand, that could offer some benefits. The downside is, in a corporate environment where there may be some fussiness about testing and compatibility, that may not be such a good thing.”

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