Firefox 3.5 edges ahead in browser race

Firefox adoption exceeds that of IE in particular versions

In the unceasing race for market share, Mozilla's Firefox has edged ahead of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, at least according to one statistical snapshot of which browser versions Web surfers use.

"Firefox 3.5 is now the most popular browser worldwide," said Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, the company that compiled the statistics. Cullen quickly added that all the versions of Firefox being used don't equal in number all the versions of IE in use, but said the statistic is telling nonetheless, given that Firefox's market share continues to increase while IE's continues to erode.

In a weekly tally of the types of browsers being used on StatCounter customers' sites, the Web analytics firm's Global Stats Web service, showed that, between Dec. 14 and Dec. 20, the user base of Firefox 3.5 exceeded that of Internet Explorer version 7 for the first time ever. By StatCounter's reckoning, 21.39 percent of visitors used Firefox version 3.5, whereas 21.2 percent of visitors ran Internet Explorer version 7. (Though it is growing in popularity, IE 8 represented only 20.33 percent of the users during that week).

Of course, only when comparing specific versions of browsers does Firefox come out ahead. In another statistical snapshot using the same data and covering that same week, a cumulative total of 55.44 percent of users used a version of Internet Explorer, while 32.12 percent of users deployed some version of Firefox.

Cullen said that Firefox's popularity is especially remarkable given the fact that users must install the browser onto their computers, while IE comes already installed on new computers running Microsoft Windows. "The market has spoken," he said.

At this point in time, Firefox seems to be enjoying a greater adoption rate than Internet Explorer. Since the first week of the year, IE has lost over 17 percent of its user base, while Firefox has gained 25 percent more users. In the first week of the 2009, 67.22 percent of users deployed one version or another of Internet Explorer, and 25.62 percent of surfers used a version of Firefox.

Moreover, the adoption rate of the current version of Firefox, version 3.5, seems to have edged ahead of the adoption rate of the current version of IE 8. The week of Nov 9, both browsers had nearly identical market share of just over 19.5 percent. Since then, the Firefox 3.5 usage rate has grown by 12 percent while Internet Explorer 8 usage rate has grown by only 3 percent.

For this latest week, Chrome had 5.47 percent market share, Safari had 3.46 percent market share and Opera enjoyed 2.07 percent of the user base.

The Global Stats service is a free, frequently-updated summary of global Web user statistics offered by StatCounter, a Web analytics firm. Data is drawn from StatCounter's customer base, which runs over 3 million Web sites distributed across a wide variety of industries and interests. StatCounter places tracking code on each customer's Web pages, the data from which is used to deliver analytic usage reports to the customer. Global Stats is anonymous compilation of all the data collected by StatCounter.

The race will continue to be a heated one: Microsoft's recently released Windows 7 will no doubt propel further adoption of Internet Explorer 8, Cullen noted, though other browsers will get a boost as well thanks to the recent European Union directive for Microsoft to include other browser options on the OS.

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Joab Jackson

IDG News Service
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