Netscape usage down to 3.4 percent

New data on worldwide usage of Web browser software shows Netscape is once again being clobbered by rival browser Internet Explorer and now has an estimated market share of 3.4 percent, according to Internet researcher WebSideStory Inc.

This is a steep decline from the 13 percent share held by Netscape at the same time last year, said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket, WebSideStory's Web site design and software developer service. Rival browser Internet Explorer (IE), owned by Microsoft Corp., holds an estimated 96 percent of the market, up from 87 percent a year ago, according to WebSideStory, in San Diego.

The Netscape browser, owned by AOL Time Warner Inc., had held steady with an estimated 13 percent marketshare over the 14-month period leading to the release of IE 6 about a year ago.

Prior to that release it appeared that Netscape had found its "resistance point," Johnston said. But effective and aggressive marketing on the part of Microsoft, IE's availability with Windows and the failure of new versions of Netscape to win over users helped IE grab an even larger share of former Netscape users, he said.

"Something snapped over the last 12 months. Where there was this sort of stable balance before, now it has completely spiraled down for Netscape," Johnston said.

IE 6 started stealing marketshare from Netscape soon after it was launched and within six months had pushed Netscape's share down to 7 percent in late March, according to WebSideStory. WebSideStory's figures were compiled independently based on a random daily sample of 20 million visitors to thousands of Web sites that use its HitBox visitor analysis service. According to data from Monday, 3.4 percent of the visitors were using a Netscape browser, 96 percent using IE and less than one percent were using the Opera browser from Opera Software ASA. From day to day the sample shows some fluctuation, but over the past several weeks Netscape usage hasn't been higher than 4 percent, Johnston said.

Despite the bleak figures for Netscape, it still holds a usage share of more than 7 percent among Web users in Switzerland, and in Germany, Canada and the United States its market share is more than the 3.4 percent global market share estimate.

"There are pockets of resistance in certain countries, but unless AOL makes a move soon, Netscape may find itself battling Opera for the last 1 to 2 percent of the market," Johnston said.

Netscape announced a preview release of its Netscape 7.0 Web browser in May. AOL Time Warner also has said it was considering dropping IE from its America Online Inc. Internet service in favor of technology developed by its Netscape Communications Corp. subsidiary and open-source software contributors.

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