While Microsofts Internet Explorer browser has lost further market share this year, there has been a significant slowdown in the acceptance of its largest competitor, the open source Firefox browser, according to a white paper released by Janco Associates on Aug. 11.
Internet Explorer has continued to lose market share this year, to 75.88 percent share in July 2006 from 77.01 percent in January 2006 and 84.05 percent in July 2005. That comes off its January 2003 peak of 92.39 percent, the paper, written by Janco CEO Victor Janulaitis, says.
"While Microsoft lost some browser market share in 2006, by the third quarter it seems to have stopped the rapid advance of Firefox. The delayed release of IE 7 could be a bad omen for its market share, but on the positive side, Microsoft has announced that when IE 7 is released it will be distributed as a Live Update that will be tagged as a security release," the white paper says.
That move should help minimize any loss in market share caused by those users who would take it as an opportunity to evaluate other browsers, the report notes.
A summary of the Janco white paper report can be found here.
In contrast, Firefoxs market share rose to 13.71 percent in July 2006, up from 12.42 percent in January 2006 and 10.89 percent in July 2005.
But two factors have helped slow its acceptance: the continued disclosure of security issues within Firefox and the fact that it lost a number of users because of its incompatibilities with IE, the paper says.
"Some Web sites looked and acted differently. We interviewed a number of corporate users who said this was one of the primary reasons they migrated back to Microsofts IE," the report states.
The Netscape browser has also lost some ground this year, slipping 0.43 percent to maintain its No. 3 market share position of 4.98 percent, the white paper says, noting that the introduction of Netscape version 8.0 has not been widely accepted by the Internet browser community.
"In interviews with selected users, we found that many of them were turned off by the installation process. We often heard the comments that the process was ad and pop-up window laden.
"In addition, several of the individuals we interviewed felt that the overhead associated with the ads in Netscape made it a much less effective tool to use. However, they did say they like many of the new features, including tabbed browsing," the paper says.
But there is some good news for Microsoft in the paper, which says that while Firefox continues to gain ground, there has been a significant slowdown in its acceptance, primarily because Microsoft is managing to successfully hold onto its Internet Explorer base.
"The acceptance of Firefox by new users has now slowed to the point that a major innovation would have to take place for new users to try the browser. While Firefox is challenging Microsoft like no other competitor has done in quite some time, its usage has stalled at one to two users out of 10," the paper found.
While Firefox and Netscape were slowly edging away at the Microsoft browser monopoly, the recent announcement by Netscape parent AOL that it is shifting focus to an advertising model could signal a change in the long-term emphasis on its browser.
"With that shift, Firefox will have to come up with some new and exciting features to increase it acceptance by users," the paper says.
With regard to the methodology behind the white paper, Janco, of Park City, Utah, says it develops and maintains several Web sites.
As part of its normal business needs, Janco monitors browser visitors to those sites and captures the type of browser that visitors to those sites are using.
The sites are maintained at Jancos corporate offices, Jancos outsourced Web servers and other remote Internet sites.
All of the sites are commercial in nature with a business to business focus, the paper says.
"We do not receive any compensation from any of the providers of browsers to conduct this study. Janco captures one record for each unique visit to the sites monitored. If a user leaves the site and returns a second time, that is counted as another visit. The survey is accurate to within plus or minus 1 percent," it says.
The white paper also makes the following recommendations: IE users should continue to use that browser and, if they need features like tabbed browsing, should look for the IE add-on or test Firefox to see if it meets their needs.
As Firefox now meets the requirements of most Internet users, Janco recommends that the browser be installed and used at this time, but advises against installing Netscape Version 8.0.
In summary, Janco said that over the past two years there has been "nothing new" from Microsoft and AOL on the browser front, bar some cosmetic changes.
Security breaches in IE have been rampant, with many hackers focusing on the product that they could do the most damage to.
As Firefox gains market share, it is expected to face the same issues.
Firefoxs future growth will depend on how exposed its code is and how quickly it responds to security breaches, it said.
"The anti-Microsoft feelings in part of the user community continue to increase with each new security breach. Users are now starting to blame Microsoft for the breaches because of poor design or poor implementation. This is making it easier to justify moving away from the problem – Microsoft," Janco said in the paper.
That, in turn, means that users are now looking to solutions other than IE, and Firefox could be positioned to gain even more market share in the future, the paper concluded.