February 28, 2005 1:51 PM PST

Growth rate slips for Firefox usage

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New research shows the growth rate of open-source browser Firefox is slowing, while Microsoft's browser market share continues to dip.

Two tracking surveys released Monday showed that Microsoft's Internet Explorer Web browser has dipped below 90 percent market share.

IE, which comes preinstalled on the vast majority of computers, had already dipped below the 90 percent threshold in a November survey by OneStat, a Dutch Web metrics firm. At the time, Microsoft pointed to WebSideStory's results, which showed it was still above 90 percent.

Surfers warm to Firefox

Microsoft's dominant Internet Explorer is gradually losing ground to open-source newcomer Firefox.

Usage (percent)
Browser Dec. 3 Jan. 14 Feb. 18
Internet
Explorer
91.8 90.3 89.9
Firefox 4.1 5.0 5.7
Netscape/
Mozilla*
2.8 2.6 2.5
Others** 1.3 2.1 1.9
* Excluding Firefox
** Including Safari (boosted figure for January after security update) and Opera
Source: WebSideStory

With Monday's reports, WebSideStory's data indicated that IE had indeed dipped a hair below that psychologically important marker and was used to access surveyed sites 89.9 percent of the time.

Firefox, the Mozilla Foundation's open-source browser, has put Microsoft on the defensive by garnering nearly 27 million downloads since its November final release. Microsoft this month reversed itself and said it would release IE 7 with the next update of Windows XP. Previously, the company had said upgrades to IE would come only as part of the next major version of Windows, code-named Longhorn.

Microsoft and Mozilla were not immediately available for comment.

WebSideStory, based in San Diego, said that while Firefox continues to penetrate the market at a rapid clip, its growth rate has slowed in recent weeks.

Firefox has seen its U.S. growth rate for actual usage fall by nearly half since its debut, according to the measurement firm.

The browser's market share, which has increased rapidly overall, has begun to grow at a slower pace in the past month. During the five-week period leading up to Feb. 18, Firefox had a 15 percent growth rate, compared with a 34 percent increase within the same time frame after its debut, according to the study.

"This is probably to be expected as we move beyond the early-adopter segment," Jeff Lunsford, WebSideStory's chief executive, said in a statement.

The statistics are based on the number of users who have not only downloaded the browser but who have installed it and are using it to view the Web sites that WebSideStory tracks.

WebSideStory released its data for the United States only. But the company also tracks browser activity in nations around the world, where the market share battle varies significantly.

In China, for example, Firefox accounts for about 1.1 percent of active use, compared with 98.5 percent for IE. Mozilla's share in Japan and South Korea isn't much better.

But in Germany, Firefox ferried 18.8 percent of traffic to Web sites, compared with 73 percent for IE. WebSideStory's numbers indicate that the open-source browser does better, on the whole, in Europe than it does in the United States or Asia.

"It really varies widely from country to country," said Geoff Johnston, an analyst with WebSideStory. "Asia has always loved Microsoft's products, while some European countries have been just the opposite, and the U.S. has always has been kind of in the middle. It has something to do with cultural preferences."

Since its debut, Firefox has grabbed nearly 5.7 percent of the U.S. market share for browsers. Microsoft's IE, meanwhile, has seen its market share fall three percentage points in that time.

"In December, it seemed Firefox was a lock to reach 10 percent (market share) by mid-2005, ahead of the reported year-end goal of the Mozilla Foundation," Lunsford said. "Given the latest growth rates, the year-end target still appears attainable, but a midyear achievement is unlikely."

WebSideStory said Firefox's slower growth was par for the course.

"Firefox had a huge spike and now the pace has tapered off, but that isn't shocking to anyone," said WebSideStory's Johnston. "Whenever a product is released you're going to see that kind of spike. If you're them, you're really thrilled that the growth is still double-digit."

WebSideStory said its findings, over time, were revealing a significant pattern of movement toward Firefox.

"The news in June was that Microsoft had never moved backwards and now it had," Johnston said. "In September, the news was that the pace of attrition was not slowing, which was shocking. It wasn't a blip. That three-to-four month trend has extended to eight and 10 months. So now we have a full-fledged phenomenon and people are taking Firefox seriously."

The interest in Firefox has been substantial. The Mozilla Foundation, for example, raised more than $250,000 in the first 10 days of a fund-raising campaign, which it used to place full-page ads in The New York Times to herald the debut of Firefox 1.0.

OneStat.com said that since November, IE's worldwide usage has fallen 1.62 percentage points to 87.3 percent market share. Firefox, meanwhile, increased by one percentage point to an 8.5 percent global market share.

"It seems that global usage share of Mozilla's Firefox is still increasing and the total global usage share of Microsoft's Internet Explorer is still decreasing," Niels Brinkman, OneStat co-founder, said in a statement.

39 comments

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I highly doubt it.
Why? Simple. I and many of my friend are distributing FF via thumbdrive. In my case iPod. I know more then a few techheads who when they go to service a computer they install FF from their thunbdrive instead of downloading it.
I think that there is a critical mass of downloads right now. I mean for god sake I got a new computer last week and simply installed FF of my home server's network share. Its faster (OK only by a few seconds.) then downloading it.
Honestly I wouldn't trust the numbers that spreadfirefox is giving. I think they are deceptively low. We wont even get into the discussion of the number of people I know who are still on a prerelease version of FF.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Numbers game
Your probably right about the number of users. I think the only way we will ever have a good statistic is when tracked websites start seeing more Mozilla/Firefox hits. Numbers still aren't going to be correct, but when those sites start showing a good amount of firefox hits it would probably be safe to say that firefox is climing.

In my own opinion I would like to see a good split between the competing browser. Competition always breeds better and more invintive software.
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
What about CNET itself?
It would be interesting to see how news.com and other CNET site's stats reflect the growth of Firefox.
Posted by photomatt (3 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not really...
Interesting? Not really... Seeing that news.com maintains links to slashdot, and publishes people like Torvalds and Stallman with no counterpoint makes it pretty clear that the stats from this site will be severely biased towards anything anti-Microsoft.
Posted by David Arbogast (1709 comments )
Link Flag
To get an accurate count
You would have to poll a wide variety of sites. Poll sites that techies and wannabees go to and it will skew the numbers towrds alternate browsers. Go to general sites that attract those that might not know much about computing and it will be skewed towards IE.

Also, don't forget that firefox can tell a web server that it is IE, which skews the numbers. In short there is no accurate way to get a decent poll.

Put firefox in OEM boxes and let the user choose what to use. I think IE will lose that battle, which is probably why you don't see FF bundled into dell or hp machines, but it should.
Posted by Bill Dautrive (1179 comments )
Link Flag
Poll Amazon.
Amazon.com is a site used by many. How about eBay.com or MusiciansFriends.com? Poll Microsofts website and Novells websites.

Here are some more...
cnn.com
msnbc.com
alias.com
vh1.com
mtv.com
cmt.com
linux.org
Posted by System Tyrant (1453 comments )
Link Flag
Let's play with the numbers
Comparing the growth as the percent of the previously makes
sense just if you want to manipulate the figures in some way...
beside that: FF+Mozilla was 6.9% the 3 dec 04, 7.6% the 14 Jan
05 and 8.2 the 18 Feb 05, wich means a +0.7% in December and
+0.6% in Jaunary.
If we take into account that the two time frames are not the
same (41 days against 35) we see that the growth is actually
linear and steady,
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Stupid, misleading Article
And the readers aren't much better...

Rate of growth slowing does not mean less people are switching
to it, it means that there are so many people using it already
that the number of new users is relatively less. For example
when only one person is using it, and a second follows along the
next week, the rate of growth is 100%/week. This is clearly not
sustainable.

You hear things like "the rate of HIV infection has doubled in
straight single white males in the past 12 months" That sounds
ominous, but it could mean that instead of 1 case in 12 months
there were 2.

hardly earth shattering.

Without seeing the actual numbers it is all just BS.
Posted by (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Funny, yes?
That the same folks that have pointed to the number of downloads as a 'fact' that FireFox has taked off are the same ones that now say the numbers 'lie' or don't matter. Think about it for more than a second. Give it a few minutes.
Posted by catchall (245 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Too Early to Extrapolate
Firefox has been out for what 4 months, and you oracles already determined that it has passed its zenith? You should give it at least a year and then with the benefit of hindsight you'll know what happened and when.

I'm glad Cnet runs this story though, it shows that it's time to remind people about this great browser. Oh yes and if you like IE please keep it.
Posted by sanenazok (3449 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Firefox Unfriendly Sites: Demand Choice
It amazes me that in 2005 there are still so many sites that only support ActiveX (IE). This is most prevalent at sites that offer multimedia content. I switched from IE to Firefox a month ago and love it. But it irks me to no end to have to use IE at sites like launch.com (are you listening?). Even more perverse is that IE on the WinCE platform cannot play any multimedia content. Another major pain is when I access mail.yahoo.com from my PDA. It tells me that I am using an older browser (IE 4), and requires I click "OK" to fall back to an older Yahoo interface. I must do this EVERY time I access Yahoo mail on my < 6 month old Axim PDA.

So, most of you are sick of not having more browser competition. Then call and email your web content providers and demand that that support other browsers. Demand that they offer Java based versions of their sites. And tell them that you will take your business elsewhere if they don't. Vote with your pocketbook. My goal to to have to use IE for one and only one thing -- Windows Update.

P.S. I can't wait for the beta of Mini Mozilla (MiniMo) for Windows CE so I have some choice there as well.

Keith
www.techcando.com
Posted by Stating (869 comments )
Reply Link Flag
The next big open source story
Shadowed by the Firefox boom the revolutionaly free personal online desktop servce <a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.cosmopod.com" target="_newWindow">http://www.cosmopod.com</a> is rapidly breaking ground as the premier online work space.
Posted by iqula (59 comments )
Reply Link Flag
IE numbers even smaller...
I manage a handful of sites and after careful study of the logs
I've discovered that the IE numbers are significantly lower than
log stat tools report.

The reason is that almost all referrer/comment/hacking traffic
hitting websites today comes in with an IE browser type.

I filtered two weeks of traffic to my weblog and the change in
"market share" was quite surprising:
<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://jerryrig.com/log/a2281" target="_newWindow">http://jerryrig.com/log/a2281</a>

It would be interesting to see the spam-filtered results for high-
traffic sites.
Posted by (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Quick
believe me .we (Firefox)coming up without delay..!!!
or name it with (promptly) SIR ..
Posted by HARV XAVIER (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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