Firefox Closes in on 25% of the Market

One of the favorite activities of journalists, bloggers, and other putters-of-things-in-print is to declare the impending doom and/or death of this or that. We won't be engaging in the practice today, but we will happily report that the Browser Wars are alive and well, and continuing to take a toll on the market leader.

This month's market share statistics, as collected by NetApplications' NetMarketShare service, paint an increasingly-familiar picture of the continued growth of diversity in the browser market. Firefox, which has been growing steadily over the past several years, gained more than a quarter of a percentage point in March — a figure that may seem small, but considering the billion-plus users of the internet, represents millions of additional users. That increase brings Firefox's share to 24.52%, within a mere half a percent of controlling one-fourth of the global browser market.

Google's Chrome gained steadily as well, coming in up 0.52% to top out at 6.13% — not bad for a browser that seized a full 1% of the market in its first twenty-four hours. The other two major contenders, Safari and Opera, posted 0.2% and 0.02% gains, respectively, to claim a combined 7% of the market.

The market leader, of course, is Internet Explorer, which was the only one of the major browsers not to post an increase in share — indeed, IE lost nearly a full percentage point during the month of March, bringing its share to 60.65% of the market.

This continues a decline that has been going strong for at least the past two years. Since April 2008 (the earliest statistics available from Net Applications), Internet Explorer has lost nearly 20% of the market, dropping from over three-quarters in 2008 to well under two-thirds today.

The majority of those losses have been to Firefox, which has shown explosive growth, gaining some 7.5% of the market in the past two years. Safari has nearly doubled its share in the same period, while Opera has seen considerably less growth. Chrome, which was first released in September 2008, has shown the most dramatic growth, growing from no share at all to more than 6% of the market in the past eighteen months.

Though the numbers represent the continuation of a long-term trend, one browser-maker is attributing its growth to a different cause. The European Commission settled its antitrust claims over Windows-IE bundling in December with an agreement that Windows users in the European Union would be presented with a "choice screen" allowing them to choose an alternate browser as their default.

The screen, which offers a choice of the top five browsers, displayed randomly, went into full deployment in early March — according to Opera, by mid-month it had already seen a dramatic spike in downloads, in some cases as much as 328%. Other manufacturers have not commented on any particular gains.

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