The Firefox browser continues to draw millions of users looking for an alternative to Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT - news) Internet Explorer, with Nielsen//Netratings (Nasdaq: NTRT - news) confirming data from other market analysts showing that the open-source browser has developed a strong following in a short time.
Nielsen reports a whopping 237 percent increase in the number of visitors to the Firefox Web site -- operated by open-source developer Mozilla -- in the past nine months. Some 2.6 million people visited the site during March 2005 to download the browser.
Over 45 Million Downloads
The SpreadFirefox Web site, which tracks usage of the browser, reports some 45 million downloads since the launch of Firefox 1.0, late last year. This figure makes it the number-two browser, but it is still well behind Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
Recent figures from Web analytics firm OneStat.com show that Firefox has captured 8.45 percent of global usage, while Internet Explorer has dropped to below 90 percent with a usage share of 87.28 percent, down 1.62 percent since November.
Firefox might well continue to gain traction in the consumer market, although its momentum seems to have slowed somewhat. However, breaking into the enterprise arena is another matter, primarily because of compatibility issues.
The upstart browser's popularity stems from better security features and enhanced functionality, said Yankee Group analyst Nitin Gupta. "Firefox has some innovative features that thwart pop-up ads, adware and spam, which Explorer has not yet added," he said.
Still, he noted, Web developers have not yet embraced Firefox and there are several sites that are compatible only with Explorer, such as those run by banks.
"There has been a lot of frustration with Explorer and its ongoing security problems, said Gupta. "Microsoft is monitoring Firefox closely and is expected to add a number of the features to its next browser that Firefox currently delivers."
Forrester Research analyst Michael Goulde called Firefox the "poster child" of the open-source developer community. "It is a very visible, successful product that has become the model for other-open source projects," he said.
While acknowledging that Firefox has experienced some bugs of its own, Goulde said Mozilla was able to take advantage of the door left open by Microsoft. Microsoft now is in a defensive position in the browser market, he said, with some of Firefox's popularity attributed to a backlash against the software giant.
Developers, until now, have focused on Explorer, given its dominance, but they now are being forced to target both the Microsoft and open-source environments, said Goulde.
The Mozilla Foundation's product is not the only competitor chipping away at IE's numbers. OneStat.com's data show that Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL - news) Safari browser has moved up from 0.91 percent usage to 1.21 percent since November. Netscape continues to hold a usage share over 1 percent, and Opera stands at 1.09 percent. Source