Firefox community weighs up IE 7 threat

One Firefox contributor thinks the browser could grab a 25 percent market share before IE 7 even launches

Firefox supporters are confident that Microsoft's plans for version 7 of Internet Explorer will not hinder the open source browser's rapid growth.

David McGuinness, a Mozilla contributor, claimed on Tuesday that by the time the next version of IE is released Firefox may already have taken a large proportion of its market share.

"The Firefox download rate shows no signs of slowing down and at the current download rate it's possible that Firefox could reach a 25 percent market share well before the final version of IE 7 is released," said McGuinness, on the day that the Mozilla Foundation announced Firefox had been downloaded 25 million times.

Already 4.8 percent of Internet surfers are using Firefox, while 92.7 percent are using IE, according to online measurement company WebSideStory's figures from January.

Microsoft has not revealed when the final version of IE 7 will be released, although the beta is scheduled for this summer. The final version is scheduled to arrive before Longhorn, which is expected in the second half of 2006.

But Gary Barnett, a research director at analyst firm Ovum, thinks it is unlikely that Firefox will reach 25 percent market share that soon, as the initial download rate is unlikely to continue. Initial adopters of Firefox included many proponents of the open source movement, while to reach the broader market Firefox will need to target non-technical consumers, according to Barnett.

"Although I would be delighted if Firefox got 25 percent marketshare [before the final version of IE 7 is released], I think it's extremely unlikely," said Barnett. "Early interest was coming from politically motivated people -- this will get Firefox to five or ten percent, beyond that they're marketing to my granny."

Barnett also warned that developers should not assume that Microsoft will not adapt to the open source threat.

"The most dangerous thing that the open source community can do is think that Microsoft is stupid," said Barnett. "The open source community must not forget that Microsoft is more than capable of responding to the challenges that the open source community gives them in terms of reliability and security."

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