Firefox continues to gain ground

The Mozilla browser is attracting more users every day, but some experts feel it may have reached its peak

The Firefox and Safari Web browsers are gradually becoming more popular, while Internet Explorer (IE) may be starting to lose some of its lead, according to experts.

Web analysis firm OneStat.com on Monday released statistics showing that while IE continues to dominate Web browser use with 85.17 percent of total global usage in May, the browser has fallen in popularity by 0.65 percent since January. In contrast, Firefox use has increased by 0.56 percent since January, and now stands at 11.79 percent of global use, according to OneStat.

Apple's Safari is also becoming more popular, up from 1.88 percent in January to 2.02 percent. "It is interesting to see that global usage share of Mozilla is higher in the USA and Canada than in other countries in the world and that the global usage share of Apple's Safari is still growing," said Niels Brinkman, co-founder of OneStat.com, in a statement.

Firefox is most popular in Canada, with 16 percent of total browser usage there, compared to 12.81 percent in the US and 9.95 percent in the UK. The browser has made steady gains in all of these countries since January, while IE has continued to decline.

Some experts claim the growth in popularity of Firefox is a direct result of the security problems that have afflicted IE, including two serious vulnerabilities disclosed earlier this month.

But security company Sophos claims Firefox uptake will soon slow, since most of those interested in security have already switched browsers. "Because our audience is probably more security-aware than the average guy on the street, we see a greater usage of Firefox than the global average," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos.

Sophos statistics for May show 72 percent of visitors are using Internet Explorer, 15 percent are using Firefox, and 13 percent are using other browsers."What's interesting is that the Firefox usage globally appears to only be creeping up very slowly, unlike the early days of its adoption," said Cluley.

Mozilla and Microsoft will release updated versions of their browsers later this year. Firefox 2.0 is currently in Alpha 2, codenamed Bon Echo, with a final release expected in the third quarter of this year. IE 7 is currently in Beta 2, and the final release version will be bundled with the delayed Microsoft Vista operating system.

Microsoft and Mozilla are aware that security is a growing concern for many browser users, and that it is high on their agenda for future versions of their software.

"With IE 7 and Firefox 2.0 approaching later this year, it will be interesting to see if Microsoft manages to claw back some of its market share. Whichever products wins the war of the Web browsers, it's likely that the hackers will target it as a means of making money," Cluley said.

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