Microsoft's ability to hold off open source rivals is weakening.
Even as its proprietary browser market share is dropping hard, execs agreed to offer support for competitive browsers with its Windows operating system in exchange for an end to its legal nightmares in Europe.
It's a win for the community in Europe but I'm not sure the open source rivals need the help. According to Net Applications' statistics, Microsoft's Internet Explorer market share has dropped more than 5 percent to 64 percent since January of 2009. Its share was roughly 70 percent at the start of the year, and it was at 75 percent in mid 2008.
Its share has fallen mostly to the two leading open source browsers, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Google's Chrome has increased to 4 percent market share from 1.5 percent at the start of 2009. Google's browser -- whose use will no doubt increase after the release of the complementary Google operating system late next year -- was first released in September of 2008. Not bad for 14 months on the market.
Meanwhile, market share of the leading open source browser, Mozilla Firefox, climbed to roughly 25 percent over the past year, also up 3 percentage points to 24.72 percent in November. Its share was 22 percent at the beginning of this year.
Opera stayed roughly the same with two percent market share, according to Net Applications. [Correction: Opera is not an open source browser, as this story claimed earlier and as one reader pointed out as incorrect. My regrets for the error.]
The days of Internet Explorer's dominance appear to be waning. Of course, Microsoft's Windows operating system monopoly still owns the market, but we're not sure how long that will matter, especially as software-as-a-service models take off and Google's web-focused operating system is prepped for release.
As Microsoft's grip on the browser market loosens, opportunities for open source rivals are blossoming. It will be interesting to see which of the two top open source browsers benefits most in 2009.