US Report: Microsoft surpasses Netscape in browser share

Microsoft now leads Netscape in the Internet browser market.

Or so it seems, according to a report issued Monday by International Data Corp. that found Microsoft Corp.'s (Nasdaq:MSFT) Internet Explorer browser commanded 43.8 percent of the market as of June 1998, versus 41.5 percent for Netscape Communications Corp.'s (Nasdaq:NSCP) Navigator. The IDC numbers include America Online Inc. users, who automatically get Explorer as part of their Web browsing bundle.

IDC analyst Joan-Carol Brigham said that "by technology, (Microsoft) has passed them for the first time." IDC says it would be a misrepresentation to fold AOL users into the Explorer category because AOL users don't choose their browser. Without AOL, Explorer's share stands at 27.5 percent.

Netscape continues to lose ground

What remains clear is that Navigator continues to lose ground in the browser market, and Explorer continues to grow. Navigator's share was down 9 percent from the end of 1997, while Explorer's share rose 4.7 percent.

This surprised Brigham, who thought Netscape's market share would stabilize after it stopped charging for Navigator and moved its source code into the world of freeware.

Brigham thinks Netscape's share should stabilize now. "I would expect it to stabilize, although Netscape hasn't really put a lot of effort into browser marketing, where Microsoft just hasn't let up. That makes a big difference in perception."

Netscape's corporate strategy has shifted sharply away from browsers, to the point where the company no longer refers to itself as a browser maker. The shift has taken place as the U.S. Department of Justice has charged Microsoft with anticompetitive tactics in the browser market.

Officials from Microsoft and Netscape were not immediately available for comment.