Is Firefox Really Gaining Ground?

By | July 27, 2004

Is there any truth to the buzz that Mozilla Firefox is gaining ground on Internet Explorer?

EWeek seems to think so, earlier this month quoting WebSideStory and as saying they have seen about a 1% drop in IE usage. The Ziff Davis logs appear to confirm this. But whichever figures you like of those, it still means IE accounts for between 94% and 95% of traffic.

Here are some figures of my own I’ve found: W3Schools indicates that Mozilla has been gaining steady ground since January 2003, from 4% of visitors then to 13.7% in July. (Some folk have pointed out that this statistic is not useful since the website is geared towards developers.) July also marks the first decline in both versions of IE (5 and 6). Individual sites report similar statistics: Information Research, an electronic journal, reports Mozilla visitors at about 9.3%. Then there’s the non-show of hands at BlogOn2004 last week, when no one (some say a few) put up their hands when Microsoft’s Channel 9 guys asked the audience how many of them used IE.

As eWeek concludes, this may be hundreds of thousands of users switching to Firefox or Opera or Safari, but it’s not going to budge Microsoft. It may, however, mean an opportunity for smaller browser makers. And it doesn’t mean an end to security problems, which will doubtless just shift to the more popular (and hence lucrative) usage: Hence the fears that by trying to make itself popular, Firefox may end up making itself vulnerable.

I hope, however, the rise of an alternative will force lazy or incompetent programmers to ensure their websites work on all browsers. It’s no longer acceptable for websites to look good, or just function, in IE. We should start drawing up a hall of shame of websites that do this. Sadly, in my experience, banks are the worst culprits. Ironic, really, given that it is mainly security flaws in IE that are sending people to new browsers.

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