The Firefox browser is used by more than 10 percent of business professionals, and that number could more than double by the end of the first half of the year, a management consulting company said Tuesday.
Based on the types of browsers used in accessing 10 business-to-business Websites, slightly more than 1 in 10 were the Mozilla Foundation's Firefox, Janco Associates Inc. said. About 83 percent were Microsoft Corp.'s Internet Explorer, nearly 4 percent were Mozilla, and less than 1 percent were Netscape, America Online and Microsoft's MSN.
Since the fourth quarter of 2004, Firefox usage has more than doubled among business professionals, Victor Janulaitis, chief executive of Janco said. That rate of adoption is expected to continue next quarter, when the open-source browser is expected to reach up to 25 percent of the market.
Professionals are using Firefox over IE because they like the browser's tabbed browsing feature and they see it as less of a security risk than the Microsoft browser, Janulaitis said. Tabbed browsing allows users to toggle back and forth among multiple Web pages without launching a new browser.
"Lots of people are trying Firefox, and the people who try it tend to keep it," Janulaitis said.
In the meantime, Firefox adoption continues to grow. The number of people visiting the Mozilla Foundation Website where they can download the browser has more than doubled over the last nine months, according to research firm Nielsen/Netratings. In March, more than 2.6 million people visited the site, a 237 percent jump over June 2004.
Consumers make up less than 5 percent of the browser users in the Janco study. When consumers are included, the numbers are substantially different. According to the latest figures from browser measuring firm WebSideStory, Firefox accounted for 5.47 percent of the market, and IE 92.2 percent.
Because Microsoft has yet to update IE with significantly new features, the company has made the browser vulnerable in the marketplace. The next major version of IE is expected to include tabbed browsing, but the technology isn't available yet. Microsoft plans to ship the beta for IE 7 this summer.
"Microsoft has fallen asleep at the switch," Janulaitis said. "It's a slow burn out there, where people are getting real frustrated with Microsoft."
While Microsoft has created an opening for Firefox, the software giant certainly hasn't lost the game. While business professionals are using the upstart, corporations haven't begun to standardize on the browser, preferring to stick with IE.
"Without that jump taking place, I don't think Firefox can go beyond a 25 percent to 30 percent market share," Janulaitis said. "It all depends on how quickly Microsoft responds with their product."
While users see Firefox as more secure, it's not without its own vulnerabilities. The Mozilla Foundation earlier this month issued an update of the browser that included security fixes for nine flaws.
"What could be the death knell for Firefox is if they had some serious breaches in security that take the halo away from the product," Janulaitis said.
To date, however, there haven't been any major security breaches involving Firefox.
Janco, based in Park City, Utah, has tracked browser usage among professionals since 1997. The privately held company runs an information technology portal that sells resource kits and documentation for businesses developing plans for regulatory compliance, disaster recovery, IT management and other issues. They worked with Merill Lynch following 9/11 on disaster recovery, and the firm was also quoted by the Computer Crime Research Center, a non-profit organization which conducts extensive research on the problems of computer crime and cyber terrorism.
In compiling its browser numbers, Janco records usage among 100,000 monthly visitors to a half dozen Websites run by Janco, with the remaining belonging to corporate clients. The study, according to Janulaitis, has a margin of error of less than 1 percent.
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