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Firefox gains share in Europe

Mozilla Firefox gained nearly 5% of the European Web browser market last year, ending 2007 with a 28% share, a Web metrics firm reported Tuesday.

Despite the increase in use among Web surfers, Firefox remained a distant second to Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Internet Explorer, which ended the year with 66% of the market, the French firm XiTi Monitor reported. The final number for IE represented a 1% drop from November.

Firefox gained market share quarter-to-quarter in December in 90% of European countries, XiTi said. The open source browser was most popular in Finland, where it commanded more than 45% of the market. Other countries where the browser's share was more than 40% included Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary.

An interesting tidbit in the study was the slow adoption of Internet Explorer 7, the latest version of the browser. Only 46% of Web site visits using Microsoft's browser were with the IE7, XiTi said. This compared with 93% use for Firefox 2. Mozilla plans to release Firefox version 3 this year.

Worldwide, Firefox showed growth in all the continents. At the end of 2007, Firefox held 21% of the market in North America, according to XiTi. Firefox was strongest in Oceania, which includes Australia and surrounding island nations, where it ended the year with more than 31% of the market.

While the PC remains an important market arena, the battle is expanding to the mobile browser market, where competition is fierce among more players.

Mozilla is currently in alpha stage with a Firefox-based browser called Minimo, and Google (NSDQ: GOOG) is working on a new browser for its yet-to-be-released Android platform.

For smart phones, there's Microsoft's pocket IE, Opera Mini, the BlackBerry browser and Safari. Skyfire is also building a browser that will be available in beta soon for Windows Mobile devices.

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