Internet Explorer Squeezes Out Rivals

According to Web-audience analysis firm WebSideStory, use of Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) hit an all-time high this year. The firm reports that IE now accounts for slightly more than 86 percent of all Web-browser usage, compared with slightly less than 14 percent for all versions of Netscape Navigator and Netscape Communicator and only 0.02 percent for other browsers. Netscape's browser share has fallen steadily since the release of IE 3.0 in August 1996. Netscape's inability to ship the Communicator 5.0 browser and the lackluster reaction to its often delayed open-source browser (i.e., Netscape 6.0/Mozilla) has hindered the company's ability to keep up with Microsoft. And until recently, Microsoft has worked more closely with standards bodies than Netscape has—ensuring that IE supports the latest Web technologies. Netscape promises to reverse this trend with Netscape 6.0, due in late 2000.

WebSideStory also reports that an unsurprising 93.63 percent of computers connected to the Internet run Windows. This number is virtually unchanged since early 1999. "Other" OSs come in second with 3.48 percent. Macintosh is third with only 2.53 percent. UNIX rounds out the list with a scant 0.36 percent. (This low number isn't surprising because most UNIX machines are servers rather than desktop computers.)

An obvious correlation exists between IE's and Windows' dominance in these two polls, considering that Microsoft distributes IE primarily as a product bundle with the OS. However, Netscape contributed to its browser-share reversal by being unable to produce a major browser update the moment that IE started to gain market share. IE also benefits tremendously from its inclusion in AOL: Despite AOL's purchase of Netscape, the online giant continues to base its client application on IE technology, which AOL claims is more modular and easier to use than Netscape's.

Regardless of the reasons, we seem to be quickly heading for a one-browser market. Whether Microsoft will continue to innovate in a market that lacks viable competition remains to be seen.

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