The mainstream press has also weighed in on the story, including heavy hitters like the Wall Street Journal's technology columnist Walt Mossberg, who gave Firefox high marks in his December 30, 2004 column (WSJ subscription required), praising it for its tabbed-browsing features and integrated RSS support.
But until recently, analysis of the business case for choosing between Firefox and IE has been curiously lacking, as has a solid market analysis of current conditions.
Enter Knowledge@Wharton, a newsletter from the Wharton Business School at the University of Pennsylvania, with their article, "Browser Wars: Will Firefox Burn Explorer?" They offer interviews with Wharton School faculty and experts on the topic. For example:
Okay, so it's not exactly rocket science. But the Wharton business geeks make some solid points and demonstrate a reasonable understanding of both technical and market issues with respect to the Browser Wars, 2005 edition. It's worth a read if you're interested in the subject.
As far as browsers go, customers are disgruntled with Microsoft. The non-profit Mozilla Foundation, formed in July 2003 with funding from America Online's Netscape unit to promote open source web software, cites 25 million downloads of its Firefox browser in the last 100 days. Web measurement company WebSideStory reports that Firefox had a U.S. market share of 5.69% as of Feb. 18 compared to Internet Explorer's 89.85%. While it's far too early to call Microsoft's browser an also-ran, Internet Explorer had a market share of 95.48% in June 2004, says WebSideStory. Globally, the trend toward Firefox is the same. On Feb. 28, Amsterdam-based web analytics company Onestat.com put Firefox's market share at 8.45% globally, up 1% from November 2004.
"The Internet Explorer is a terrible browser and it has security problems," says Wharton legal studies professor Dan Hunter. "Firefox is just a better browser, but I would argue that its market share gains have come because spyware and other hacks plague Explorer."
According to [Wharton marketing professor Peter] Fader, increased marketing of Firefox is unlikely. After all, Mozilla doesn't have the marketing budget to do a sustained campaign. Meanwhile, Microsoft has one asset that is almost unbeatable: Inertia. Microsoft's browser is packaged when you buy a PC. Other software such as Outlook and Office is included. Are people going to go out of their way to download a Firefox browser or some open source alternative to Microsoft products? "Sure you could argue that some of Microsoft's products are bloated and suboptimal, but they do get the job done reasonably well," says Fader.
(Disclaimer: I've been on record for a long time as a Firefox supporter, and have not only blogged about in the past, I've urged people to switch. Just so you know where I'm coming from.)
Also posted on enrevanche.