Firefox's success in chipping away at Internet Explorer's majority Web browser market share has slowed since Microsoft Corp. began pushing the new IE7 as an automatic update to Windows users last year, a management consulting firm said yesterday. But a Web metrics company immediately disputed the conclusion, saying that IE7's introduction has helped -- not hurt -- Firefox. According to Janco Associates, which tracked users to several Web servers that the Nevada-based company manages, Firefox's growth rate has stalled since December 2006, when Microsoft started automatically issuing IE7 to Windows users. "We've started to see a stabilization of the marketplace," said Victor Janulaitis, Janco's CEO. "In three years, IE lost about 15% of the market share, but we're now seeing that leveling off."
From December 2006 to this month, Firefox's share increased less than a percentage point, from 12.5% to 13.4%. Meanwhile, IE's overall share climbed to 70.5% in March from December's 67.5%. In particular, IE7's share almost tripled from the beginning of December by March 1, climbing from 6.9% to 18.7%. Firefox's stall, said Janulaitis, meant that it and other IE rivals won't be able to overtake Microsoft's browser "without some major new innovation or driver."