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updated 3/1/2005 8:46:00 PM ET 2005-03-02T01:46:00

For most companies, 87.3 percent of a global market might seem just fine. But most companies are not Bill Gates' Microsoft. Founded by Earth's richest man, the firm still stands astride the world when it comes to browser usage; but the might of its Internet Explorer is just a little diminished. On Monday, two reports were released -- one American and one Continental -- that show IE's share of the browser market dropping below 90 percent.

The culprit? Last year, Mozilla Foundation launched Firefox version 1.0, an open source browser lauded as both faster and more secure against popups and other irritations of online life. Last month, Mozilla said that since the launch of version 1.0, there have been over 25 million Firefox downloads.

On Monday, OneStat.com, a Dutch firm specializing in Web metrics, claimed that Mozilla browsers are now the choice of 8.5 percent of the Earth's Internet users -- up by one percentage point more than in November 2004.

And once a chink in the armor is rent, the vulnerability tends to spread. OneStat.com also said that other browsers such as Netscape -- created by a unit of Time Warner's AOL -- edged upwards as well; Apple Computer's Safari browser now has 1.2 percent of the market. All these factors have reduced IE's global share to 87.3 percent.

(MSNBC is a Microsoft - NBC joint venture.)

Back in the 50 States, U.S.-based WebSideStory also had words on Monday for Microsoft. WebSideStory said that in the previous five weeks, Firefox's market share grew 0.74 percentage points and posted growth of 0.89 percentage points in the six weeks prior to that.

The American Web analysts say Firefox has 5.7 percent of the U.S. market, and other Mozilla-based browsers have 2.5 percent. Meanwhile, IE has dropped to 89.9 percent of Yank users' market share. Maybe that figure is nothing that ought to concern Gates' software leviathan--unless one compares it with IE's 95.5 percent market share in June 2004.

© 2012 Forbes.com

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