Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Firefox, the open-source challenger to market heavyweight Internet Explorer, has surpassed 10 million downloads in a little more than a month since the browser was released in November.
The free Web browser from the Mozilla Foundation surpassed 10 million downloads on Saturday as Web surfers continue to move away from Microsoft's market-dominating IE. The milestone highlights growing frustration with the security vulnerabilities that have dogged IE during the past few months. Nearly two dozen holes in the Web browser have been discovered during the fall, ranging in degrees of seriousness.
Firefox's surge has helped Mozilla cut into Microsoft's dominance of the Web browser market, with the software giant's market share dropping to less than 90 percent. Dutch market researcher OneStat.com reported last month that IE's market share had slipped to 88.9 percent in the third week of November, down 5 percentage points from its share in May. Mozilla-based browsers, including Firefox, rose to 7.4 percent, up 5 percentage points from May.
"It seems that people are switching from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Mozilla's new Firefox browser," Niels Brinkman, co-founder of OneStat.com, said in a statement in November.
Microsoft has disputed these numbers, claiming that they do not represent corporate users.
"It doesn't jibe with what WebSideStory shows, and what neither of these count is corporate intranets where users aren't actually hitting the Web," Gary Schare, Microsoft's director of product management for Windows, said of OneStat's statistics.
On Wednesday, the information technology services department at Pennsylvania State University recommended that students drop IE in favor of Firefox and Apple Computer's Safari to reduce attacks through vulnerabilities in the Microsoft software. The university said "media reports" and a string of warnings by Carnegie Mellon University's computer emergency response team led to its recommendation.
Malicious code writers have targeted security holes in the browser to launch attacks or install spyware. These attacks are often launched when a victim clicks on a specific Web link, opening the door for intruders to take over the person's computer. Once the PC is compromised, the attacker could access account information, load other software and delete files.