Firefox use up nearly 50% in 2006

Internet Explorer's market share fell to 79.6% from 85.1% at the start of 2006

Propelled by the release of its Version 2.0 in October, the free Firefox web browser saw almost a 50% increase in use during 2006, according to one web measurement firm.

The open-source Firefox browser was used by 14% of computers online at the end of 2006, according to Aliso Viejo, Calif.-based Net Applications. That was 46% higher than its 9.6% share of the browser market at the beginning of the year.

The biggest loser was Microsoft, which also released a new version, Internet Explorer 7, last year. Despite the new version, IE's market share fell to 79.6% from 85.1% at the start of 2006.

Apple Computer's Safari web browser rode increased sales of Mac computers to finish the year with 4.2% of the market, up from 3.1% at the beginning of 2006. Safari is only available on Apple hardware running Mac OS X.

The Opera web browser also grew its share to 0.9% of the market from 0.6%, after signing deals with cell phone makers and game console makers such as Nintendo to have the software bundled with those devices.

AOL's Netscape was, like Internet Explorer, also a loser. The web browser started the year with 1.24% but saw its share of the market fall to 0.9%.

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