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Netscape updates browser tally

The company releases browser share numbers based on traffic from four search engines after a recent report that Navigator is slipping.

Stung by reports that its browser share is slipping, Netscape Communications (NSCP) punched back today with numbers compiled from search engine usage that show its share of the market is 67 percent.

The release is in part an answer to last week's Dataquest report that Navigator led Microsoft's Internet Explorer 57 to 39 percent, numbers that show IE gaining rapidly on its rival. Netscape criticized the methodology, however, because it drew its numbers from usage of a single search engine.

Netscape representatives complained that use of Alta Vista as the search engine was unfair because Netscape's search page--accessible by clicking on the "search" button in the Navigator toolbar--doesn't provide a high-profile link to Alta Vista.

"You have to scroll down to get to it," said Netscape director of client marketing Dave Rothschild.

The numbers Netscape released today were drawn from four search sites: Excite, Infoseek, LookSmart, and Yahoo, and are a "more relevant sample," according to Rothschild.

Using search engines to gauge browser market share reflects the volume of usage for each type, not the actual number of clients each company has sold or given away.

For example, "If I hit Yahoo nine times with Communicator, and you hit it once with another browser," the market would be ten, and Communicator would have a 90 percent share, said Rothschild.

Netscape did not give numbers on Microsoft's share.

The company also reported it has licensed more than 4 million seats of its SuiteSpot servers in the last year, as well as more than 2.4 million seats for its messaging products to Internet service providers.

The company's client products now have an installed base of more than 68 million users, 25 million of which are using the new Communicator, Rothschild said.

Microsoft stuck by reports that put its market share at or above 40 percent, including two reports released last week by research companies that randomly called home users and asked about browser use. Browser market shares vary according to the market segments. For example, Netscape executives estimated in September that the company's share in corporations was 70 percent but conceded that the percentage of home users was lower.

To explain the discrepancy in the Alta Vista-based report and the report released today by Netscape, Microsoft's director of marketing for Internet Explorer Yusuf Mehdi said that the previous report took into account America Online users who use the IE-based AOL browser.