A twice-yearly study from StatMarket, a division of WebSideStory, showed that despite recent technological advances, AOL Time Warner's Netscape Communications browsers, which use technology from the open-source Mozilla project, have ceded more ground to Microsoft's Internet Explorer.
According to the study, Netscape browsers are losing market share at a steady clip, falling to a new low of 3.4 percent as of this week. A year ago, Netscape' market share stood at 13 percent, but fell steeply to 7 percent by March as IE 6 gained popularity.
"The newest versions of Netscape have failed to win over users so far," Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket, said in a statement. "Unless AOL makes a move soon, Netscape may find itself battling Opera for the last 1 percent to 2 percent of the market."
IE has now reached 96 percent market share, according to StatMarket, up from 87 percent a year ago. Mozilla gained some market share when it finally launched aearlier this year, but browsers such as Mozilla and Opera still only accounted for less than 1 percent of the market, StatMarket said.
AOL's plans for boosting Netscape market share hinge on the possibility of introducing Netscape as the basis for the integrated AOL Web browser, which would put it into the hands of tens of millions of consumers. AOL has taken steps toward this end with a version of itsthat uses Netscape's Gecko Web-page rendering engine, and a of AOL for Mac OS X that also uses Netscape technology.
At this point, however, competing browsers face an increasingly difficult task in battling the IE monolith. Because of its market dominance, Web designers generally test their pages on IE alone, with the result that pages sometimes do not render correctly in other browsers--even if those browsers are more standards-compliant than IE.
Netscape has begun actively tracking down popular Web sites that do not render correctly in its browser and encouraging the sites to fix the errors. The company said it has now eradicated errors from most popular sites.
StatMarket gathers its figures from more than 125,000 sites that use its services.
ZDNet U.K.'s Matthew Broersma reported from London.