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IE 6 gains foothold in browser market

Microsoft's recently released Internet Explorer 6 is grabbing more market share, quickly closing in on AOL Time Warner's Netscape 6, according to a new study.

Microsoft's recently released Internet Explorer 6 has taken 2.4 percent of the browser market, quickly closing in on AOL Time Warner's Netscape 6, according to a new study.

IE 6, released Aug. 27, showed a fast adoption rate in the week after its launch, StatMarket, a division of audience measurement service WebSideStory, said Wednesday. StatMarket would not release the figures for Netscape 6, but it said that the browser was used by less than 2.5 percent of Internet users worldwide in its first week.

StatMarket said that although IE 6 had a "strong" start, it expects a low adoption rate compared with its predecessor, IE 5. Launched in 1999, IE 5 gained between 2 percent and 3 percent of the browser market in its first week.

When IE 5 launched, it "shot out of the gate and continued on a very steep adoption rate for more than a year," said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket. The division tracks daily global Internet use, gathering information from more than 50 million people visiting more than 150,000 sites.

Although IE 6's initial adoption was similar to IE 5's, the research group predicts that the new browser's rate will slow. Johnston said he expects IE 6's market share will level off between 20 percent and 30 percent in about six months. In contrast, IE 5 had more than 50 percent of the market after six months, ahead of both IE 4 and Netscape 4.

Johnston said he expects slower adoption of IE 6 because there are few significant improvements from the earlier version, despite additional features. New features include an image toolbar, which lets people save, e-mail and print photos, and a media tool bar, which plays music and videos without the hassle of opening a separate window. Johnston, however, said that most of the enhancements are related to back-end technologies rather than usability.

In addition, privacy advocates have criticized the new version of Internet Explorer, complaining that it does not sufficiently protect consumers. Other people are concerned because it does not support Java or plug-ins.

"Microsoft is such a giant machine," Johnston said. "So many people use their products, and they can release almost anything and there's going to be a lot of people trying it."

Microsoft could not be immediately reached for comment.