Firefox claims its first market share crown

Meanwhile, Internet Explorer starts 2011 in a slump, losing the top spot in Europe and suffering a large market share drop

The New Year party is still raging at Mozilla as Firefox has become the top browser in Europe for the first time. Meanwhile, Microsoft is left nursing its hangover as Internet Explorer has suffered its biggest market share loss in two years; perhaps it can blame Google for spiking the punch, as Chrome has made significant gains largely at the expense of IE.

According to NetMarketShare, IE's market share dipped to 57 percent in December 2010 -- a record low for the browser that has seen its market share slide more than 5 points over the past 12 months. On the flip side, Google's Chrome grabbed a 10 percent market share, hitting that mark well ahead of the stated goal of achieving 10 percent by September 2011. Firefox, meanwhile, essentially held steady, meaning it gained ground on the slumping IE.

This dynamic of Chrome knocking down IE and helping Firefox close the gap played out most obviously in Europe, where StatCounter is reporting that IE has lost the top spot for the first time. To be exact, Firefox took 38.11 percent of European market share in December, while IE claimed 37.52 percent.

According to StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen, "This is the first time that IE has been dethroned from the No. 1 spot in a major territory." Cullen says the dynamic is straightforward: "This appears to be happening because Google's Chrome is stealing share from Internet Explorer while Firefox is mainly maintaining its existing share."

Chrome itself is not showing big market share numbers -- StatCounter pegs its European market share at 14.58 percent -- but it is clearly winning converts from IE, so Google can feel good about stinging its primary rival. Mozilla, meanwhile, would probably like to increase its market share rather than staying flat, but in the meantime, it is no doubt happy to take advantage of Microsoft's stumbling and can proudly tout its victory in Europe.

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