Firefox use reaches critical mass; Skype reigns in IM

Real-world usage data shows that most PCs now run Firefox, Skype displaces MSN Messenger, and Asia and Europe love OpenOffice

It finally happened. After years of building momentum -- and more than a few false starts -- Mozilla's Firefox Web browser has finally reached critical mass. There are now more users running some variant of Firefox (50.6 percent) than not running it, according to the latest statistics from the exo.performance.network, which tracks the actual usage and configurations of thousands of PCs globally, providing a real-world snapshot.

The real-world data also shows that Skype has become the most-used instant messaging client and that OpenOffice.org's open source productivity suite's adoption in Asia and Europe is 50 percent higher than in the United States.

[ Keep up with real-world Windows usage trends at InfoWorld's Windows Pulse page, and monitor your own PCs with InfoWorld's free Windows Sentinel tool. ]

Firefox, Chrome both gaining users as people's "other" browser

For those of you following the numbers, that's a 1 percent uptick from last week. At the same time, Internet Explorer remains strong, with nearly 84 percent of users running the Web browser regularly. Firefox's gains seem to be coming at no cost to Internet Explorer in terms of overall deployment. Rather, it's an overlap of users running both Web browsers (nearly 34 percent) that accounts for the increase in the open source application's penetration.

Note: You can check-out the latest data from the exo.repository by visiting InfoWorld's Windows Pulse page. There you'll find a collection of dynamic chart objects that provide a real-time view into data collected from the exo.performance.network's nearly 20,000 contributing members.

[ If the charts in this story are not visible, you can see them in the original story at InfoWorld.com. ]

Meanwhile, Google's Chrome continues to make inroads, with 16 percent of users running the browser at least occasionally. As with Firefox, this growth comes in spite of Internet Explorer's continued dominance: Fully 12 percent of users run both the Microsoft and Google Web browsers on their systems. In fact, among users of the three top Web browsers, only 15 percent run either Firefox or Chrome exclusively. Everyone else appears to run them in addition to, as opposed to in place of, Internet Explorer.

The above data support the exo.performance.network's conclusion that traditional Net metrics reports are often skewed in favor of consumer usage patterns, and that despite Firefox's (and to a lesser degree, Chrome's) success on the public side of the World Wide Web, Internet Explorer remains strong inside the corporate firewall, where many in-house applications still require it.

Skype knocks off MSN Messenger

Another interesting story coming out of the exo.repository is Skype's ascension to the instant messaging client throne. After chipping away at Microsoft's lead for weeks, Skype finally surpassed the company's MSN Messenger as the most widely deployed IM/VoIP client software for Windows PCs.

The recent eBay castoff has now worked its way onto 17 percent of systems, versus 16.7 percent for MSN Messenger. And since many MSN Messenger "users" may not even be aware the application is running -- several Microsoft products have been known to set up Messenger automatically as part of their overall installation processes -- Skype's gains are even more remarkable as it typically requires that the user make a conscious choice to seek out and install the program.

Europe, Asia embrace OpenOffice

One bit of exo.repository data should come as no surprise to OpenOffice fans: Europe and Asia love this popular open source productivity suite. The adoption rate for users in those geographies is roughly 50 percent higher than in the United States, proving once again that Microsoft's dominance is not all-encompassing, especially in the socially progressive markets of the "old" and developing worlds.

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