As part of a regulatory requirement imposed by the European Union, Microsoft has implemented a browser ballot for European Windows users, and as expected, the ballot has given rise to alternative browsers.
According to Mozilla, more than 50,000 people had downloaded Firefox as a direct result of the choice screen Microsoft is forced to show.
"It's definitely being taken up, so consumers are paying attention and taking advantage of the choice being offered to them," said Thomas Vinje, legal counsel to the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, a lobbying group based in Brussels whose members include Opera.
While the initial results look promising for Firefox and other competitors, Microsoft said it's too early to draw a conclusion on whether the choice screen could lead to significant users ditching Internet Explorer.
Google launched their Chrome browser just over a year ago, and new figures from analytics firm Net Applications seem to indicate things are going quite well indeed. The plucky young browser was the only one of the top five to see any gains in the month of February. While certainly far from being the market leader, Chrome is now solidly in third place with 5.61% of the market. Internet Explorer and Firefox took first and second with 61.58% and 24.23% respectively. IE lost 0.54% and Firefox lost 0.20% last month.
Chrome has gained a reputation for being speedy and usable out of the virtual box. It is also reputed to be more standards compliant than other leading browsers. Whatever the reason, users are responding. The recent 4.0 release brought better HTML5 support, bookmark syncing, and the all important extension support.
Firefox came about at a time when Internet Explorer dominated the market almost completely. There was only one fight to be had for the Mozilla team at that point. Chrome is now up against a still widespread Internet Explorer and a very number two in Firefox. Google may not be overtaking a competitor any time soon, but Chrome is definitely moving in the right direction. So, do you use Chrome? Is it better for you than Firefox?
There's been a lot of talk regarding Microsoft's upcoming browser ballot, but not a whole lot of concrete details, and no screenies. Until today. In a blog post, Microsoft's deputy counsel Dave Heiner outlined "what to expect" from its EU-mandated "Web browser choice screen."
"External testing of the choice screen will begin next week in three countries: the United Kingdom, Belgium, and France. Anyone in those countries who wishes to test it can download the browser choice screen software update from Windows Update. We plan to begin a phased roll-out of the update across Europe the week of March 1," Heiner wrote.
The browser choice screen will include a "list of leading browsers," including Google Chrome, Mozilla's Firefox, Apple's Safari, Opera Software's Opera, and of course Redmond's own Internet Explorer. These five browsers will be displayed in random order so as not to favor one over the other. Users will also have the option of scrolling to the right to view 7 more browsers, also laid out in random order.
Microsoft issued a Security Advisory (980088) to warn users of a vulnerability in Internet Explorer (shocking) that could potentially expose all local files on a filesystem with a known name and location.
The vulnerability was discussed and proof of concept code was written and demonstrated at the Black Hat DC conference by Jorge Luis Alvarez Medina, a security consultant with Core Security Technologies.
Microsoft responded with details and causes of the vulnerability, most notably pointing to disabling the Protected Mode within IE or running versions of IE that don’t include a Protected Mode. This amounts to vulnerability across Internet Explorer 5.01 and IE6 SP1 on Windows 2000 SP4, as well as IE6, IE7, and IE8 on supported editions of Windows XP and Windows Server 2003. However, Protected Mode is running by default on IE7 and IE8 on Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Windows 7, and Windows Server 2008 R2 and prevents the issue.
Microsoft noted that they are unaware of attacks using the vulnerability and recommended users upgrade to the latest version of IE. You can find more details in the security advisory and knowledge base article to make sure you are protected.
It's long been believed that eventually Firefox would catch up with, and maybe even overtake, Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser as the most used browser on the planet. And while that's still possible, the race to knock IE down a peg could end up being a two-participant sprint between Firefox and a suddenly spunky Chrome browser.
In an uncharacteristic slide for Mozilla's open-source browser, Firefox dropped 0.20 percentage points from 24.61 percent to 24.41 percent between December 2009 and January 2010. Meanwhile, Chrome took a relatively big step forward to the tune of 0.57 percentage points, increasing its market share from 4.63 percent to 5.20 percent. Keep in mind we're talking about a single month here, folks.
Internet Explorer, meanwhile, continues to decrease its lead, having given up 0.51 percentage points to go from 62.69 percent down to 62.18 percent. IE stills holds a sizable lead, but continues to go in the wrong market share direction.
But for the first time in a long time, the overall focus isn't so much on IE versus everyone else, but the new battle that's shaping up between Firefox and Chrome. And this will only get more interesting with time now that Chrome has finally added extensions support, and has even tossed Greasemonkey scripts into the mix.
Last week’s cyber attacks, that targeted Google and several other large U.S. companies, has certainly gotten Microsoft’s attention. The attack was orchestrated, in part, through a zero-day flaw in Internet Explorer (IE). The flaw seems to be obscure, and restricted to IE 6 and IE 7, but that hasn’t stopped Microsoft from releasing an out-of-cycle patch for IE.
Microsoft has acknowledgde the flaw, and says the “vulnerability exists as an invalid pointer reference within Internet Explorer. It is possible under certain conditions for the invalid pointer to be accessed after an object is deleted. In a specially-crafted attack, in attempting to access a freed object, Internet Explorer can be caused to allow remote code execution.”
Microsoft, in an announcement posted today, says the confusion surrounding this particular attack has compelled Microsoft to act now. Microsoft’s primary advice: upgrade to IE 8, which is not affected by this flaw. If you don’t plan to upgrade, then updates for earlier versions will be made available, with specific timing of the updates to be announced tomorrow. In the meantime, Microsoft suggests using the workarounds and mitigations provided in Security Advisory 979352.
Security firm McAfee said today that the recent China-based attack on Google and other companies was the result of a new security hole in Internet Explorer. McAfee says the vulnerability is not publicly known, but they have informed Microsoft and expects them to take action soon. So a Microsoft product could be the indirect cause of Google pulling out of China. This must be Microsoft’s favorite software vulnerability ever.
McAfee’s George Kurtz wrote on the companies official blog, “These attacks will look like they come from a trusted source, leading the target to fall for the trap and clicking a link or file. That’s when the exploitation takes place, using the vulnerability in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer." Kurtz was also careful to point out that they have only confirmed that Internet Explorer was a vector of attack; there could have been others.
Further, McAfee says they have cleared Adobe Reader of involvement in the attacks. This comes after several reports implicated the oft exploited software suite.
Those who think IE's time in the enterprise is numbered should think again, says a Devil Mountain Software researcher, who notes that more than 80 percent of the company's 22,000 PCs run Microsoft's browser during the workday.
"The idea that IE will go away is far fetched," said Craig Barth, CTO at Devil Mountain. "People who say those kinds of things simply don't have a grasp on the internal organization of enterprises, or the bureaucracy of companies. Until enterprises flush out the internal applications that rely on IE, that use unsupported and undocumented layout commands, IE sin't goin anywhere. And those dinosaur applications are almost impossible to get rid of."
Barth may have a point, but there's also no doubt there's been a major shift in the past several years. Some data suggests that IE has been steadily declining from its share high of 95 percent in 2004. According to Net Applications, IE has fallen some 4.5 points in the last 18 weeks of 2009 before hitting a new low of 63 percent.
For the first time ever, Microsoft's Internet Explorer 8 claims more users than any other browser on the planet, including the dated (but still popular) IE6.
According to browser market research firm Net Applications, IE8 managed to wrangle its way onto 20.86 percent of all desktops and devices using a web browser, while IE6 claimed 20.99 percent. However, since 2.8 percent are using IE8 in compatibility mode, that propels Microsoft's latest version to the top of the charts.
Main rival Firefox 3.5 followed close behind at 16.32 percent, less than a percentage point above IE7 at 15.5 percent. Looking at the overall picture, however, Firefox still has considerable ground to make up, claiming 24.61 percent of the market compared to Internet Explorer's 62.69 percent. Chrome, meanwhile, sits at 4.63 percent, which was enough to push Apple's Safari browser to fourth place with 4.46 percent.
While being number three in the browser wars is akin to fighting over table scraps, Google is probably happy at the news that Chrome’s combined platform use has pushed it ahead of Safari, by a whole 0.03 percentage points. (“We’re number 3! We’re number 3!”) Chrome’s elevation in status was reported by Net Applications, which tracks the browser habits of 160 million unique monthly visitors to the 40,000 sites it monitors. The results are for the month of November.
Let’s first put things into context: Internet Explorer (IE), in all its glory, dominates the browser market with a market share of 63.6%, and Firefox a distant second at 24.7%. That leaves 11.7% for everyone else. Chrome now owns a 4.4% share, closely followed by Safari at 4.37%. There are some who might argue otherwise, but does it really matter who fills out the remaining 2.93%?
Chrome’s bump up into third place comes on the heels of the introduction of betas for Mac OS and Linux--basically moving Chrome into two new market niches. Collectively, this added 0.4 percentage points to Google’s total: from 4.0% of market share in October to 4.4% in November. On a percentage basis that’s not an insignificant increase, but in the overall scheme of things it doesn’t seem all that much. Still, “We’re number 3!”
Chrome doesn’t appear to be posed to threaten the dominate browsers in these new markets anytime soon. Chrome’s share of the Mac OS market went from 0.32% to 1.3%--Safari seems safe for now. And on Linux Chrome went from a 3.81% share to a 6.34% share--and safe too is Firefox.
Vince Vizzaccaro, an executive vice president of Net Applications doesn’t see Chrome threatening the OS hegemony of IE or Safari, but does suspect that Chrome might one day give Firefox a run for its money on Linux: “With the emergence of Chrome, I'll be curious to see if Chrome will be to Firefox on Linux what Firefox is to IE on Windows...a forceful competitor.”