IBM Flips IE the Finger, Fist Bumps Firefox Instead

For compatibility reasons, many corporations still insist on deploying Internet Explorer across their workforce, no matter how much the end-user complains. It's not that IE is more standards compliant than other browsers -- in most cases, the opposite is true -- but Microsoft's longstanding dominance in browser market share has forced Web developers to code their pages with IE in mind, even at the expense of sticking to proper Web code. In addition, some applications only work (or only work properly) with IE, which is especially true in the enterprise.

So why do we mention all this? Well, IBM is going against the corporate grain and telling its employees to blaze a trail with Mozilla's open-source Firefox browser, not Microsoft's close-source Internet Explorer.

"We're officially adding a new piece of software to the list of default common applications we expect employees to use, and that's the Mozilla Firefox browser," Bob Sutor, Vice President of Open Source and Linux at IBM, wrote in a blog post. "Firefox has been around for years, of course. Today we already have thousands of employees using it on Linux, Mac, and Windows laptops and desktops, but we're going to be adding thousands more users to the rolls."

That might not sound like a very big deal, but make no mistake, this is yet another heavy blow to Microsoft, which can ill afford to keep losing ground in the browser wars. And maybe five years ago this wouldn't have been newsworthy, but the landscape is quickly changing.

When Microsoft buried Netscape in the ground, IE quickly found itself without any real competition. And even though Firefox would eventually build a following, for a long while it looked as though nothing could loosen IE's grip on the browser market. In case you haven't been paying attention, it's already happening.

According to Web research firm NetApplications, IE controls 60.32 percent of the browser market, compared to 23.81 percent for Firefox. Chrome is next in line with 7.24 percent, and then Safari and Opera with 4.85 percent and 2.27 percent, respectively.

Net Applications: Browser Market Share, June 2009 - June 2010

Microsoft doesn't have anything to worry about, right? Nothing could be further from the truth. In June 2009, IE's market share was a little over 68, while Firefox stood at 22.43 percent. But the real threat might come from Chrome, which claimed less than 2.5 percent of the market.

Firefox might not be scorching up the market share ladder, but Google's Chrome browser is. Equally important, IE has been steadily sliding backwards, dropping 8 percent in the last year alone. When you look at the bigger picture, it's easy to see why having a corporation like IBM kick IE to the curb is big deal indeed.