Netscape Bug Inflated Firefox Usage

In a development that could upset Firefox fans, at least one major provider of browser usage statistics is now saying that market share numbers for Firefox may have been artificially inflated due to the way tracking tools were recognizing the new Netscape browser from March to July of this year.

Netscape 8.0 allows for a user to view Web sites with either Firefox's Gecko or Internet Explorer's display engine, but Gecko is used by default. Because of this capability, Netscape was reporting itself as being a Mozilla browser rather than Netscape itself.

The bug was fixed in Netscape version 8.02 released in July, AOL said, which would account for the drop in usage of Firefox and jump in Netscape usage in many surveys following the update.

Netscape saw its market share artificially drop from 1.8 percent in March to 1.5 percent in July, but then rebound to 2.2 percent the next month following the fix, according to statistics from NetApplications. The company says much of this increase had to do with the reporting bug.

The change could breathe new life into Netscape's usage share, according to the company. In addition, Netscape recently signed a deal with Hewlett-Packard to offer the browser as a choice on new computers.

Still, because Netscape is built upon the Firefox code base, it is understandable that the browser may be included in Mozilla's numbers. It is not clear how other research firms have categorized the new Netscape 8.

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