Mozilla's Firefox browser finished 2007 with nearly 30 per cent of the European browser market, a French web metrics company reported Tuesday.

The open-source browser's average European market share improved five percentage points during the year in the 32 European countries tracked by XiTi Monitor, a web measurement site operated by Applied Technologies Internet in Merignac, France. Firefox's gains in Europe, as elsewhere, came at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

According to XiTi Monitor, Firefox posted its largest market share in Finland, where it accounted for 45.4 per cent of all browsers used at the end of 2007. Rounding out the top five Firefox countries were Slovenia, where the open-source browser's market share was 44.6 per cent; Poland, where it had 42.4 per cent; Slovakia, where it had 41.2 per cent; and Hungary, where it had 40.3 per cent.

Among the continent's most-populous nations, Germany recorded a Firefox share of 34.2 per cent at the end of the year. In France, Firefox's market share was 25.8 per cent , and in the UK it was 17.2 per cent . XiTi Monitor does not track browser use in Russia.

Firefox's smallest share was 14.7 per cent in the Netherlands.

By the end of December 2007, said XiTi Monitor, IE accounted for 66.1 per cent of all browsers used to go online in the 32 European markets. IE's market share was down from 66.9 per cent the month before.

XiTi said that Norwegian browser maker Opera Software ASA's flagship application had an average European market share of 3.3 per cent , and that Apple's Safari had an average share of just 2 per cent . Opera, which last year filed a complaint with the European Union's antitrust regulators, has claimed that Microsoft has used illegal business practices to stifle competition by bundling IE with Windows and refusing to comply with web standards. However, XiTi's numbers illustrate that Firefox is putting on a strong showing in relation to market-leading IE, at least in Europe.

US-based metrics firms that tally usage worldwide or concentrate on the US market have recently pegged Firefox's share at considerably less than the share XiTi Monitor estimates it has in Europe. Net Applications, for example, estimated Firefox's global market share last month at 16.8 per cent , while the French firm calculated that Firefox's slice of the North America browsing pie was 21 per cent .

XiTi also called out the success of Firefox's most current edition by comparing it to IE7, Microsoft's newest browser. "On average, whereas [Firefox 2.0] generated 93 per cent of the Mozilla Firefox visits in December 2007, IE7 only generated 46 per cent of the Internet Explorer visits," the company said in a posting of its tracking results. "A little more than a year after its official launch, Firefox 2.0 is thus adopted by a very large majority of users of the Mozilla family, whereas Internet Explorer 7 has clearly more difficulty convincing [IE users]."

Mozilla, which has been working on Firefox 3.0 for over a year, has not yet shipped the update, although it shipped a second beta to testers and developers a little more than a month ago.