Netscape is continuing to lose ground to Internet Explorer – with its estimated market share down to 3.4 per cent, claims Internet research firm WebSideStory.

This is a decline from the 13 per cent share held by Netscape at the same time last year, said Geoff Johnston, vice president of product marketing for StatMarket, WebSideStory's Web-site-design and software-developer service. Internet Explorer holds an estimated 96 per cent of the market, up from 87 per cent a year ago, the researchers claim.

It had appeared that Netscape had found its "resistance point", Johnston said. But effective and aggressive marketing on the part of Microsoft, IE's availability with Windows, and the failure of new versions of Netscape to win over users helped IE grab an even larger share of former Netscape users, he said.

"Something snapped over the past 12 months. Where there was this sort of stable balance before, now it has completely spiralled down for Netscape," Johnston said.

Boxed in WebSideStory's figures were compiled independently, based on a random daily sample of 20 million visitors to thousands of Web sites that use its HitBox visitor analysis service. According to data from Monday, 3.4 per cent of the visitors used Netscape, 96 per cent used IE, and under one per cent were using the Opera.

Netscape still holds more than 7 per cent market share among Web users in Switzerland. In Germany, Canada and the United States its market share is more than the 3.4 per cent.

"There are pockets of resistance in certain countries, but unless AOL makes a move soon, Netscape may find itself battling Opera for the last 1 to 2 per cent of the market," Johnston said.

Netscape's split of the market may get a boost soon. Netscape's parent company AOL Time Warner is moving the browser that ships with its AOL Internet service to Netscape from Internet Explorer.