Interest in Microsoft's IE 7.0 (Internet Explorer 7.0) has stagnated, according to a pair of metrics vendors that track browser usage.

Within weeks of its October 2006 launch, IE 7.0 had gained nearly 10 percent of all browsers used on the web, reported Aliso Viejo, Net Applications in its latest look at browser use yesterday.

Over the next three months, IE 7.0 enjoyed month-to-month gains that ranged from 4 percent to almost 10 percent. By the end of February 2007, Internet Explorer 7.0 owned 29.1 percent of the market. Since then, however, IE 7.0 has taken two months to grow only another point and a half.

Review: Internet Explorer 7.0 vs Mozilla Firefox

The plateauing of IE 7.0 is both striking and no surprise, said Geoff Johnston, an analyst at rival metrics firm WebSideStory.

"In the last three months, IE 7.0's growth has slowed to a trickle," said Johnston. "IE 7.0 has a decent enough number - 31 percent as of last week - but IE 6.0 is still higher, at 46 percent-47 percent."

Net Applications' numbers match those of WebSideStory.

Microsoft began feeding IE 6.0 users automatic update offers to IE 7.0 in early December 2006. Users, however, were allowed to decline the upgrade to IE 7.0, and enterprises were given tools to block the move to the new browser. Microsoft also committed to supporting the older browser until 2014.

"Consumer apathy or laziness, is extremely difficult to overcome," said Johnston. "Lots of people are obviously quite happy with IE 6.0 and don't see any reason to upgrade as long as it's working for them."

Even the introduction of Windows Vista, which runs only IE 7.0, hasn't made a difference of late. After a 4 percent jump in IE 7.0 use from the end of January to the end of February - Vista was released to consumers on 30 January - adoption slowed to 0.9 percent the next month and just 0.6 percent in March.

The stalled uptake of IE 7.0 contrasts with a steadier migration of Firefox users from the older Version 1.5 to Version 2.0. In the seven months since Mozilla's Firefox 2.0 debuted, it has, in essence, swapped places with 1.5; by the end of April, said Net Applications, Version 2.0 accounted for 10.2 percent of all browsers, close to the 10.5 percent that Firefox 1.5 controlled last November. It has only been in the past month that Firefox 2.0's uptake slowed to less than half the earlier month-to-month average.

According to Net Applications, Firefox now holds 15.4 percent of the browser market, while Internet Explorer has 78 percent. Apple's Safari also posted an increase in April and now stands at 4.6 percent; Opera Software ASA's Opera browser slipped slightly and remains under 1 percent.

Firefox's gains continued to come at the expense of Internet Explorer. "Even with IE 7.0, Microsoft is still losing market share to Firefox," said Johnston, who noted that WebSideStory tracked a 0.5 percent decline in IE over the past month. "It's still eroding."

Both Mozilla and Microsoft are working on their next-generation browsers, although Firefox 3.0 will likely beat IE 8.0 to market by about a year. Mozilla's schedule is to finalize Firefox 3.0 before the end of the year, while Microsoft recently hinted that IE8 will appear in the fourth quarter of 2008.