According to a Web audience analysis firm, use of Microsoft Internet Explorer hit an all-time high last week. WebSideStory is reporting that IE now accounts for over 86% of all Web browser usage, compared with only 13.9% for all Netscape versions and 0.02% for other browsers. So while the Web browser market might be a two-horse race, one of the contestants can no longer even be considered competition. Netscape's browser share has fallen steadily since the release of IE 3 in 1996, and Microsoft pulled even with its rival with the release of IE 4 in 1997. But Netscape's recent inability to ship a 5.0 browser and the lackluster reaction to its oft-delayed open source browser has hindered its ability to keep up with IE, which has steadily improved over the years.

Another unsurprising trend reported by WebSideStory involves operating system usage for those machines that are connected to the Internet. Microsoft Windows, of course, dominates with 93.63% of the market, virtually unchanged since early 1999. An unspecified "other" (probably consisting of such things as WebTV, BeOS, Web-enabled cell phones and the like) comes in second with only 3.48%. And despite claims by Apple about its iMac, the overall Macintosh share comes in a distant third with only 2.53%. UNIX rounds out the list with 0.36%.

While these figures simply verify what most people already assumed, it's interesting to note that Microsoft's Web browser dominance can be tied directly to its success with Windows, as IE is distributed primarily as a product bundle. But Netscape did its part, of course, by tanking at exactly the moment that IE started to pull away. The end result is the same: We're quickly heading to a one-browser market and it remains to be seen whether Microsoft will continue to innovate in a market where there is no viable competition