Combating decreased mindshare and a very real threat from Microsoft's Internet Explorer 4.0 Web browser, Netscape Communications released numbers this week showing that it isn't slipping as much as people think. Last week, Microsoft was chortling over a Dataquest report showing that Netscape's share of the browser market had fallen to 57%, while IE's had grown to 39%. Netscape, however, released numbers from four search engines (Excite, Infoseek, LookSmart, and Yahoo) that show Netscape's share at 67%. Netscape argues that these results are more relevant than the Dataquest report, which was based on Alta Vista search results.

Netscape did not report numbers on Microsoft Internet Explorer, however, suggesting that its share had actually grown on those search engines as well.

On the other hand, all search engine results are suspect anyway, since they do not measure actual usage, just the number of searches users make with particular browsers.

"If I hit Yahoo nine times with Communicator, and you hit it once with another browser," the market would be ten, and Communicator would have a 90% share," said Netscape director of client marketing Dave Rothschild.

Netscape points out that 4 million SuiteSpot servers were sold in the past year, though this doesn't necessarily point to browser usage. Rothschild says that 25 million people are using Netscape Communicator.

Microsoft is sticking by reports that IE has crept into the 40% range, citing two reports that measure actual browser use. In these reports, IE 4 exceeded 40% of the home market, which Netscape concedes is probably correct, as they have a lower share of that market. Microsoft's Yusuf Mehdi attributes IE's success at home to America Online users who use the IE-based AOL browser. AOL currently has over 10 million subscribers