Japanese Browser Maker Taking on IE, Firefox

A Japanese software company is stepping up international promotion of its Web browser in the hope of carving out a 5 percent share over the next few years of a market dominated by Internet Explorer and Firefox.

The Sleipnir browser is well-known among Japanese geeks, many of whom value the high level of customization that the browser allows. At the center of this customization is the ability to select either the Trident or Gecko layout engines for each Web site visited. Trident was developed by Microsoft and is used in Internet Explorer while Gecko is used in Mozilla's Firefox.

As any user who has changed Web browsers knows, some sites look different or offer different functionality depending on the browser in use. By clicking a small button in the bottom left of the browser and switching between Trident and Gecko users can choose the best one for the particular site.

Fenrir, which is based in Osaka, began development of the browser in 2005 and has been offering an English version alongside its main Japanese version for sometime but decided to step-up promotion overseas after noticing demand rising for the browser from international users, said Yasuhiro Miki, director of the overseas marketing division, at Fenrir.

"We'd like to focus on advanced users," he said.

In the next couple of years, Fenrir hopes to dramatically grow it's user base from the current roughly 100,000 users to around 17 million, said Miki. That corresponds to about 5 percent of the English-speaking Web user base, he said.

In Japan the browser has a 9 percent market share, according to Fenrir. No independent data to verify that claim is available but a recent survey of 3,003 computer programmers published by Nikkei ITpro put Sleipnir's share at 6 percent among that group.

Initially the focus is on the English-speaking market but Fenrir has plans to look at other language versions including Spanish and French.

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