Mozilla's Firefox browser ended 2007 by capturing 28 percent of the European market, according to a French web metrics company.

The open-source browser's average European market share improved five percentage points during the year in the 32 European countries tracked by XiTi Monitor, a web measurement site operated by Applied Technologies Internet. Firefox's gains in Europe, as elsewhere, came at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

According to XiTi Monitor, Firefox posted its largest market share in Finland, where it accounted for 45.4 percent of all browsers used at the end of 2007. Rounding out the top five Firefox countries were Slovenia, where the open-source browser's market share was 44.6 percent; Poland, where it had 42.4 percent, Slovakia, where it had 41.2 percent, and Hungary, where it had 40.3 percent.

Among the continent's most-populous nations, the UK was not quite so enamoured of the browser, with just 17.2 percent of the market. In contrast, Germany recorded a Firefox share of 34.2 percent while in France, Firefox's market share was 25.8 percent. The browser's smallest share was 14.7 percent in the Netherlands.

By the end of December 2007, said XiTi Monitor, IE accounted for 66.1 percent of all browsers used to go online in the 32 European markets. IE's market share was down from 66.9 percent the month before.

US-based metrics firms that tally usage worldwide or concentrate on the US market have recently pegged Firefox's share at considerably less than the share XiTi Monitor estimates it has in Europe. Net Applications, for example, estimated Firefox's global market share last month at 16.8 percent while the French firm calculated that Firefox's slice of the North America browsing pie was 21 percent.

More worrying for Microsoft were the scores for the most recent editions of the browsers. "On average, whereas [Firefox 2.0] generated 93 percent of the Mozilla Firefox visits in December 2007, IE7 only generated 46 percent of the Internet Explorer visits," the company said in a posting of its tracking results. "A little more than a year after its official launch, Firefox 2.0 is thus adopted by a very large majority of users of the Mozilla family, whereas Internet Explorer 7 has clearly more difficulty convincing [IE users]." This means that IE 7 has 30 percent of the European market, while Firefox 2.0 is not far behind with 26 percent.

Mozilla, which has been working on Firefox 3.0 for over a year, has not yet shipped the update, although it shipped a second beta to testers and developers a little more than a month ago.