Firefox has dethroned Internet Explorer (IE) in December 2010 to become the number one browser in Europe, as Google’s Chrome stole share from the Microsoft browser, a report said.

According to free website analytics company StatCounter, Firefox took 38.11 percent of European market share, compared to IE’s 37.52 percent in December 2010. Google Chrome is in third place, having gained 14.58 percent.

This is the first time that IE has been dethroned from the number one spot in a major territory, said StatCounter chief executive Aodhan Cullen. This appears to be happening because Google’s Chrome is stealing share from IE, while Firefox is mainly maintaining its existing share.

We are probably seeing the impact of the agreement between European Commission competition authorities and Microsoft, to offer EU users a choice and menu of browsers from March last, said Cullen.

The European Commission raised concerns that were related to the tying up of Explorer to Windows - Microsoft's dominant operating system for personal computers.

In December 2009, Microsoft committed to make available for five years in the European Economic Area a Choice Screen enabling users of Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 to choose in an informed and unbiased manner which web browser(s) they want to install in addition to, or instead of, Microsoft's web browser.

The set of eleven browsers include Apple Safari, Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox and Opera which will be prominently displayed alongside Internet Explorer, and Avant Browser, Flock, Green Browser, K-Meleon, Maxthon, Sleipnir and Slim Browser.

In North America, IE tops the browser market with 48.92 percent followed by Firefox with 26.7 percent and Chrome with 12.82 percent, according to StatCounter.

StatCounter Global Stats is based on aggregate data collected by StatCounter on a sample exceeding 15 billion page views per month (4.9 billion from North America) collected from across the StatCounter network of more than 3 million websites.