In the first half of November, Chrome continued to gain market share, while Firefox’ losses accelerate again. Microsoft’s marketing campaign to support Internet Explorer has shown some effect, but is weakening again. To stay relevant, Mozilla will now have to deliver new features such as bookmark migration, silent updates, the Android tablet UI, the home tab app and the new tab page on time.
As expected, Chrome will pass Firefox as the world’s #2 browser this month, according to data provided by StatCounter. As of November 15, Firefox stands at 25.47% market share (-0.92 points from October) and Chrome at 25.45% (+0.46 points from October). Firefox overall market share loss appears to be due to substantial market share declines in Asia, Europe, South America, and, more recently, North America and Oceania as well. Firefox remains strong in Africa, where the software recently surpassed IE as the most popular browser. We expect this trend to continue in the second half of this month.
Chrome, however, has already passed Firefox in Asia and has a lead of 28.76% versus 24.19% in that region. It surpassed both Firefox and IE in South America with a share of 41.48% over 34.04% (IE) and 22.53% (Firefox) for the first half of November. In Europe, Firefox and IE are still in a dead heat, in which Firefox has a slight advantage this month (32.72% versus 32.67%), while Chrome is at 24.18%. North America remain s the weakest market for Chrome, where it has only 18.95% share. Firefox is ahead with 20.72%, while IE has a commanding lead of 48.86%, according to StatCounter.
If the current trend holds up, then Chrome will, in fact, pass Firefox for the first time in market share, at least according to StatCounter data. There isn’t much that Google has to do at this point, it seems, its current strategy to market Chrome simply via its website is enough to move users especially from Firefox to Chrome. Firefox has very little opportunity to win back users or even get users from Chrome, as it lacks the very basic tools that could simplify such a move – including bookmark import tools for Chrome-to-Firefox, which are now expected not to be available until version 11 of the browser.
If Mozilla is able to deliver the migration tools in 11, silent updates in version 10 as well as a new tab page and home tab layout for version 11 – and if we will be experiencing a steady increase in tablet usage, we believe, however, that Firefox could become a much more appealing browser to the general user again. We are especially impressed by the tablet UI of the browser as well as Firefox’ unique capability to nearly live sync data such as open tabs and bookmarks across various platforms (desktop, mobile, tablet), which is a feature Chrome and IE currently lack. Google’s development of a Chrome version for Android has apparently hit some road blocks and we are not aware of any possible release dates at this time. It will be critical for Mozilla to deliver tablet and smartphone browser features well ahead of its rivals to take advantage of a growing opportunity. Once Firefox offers convenient importing of Chrome bookmarks as well as a compelling new tab page/home tab app that provides a consistent experience across all product form factors, it is more than likely that more people will give Firefox a spin again.
In a best case, we believe that Mozilla could see a market share loss that is flattening toward the end of Q1 in 2012 and, if critical features are delivered on time and Boot-to-Gecko has a promising launch, could possibly grow its market share in Q3 2012 again, which would directly impact Chrome’s growth opportunity. Given Mozilla’s difficult competitive situation as it is tangled up in the middle of corporate interests of Google and Microsoft, a turnaround is not something that can be achieved immediately. Changing the current pace into a positive trend is rather unlikely at this time. The history of browser market share trends indicates that strategy and significant feature changes usually take about 4 to 6 months to show their impact in the market. Our chart below assumes a best case scenario for Mozilla.
At this time, however, Firefox’ market share losses are accelerating and are clearly at a pace that needs to be addressed in an aggressive way. Over the past six months, Firefox lost 13.04% of its market share (IE: -7.29%; Chrome: +31.46%) and Firefox is, for the first time, losing market share faster than IE does (-3.82 points over the past six months versus -3.20 points).
IE’s gains this month may be a fluke that are due to a recently launched ad campaign. The last time IE gained monthly market share was in June of 2010, according to StatCounter. In recent months, Microsoft has largely abandoned its focus on the overall browser market and is highlighting its impact on Windows 7. For the release of Windows 8, it will be much more critical for the company to have a substantial share of browser users on IE9 due to the transition to HTML5 apps; IE8 and older browsers that do not support HTML5 are largely irrelevant in that respect to Microsoft. Market share on IE8 and older would be important for Microsoft to attract browser users to its Bing search engine and keep them away from Google as we know that Chrome users are virtually locked in to Google’s core search engine and guarantee advertising revenues for Google.
We haven’t heard much about Bing recently with the exception of a Bing-ified version of Firefox, which means that Microsoft could be changing its strategy – or it could simply try to draw attention away from its older browser versions.
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