Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) Web browser reversed years of declines and posted a net gain of 1.2 percent usage share globally over the past five months, according to a report from measurement firm NetApplications. As of March 2012, IE claimed 53.83 percent of Web browser market share, followed by Firefox with 20.55 percent, Google’s Chrome browser with 18.57 percent and Safari with 5.07 percent. Opera placed fifth with 1.62 percent, and other Web browsers claimed the remaining 0.36 percent.
“With a gain of .99 percent last month and a net gain of 1.2 percent global usage share over the last five months, Internet Explorer has stabilized and even reversed its usage share declines of the last few years,” the company wrote. Chrome witnessed its third straight month of declines after falling from its peak of 19.11 percent market share in December 2011. Although Apple’s Safari browser slipped in market share from February to March, the browser’s overall market share rose .07 percent for the five-month period.
“We continue to see great strides made against our core metric: IE9 share on Windows 7,” Microsoft’s director of Internet Explorer product marketing Roger Capriotti wrote on the company’s Exploring IE blog. “This month in the US nearly 50 percent of Windows 7 users are experiencing the best the Web has to offer with IE9, and around the world, almost 35 percent of Windows 7 users are browsing with IE9.”
The IE8 browser was the most used desktop browser, comprising 25.4 percent of the market, followed by IE9 with 15.17 percent. Chrome 17 took third place with 14.73 percent, while Firefox claimed fourth place with 7.79 percent market share. IE6, which Microsoft had been making a big fuss about the death of in the U.S., rounded out the top five with 6.9 percent. As of December, that total stood at 7.7 percent, most of it in mainland China. However, according to the January NetApplications report, use of IE6 in this country has dropped to beneath 1 percent. Early in 2011, Microsoft started a Website, The Internet Explorer 6 Countdown, which used data from Net Applications to detail IE6 usage around the world.
Microsoft is intent on creating browsers that leverage Windows and hardware in order to more quickly deliver fully rendered Websites. With Internet Explorer 10, Microsoft plans on further embracing that theme. To that end, the next-generation browser will come to the upcoming Windows 8 in two versions: one for the desktop, and another “Metro”-style one for tablets. The desktop version will fully support plug-ins and extensions, while the Metro-style browser will be plug-in free.
On the mobile browser side of things, Safari continued to dominate, grabbing 60.54 percent of market share in March, compared with 18.3 percent for Google’s Android Browser, 15.39 percent for Opera Mini, 1.73 percent for BlackBerry and 1.56 percent for Symbian. The “other” category comprised 2.48 percent of mobile browser market share, according to the report.
Google’s Chrome advertising push seems to be paying off, as the browser climbs closer to overtaking Mozilla’s Firefox.
Since January, Chrome’s browser market share has climbed roughly one percentage point per month, while Firefox’s share has fallen by roughly 0.4 percent per month, according to data from StatCounter. Chrome’s current share sits at 23.16 percent, compared to 27.49 percent for Firefox.
As Computerworld’s Gregg Keizer points out, Chrome’s rate of growth and Firefox’s rate of decline put the browsers on track to switch places in market share as soon as December. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer still has a commanding lead with 41.89 percent share, but its share is steadily falling.
StatCounter’s findings are echoed by other firms that measure browser share. NetApplications also keeps track of the browser market, and gives Firefox a stronger lead over Chrome (22.57 percent for the former, 15.51 percent for the latter.) But even by NetApplications’ metrics, Chrome could overtake Firefox by mid-2012.
Google has aggressively marketed Chrome with sentimental TV advertisements, including one that shows a father using YouTube, Gmail, and other Google services to create a digital time capsule for his young daughter. The ads started airing in May, and the two following months saw Chrome’s sharpest market share increases of the year.
Firefox, meanwhile, has drawn criticism for a new rapid release schedule. The six-week cycle brings new features to the browser on a regular basis, but it also has caused problems with squashing bugs and breaks some add-ons.
Chrome is also stealing market share from Internet Explorer. This could be in large part due to Microsoft’s push to kill Internet Explorer 6. Both Microsoft and third-parties are encouraging companies to drop the aging browser, and while IE as a whole is in decline, Internet Explorer 9 is quickly gaining market share, especially on Windows 7 PCs.
None of these metrics take smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices into account, but the mobile market is dominated by whatever browser is preloaded on the device. Apple’s Safari 5.0 for iOS has the big lead with 46.15 percent share, followed by 15.15 percent for Android Browser 4.0, according to NetApplications. Firefox accounts for just 0.03 percent of the mobile market.