IE falls below 69% market share, Firefox climbs above 21%

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

Chicago (IL) – Microsoft was not able to slow the market share loss of its Internet Explorer (IE) web browser in December. IE surrendered more than 1.5 points in December, according to Net Applications, while Firefox, Chrome and Safari posted substantial gains. Over the past 12 months, IE has lost almost 8 points, leaving the browser with the least amount of market share since 1999.

Net Applications released updated global browser market share numbers today, indicating that IE is losing users at an accelerated pace. The browser’s share dropped from 69.77% in November to 68.15% in December. Most rivals were able to pick up a portion of what IE surrendered. Firefox gained more than half a point and ended up at 21.34%, Safari approaches the next big hurdle with 7.93% and Chrome came in at 1.04%, the first time Google was able to cross the 1% mark. Opera remained stable 0.71%, but it is clear that the Norwegian browser cannot attract any users IE loses.

Over the past 12 months, IE gave up 7.9 points of market share, while Firefox gained 4.5 points and Safari nearly 2.4 points. Chrome, released in September of this year, is an entirely new player and Opera was able to add 0.7 points to its usage share and remains just above Netscape, which is still listed at a slowly declining 0.57%.

As reported previously, the main reason for IE’s market share loss remains the installed base of corporate IE6 users (and some home users), which is where Microsoft’s browser is most vulnerable at this time. While IE7’s market share has not declined much (from about 45% during the week and about 50% on weekends in the beginning of the year to about 44% during the week to 48% on weekends at the end of the year) and IE8 Beta 1 and 2, released in March and August of 2008, have grown to 0.96% share, IE6 is declining rapidly and at a much faster pace than IE7 and IE8 are able to gain.

Since IE6 is used primarily within corporations, its market share is much higher during the week than it is on weekends. As a result, all other browsers gain on weekends and especially during a holiday. Because of that circumstance, Net Applications noted that the December numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it is worth the note that IE6 achieved during the week market share numbers of about 28% during the week and about 21% on weekends in early 2008. In December, these numbers were down to about 20% during the week and 15% on weekends.    

There are very few browser market share numbers available that would provide a credible and especially comparable indication how IE’s market share has evolved in the late 1990s and early 2000s. However, based on what we were able to dig up, there seems to be an agreement that it was IE4 that took Microsoft to about 60% in early 1999 and IE5 (released in March 1999) lifted the browser’s market share above 70% by early 2000.   

The market share loss of IE6 is a problem Microsoft will have to address soon, if the company remains serious about the browser market, especially if it intends to fine tune the browser to work well with its cloud operating system Windows Azure. As far as we can see right now, IE8 will not be able to stop the bleeding, as it follows the same design ideas Microsoft has had in place with previous browsers. While Apple, Mozilla and Chrome have found effective ways to quickly transition their users from an older browser to a newer software, Microsoft is clearly struggling to move users from IE6 to a more recent version.

For example, Firefox 2.0 usage share has been declining consistently over the past six months, from about 17% in the beginning of June to currently about 3.3%. In the same time, Firefox 3.0 climbed from less than 1% into the 18-19% range.