Browser Wars

Sadly, Chrome has been winning the “browser war” for several months on, with a huge margin on the competitors. The numbers, provided by netmarketshare.com speak out. Why do I say sadly? Because I’ve always been a Firefox fan since I had a internet connection; I remember I started using it since its 3.x version. Anyway, that’s the situation from January 2009 to September 2016.

marketshare
The evolution of browsers’ market share, %

Two clarifications, fro starting:

  1. the category “other” entails all the minor browsers, including Opera and, from mid-2015, Edge.
  2. Safari doesn’t deserve much consideration here because, besides some fool who uses it under Windows, its market share goes more or less hand in hand with Apple’s market share in desktop and laptop. But it’s still the fourth most used browser.

At a first glance, we can see the sharp decline of Internet Explorer and the explosive rise of Google Chrome as the leading browser.
What’s worth pointing out is that Google Chrome’s rush to the top has been at the expense of both Firefox and IE. If you check on the graph above, the first period of growth for Chrome is about after a year it was launched and eroded a substantial market share of IE (around 20%); then the growth stopped, then it started to grow sharply after mid-2014: initially eating Firefox market share (2nd part of 2014, IE was growing), then, this huge growth corresponded to a sharp decline of IE users.
Briefly, the salient things.

Microsoft

The decline of IE started in 2009 when the EU Commission imposed to Microsoft to install a tool for the selection of the default browser; up to that moment, every Windows pc came with IE and nothing else, thus, if you weren’t aware that IE is not the only one to make you surf the net, you just kept on going with IE; this obligation from EU Commission expired at the end of 2014. In this time lapse, Chrome conquered its first relevant market share (around 20%)

The sharp loss of market share of IE since mid 2015 is due to Windows 10, which comes with both IE and Edge, but, unless you look for it, IE is “hidden” in the system and you only see the Edge icon in the taskbar. For Windows 10 is the same as Windows 10 mobile: in my opinion it has been made widely available when still incomplete, especially the Edge browser, initially quite unstable. Therefore, the fall of IE market share has not been compensated by Edge rise (included in “other” browser: the grey line).

Chrome

The launch of Edge, or at least its announcement, should have come much sooner: Chrome, at that moment, was firmly the most known browser and I think there’s nothing to do to remove it from this position for years. Chrome has become the new IE because Google has adopted the same strategy Microsoft used to have and that people from Mountain View have ardly criticized. From the first moment of its life on, any time you typed http://www.google.com on your computer, in the top right corner you see a popup suggesting you to use Chrome. Than, since Android is the most used mobile OS worldwide, Google decided that most of Android phones, if not all of them after a certain point, should come with Chrome preinstalled. Now, Chrome offers the open tab sync function, many people think it’s a nice feature and tey also install Chrome on their pc. The world is conquered.

Firefox

Firefox has a different story: completely free and open source, backed by a foundation and not by a multinational corporation, for years it has been “The Alternative” to IE, reaching even to have 25% of market share. Initially updates were mainly bug fixing; big updates were a rarity; users liked it, it was faster and safer than IE and that’s was enough. The arrival of Chrome changed everything. From that moment, Firefox’s market share was not safe anymore and they started a rush to keep up to date with what now was the main competitor: no more IE, but Chrome. So we had a new Firefox version every 6 weeks, big changs in the UI, the themes, tab sync with mobile version. It was too late. Firefox hasn’t been able to gain from the hemorrhage of IE users due to the EU Commission obligation because of its willing to stay as it is in the first period, underestimating Chrome’s potential and because it is backed by a non profit foundation which has not the firepower that Google or Microsoft has in fact of money. Firefox inevitably lost market share and its prestigious position it has until 2011; still, there are a lot of hardcore users, mainly people who has been using Firefox since the first time, including me.

log_marketshare
These are the logs of the market share: log difference is the % increment from one period to another.

The graph above shows the logs of the market share, so that the difference of the logs from one period to another is the increase/decrease of market share. In three years Chrome almost made its market share three times bigger than it has in 2009, from nearly 0 to almost 20%, while both IE and Firefox, slowly but steadily, lost users. The big jump of “other” (grey line) in mid 2015 is due to Edge arrival, its market share more than doubled but is still marginal (less than 10%)

ie_edge

Internet Explorer and Edge’s market shares also depends on PC sales worldwide, being these two browsers prebuilt in Windows. Despite the increase in PC sales in the period 2009-2012, because of the EU Commission IE couln’t gain more market, while the rise of Edge, besides the position of strength Chrome already had, has been slowed down by the turndown in PC sales in 2015 and 2016.

Another interestin thing to say is that Chrome and MS browsers took mirrored paths: when MS browsers market share decreased, Chrome’s one increased. The break even point was reached in the early months of 2016; after that, Chrome had more users than IE and Edge combined.

ms-chrome
MS is IE + other, where most of the market share of “other” category is made by Edge
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