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Internet Explorer Falls Below 60% Market Share

Microsoft’s Internet Explorer dropped to a historic market share low in April, according to Net Applications. The company estimated IE’s market share at 59.95% in April, which is about the range that was reached by Internet Explorer 4 more than 11 years ago in early 1999. The big winner was once again Google’s Chrome browser, which maintained a double-digit growth rate and is now more than 2 points ahead of Apple’s Safari browser, which it surpassed four months ago.

Since IE8’s launch in March of 2009, Microsoft has surrendered almost 9 points of market share, most of which was gobbled up by Google’s Chrome. According to Net Applications, Microsoft stood at 59.95% in April 2010, 0.69 points less than in the month before. Mozilla’s Firefox gained 0.07 points to 24.59%, which is near its all-time high of 24.72% that was recorded in November 2009.

Chrome had another impressive month with a gain of 0.6 points that boosted Google’s share to 6.73%, while Apple’s Safari inched up 0.06 points to 4.72% and Opera lost 0.07 points and was listed with an estimated share of 2.30%.

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In comparison, StatCounter currently estimates IE’s market share at 51.42%, Firefox at 32.62%, Chrome at 8.82%, Safari at 4.27% and Opera at 1.99%. While NetApplications and StatCounter publish considerably different results for IE, Firefox and Chrome, both agree that IE is losing market share quickly and Google is gaining market share at a fast pace. StatCounter sees Firefox growing at this time, but NetApplications’ data suggests that Firefox’ market share is somewhat stable: Firefox’ market share has been within a range of 1% since August 2009.

So What is Microsoft’s Problem?

Simple (or not, depending on your view.) IE is not compelling enough. If we look at IE5, IE6, IE7 and IE8 data published by Net Applications (those browser account for about 99.55% of IE’s total market share), we notice that IE8 gained 0.78 points of market share in April (and now stands at 27.91%), but IE7 lost 0.70 points (down to 13.08%) and IE6 lost 1.04 points (down to 18.67%). The positive side here is that IE8 and IE6 are still the world’s most popular browsers (according to Net Applications), but the data also reveals that IE8 can barely keep up with the users IE7 loses. In fact, it surrenders another full point for what IE6 loses.

Net Applications’ public data does not provide depth to determine which users are picked up by IE8 and which are not.

However, the data set indicates that Mozilla has a very loyal user base that reliably upgrades from one version to another as there is very little difference between the market share loss of Firefox 3.0x and 3.5x (4.04 points in April) and the market share gain of Firefox 3.6 (4.19 points in April). Apple’s Safari has become somewhat invisible in this dynamic market as there is very little movement in terms of market share. A share of 4.72% is a new record, but the addition of one full point has taken Apple 11 months.

In the same time frame, we have seen Google growing by almost 5 points. Google Chrome now stands at 6.73%, up 0.6 points from March and up from 1.79% in April 2009. Google has maintained a nearly double-digit growth rate in April (9.79%) and remains the fastest growing browser, both in terms of absolute and percentage numbers. Less than 7% market share is still far away from Mozilla and Microsoft, but Google has shown that it is serious about the browser market and both Mozilla and Microsoft should watch out. In the long term, this may turn into a battle between Google and Microsoft, as Mozilla is simply out-resourced.

Microsoft is much more vocal about its next-generation browser IE9 and its HTML5 capabilities. At least in terms of speed, it appears that IE9 is slightly faster than the current version of Firefox. However, IE9 may be 9-12 months away from a public release, which gives Mozilla enough time to react. And by 2011, the browser battle may have shifted already – as we are seeing many more mobile browser entering the battlefield and gaining market share.

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