According to market researchers at Net Applications, web browser usage didn't change much in April 2010, with Internet Explorer (IE) and Firefox holding steady and Google's Chrome making small gains. But while many are making a big deal out of IE's sort-of dip below the 60 percent usage share threshold, IE's been on a steady decline for a while now. The bigger news, I believe, is that Firefox has clearly plateaued. And the gains that were once a given for Mozilla's browser are now being taken almost exclusively by Chrome.
Indeed, at one time, Mozilla was on the path to 25 percent market share and up, and was quickly establishing itself as the clear number two choice. It was a favorite of enthusiasts and tech influencers, and much of its growth was driven by word of mouth. But a funny thing has happened: Since hitting 24 percent usage share in October 2009, Firefox usage has essentially flat-lined. And the browser has yet to cross the 25 percent usage share mark.
The gains that used to go automatically to Firefox are now being taken by other browsers, primarily Chrome, which has seen its usage share rise from 3.6 percent in October 2009 to 6.7 percent in April 2010. Other minority browser have also shown very small gains during this time, including Apple Safari, with a jump from 4.4 percent to 4.7 percent, and Opera, which went from 2.2 to 2.3 percent in the same time frame.
Wherever the gains are going, they're clearly coming from one place: IE. Microsoft's browser has been on a nearly linear free fall for years, falling from 65 percent usage share in October 2009 to 60 percent in April. (Net Applications rates the share as "59.95 percent," triggering the sub-60 percent headlines.) But IE had almost 70 percent usage share as recently as the beginning of 2009, and its fall over time has been consistent.
To correct this slide, Microsoft is working on its next IE update, Internet Explorer 9. There's no due date yet, but the browser focuses on some interesting features around hardware acceleration of graphics and text displays that will be hard for other browser makers to copy. Whether this will be enough to reverse IE's slide remains to be seen.