Waxing Firefox, Waning IE

IE continues it’s downward spiral as the browser dips below 69% at the expense of Firefox and the WebKit-powered duo of Apple Safari and Google Chrome. The breakdown as paraphrased by TG Daily:

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.

This is no surprise. Taking into account the seasonal fluctuation towards home users in December which point to higher “non-corporate” platforms and browsers, this is still a landmark statistic and shows that if the gradual decline continues, 60% and 50% are not that far off in the future. As the trend for Firefox and WebKit to rise at the expense of IE has been continuing for some time now. What surprises me are a couple of things though, specifically:

  1. The rate at which IE is losing overall market share: While I predicted a decline in market share over the long term, I didn’t think I’d ever see it declining at the rate it is currently declining on a month to month average. It just seems steep to me.
  2. Opera adoption: I thought that more people would pick up Opera – at least I thought they’d have 2 or 3 percent by now. They are by far the most deployed browser on the mobile web, but nobody knows it really because they could care less what browser is being activated from their baked-up phone UI, and it’s unlikely that they use it much (which is the fault of the phone vendors – Opera Mobile by itself is great.) I like Opera. It’s not my default browsaer, but I find myself using it from time to time for certain things. Certainly for print and presentations, and also it’s handy mobile web dev in Small Screen mode.

I wonder how much of those Safari numbers are being driven from iPhone and iPod Touch users? What is also interesting in these metrics is the inclusion of Google’s Chrome browser, which again is based on the WebKit core that Safari is founded upon. Chrome broke 1%, and at the same time they have begun recommending against IE and in favor of Firefox and Chrome for Google Gmail users. This is an interesting coup attempt to grab their Gmail base still floundering on IE6, and it is even more noteworthy that IE7 was not mentioned as an alternative. I am betting Chrome will be a major contender a year from now, and the overall WebKit market share might even approach Firefox’s levels. What is probably safe to predict is that IE will continue to lose out to Firefox and WebKit-based browsers and I would not be surprised at this point if the rate of increase in adoption of alternative browsers began to accelerate in 2009 towards these platforms.

It is nice to see strong lines of diversity returning to the browser market. The benefit will be for better browsers and stronger support overall for web standards.