WebSideStory Inc.s real focus is its on-demand Web analytics services for business customers, said Erik Bratt, the companys corporate communications director. But the data collected from thousands of Web sites and 20 million to 40 million users a day has shown WebSideStory that there is a small decline in Internet Explorer use from 95.73 percent on June 4 to 94.73 percent on July 6.
Now, a 1 percent drop may not sound like much, but Geoff Johnston, WebSideStory user trend analyst, said the company has never seen IE use decrease. "Weve never seen a dip in IE [Internet Explorer] use before," Johnston said. "Before this, it was always upwards, or since July 2002, hovering around 95.5 percent."
Its not just WebSideStory observing this phenomenon. OneStat.com, a Web analytics firm based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, also reported a downturn in IE usage. The company "confirms this decrease of the global usage share of IE. On January 19, the global usage share of IE was 94.8 percent, and on May 28, the global usage share was 93.9 percent," according to a representative for OneStat.com.
Indeed, in going over Ziff Davis Medias own Weblogs, we find that from April to July there was a drop-off of 0.9 percent on the Ziff Davis family of Web sites.
WebSideStorys Johnston was quick to point out that this is not just a statistical anomaly. "Weve been watching this for a while now, and its become a true, downward trend of a few hundreds of a point up to a tenth of a point per day.
"Weve often seen sporadic dips in the past, for example, IE, always loses a point or two every weekend. We presume this is because more people at home use alternative browsers. But this has become a predictable drop since the start of June."
But WebSideStory is unable to tell exactly where the former IE users are going. "In the past, weve lumped Netscape and Mozilla together in our statistics. Anecdotal evidence and the upsurge of Firefox downloads suggest that the gain to going to Firefox, but our numbers cant support that conclusion."
The OneStat representative shed a little more light on IEs decline. "We dont exactly know what the cause is, but we see that Mozilla and Safari [the Mac OS X default Web browser] are the browsers that are growing. So, [we think] people are switching from IE to Mozilla and Safari."
But if youre expecting a return to the browser wars, Johnston thinks youre barking up the wrong tree. "While even a single percentage point is hundreds of thousands of users, my guess is that a lot of people who are switching have been waiting for an excuse to switch back. They may be open-source lovers, former Netscape lovers or Mozilla lovers, so MS may lose in the end two or three percentage points of the total browser marker that they may not gain back quickly."
Therefore, Johnston said, "I dont think its a mainstream phenomenon. Microsoft loves owning the browser market, so I dont see Microsoft letting IE quality drop for long. In the big picture, this is not a big deal, but for small browser companies, it will be a big deal."