Microsoft Internet Explorer Share Falls, Firefox Rises, Says StatCounter

Microsoft Internet Explorer's share of the browser market has fallen for versions 6 and 7 over the past year, with IE 8 steadily rising over the past few months. At the same time, Firefox 3.0 gained market share before leveling off within the past month, while Safari, Chrome and other browsers occupy single-digit territory, according to a new report by StatCounter.

Microsoft's share of the browser market has fallen in the past year, at least when it comes to Internet Explorer 6 and 7, according to a report by StatCounter. At the same time, however, the market share for Internet Explorer 8 has picked up in the past five months, with some 15.4 percent by the first week of July.

Even as share for Internet Explorer 6 and 7 dipped lower, Firefox 3.0 took a stronger position in the market, rising from fourth place in July 2008 to a close second-place a year later.

According to StatCounter, global market share of Internet Explorer 7 fell from 43.45 percent in May 2009 to 33.75 percent in June and then 30.61 percent so far in July. During that same period, share for Internet Explorer 6 fell from 11.47 percent in May to 8.74 percent over July's first few days.

On the other hand, Internet Explorer 8 continued an upward climb in market share, from 8.5 percent in May 2009 to 11.76 percent in June and 15.4 percent in July.

Internet Explorer's one major market-share competitor, Firefox 3.0, saw its portion level off slightly to 27.73 percent in July, while the other "majors" - including the various versions of Safari, Firefox 2.0 and Chrome - all occupied between 0.04 percent and 2 percent of the market.

Analysts suggest that the dip in market share for Internet Explorer 6 and 7 is due to the combined presence of both Firefox and Internet Explorer 8.

"It is both," Ray Valdes, an analyst for Gartner, told eWEEK. "There are many IE users that are upgrading to IE 8 and discontinuing either IE 7 or IE 6. At the same time, some of those users are leading IE entirely and going over to an alternative browser."

On June 30, Mozilla released Firefox 3.5, designed with new features such as extensive support for HTML 5, faster speeds than Firefox 3.0, and support for JSON and Web worker threads. A patch is currently under design to correct certain bugs, and is scheduled to be released later in July.

The patched version, termed Firefox 3.5.1, will feature fixes to the JavaScript engine, TraceMonkey, and tinker with how the browser runs in Windows XP. Some 8 million copies of Firefox 3.5 have been downloaded since the browser's release.

Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, suggested in a July 2 statement that Firefox's new version "boosts competition for Microsoft Internet Explorer in the browser market wars."

Although Internet Explorer 6 and 7 remain in heavy use by the enterprise, Firefox has been gaining more market share in the desktop browser market, according to a research report by Forrester.

In 2008, Internet Explorer 6 dominated the enterprise market, with a share ranging from 66.6 percent in July to 60.2 percent in December. The market share for IE 7 increased in that same period from 33.4 percent to 39.0 percent; Microsoft's overall share of the browser market dipped slightly from 81.3 percent to 78.0 percent.

During the same timeframe, Firefox made slight gains, increasing its enterprise share from 16.9 percent to 18.2 percent over a six-month period. That allowed it to far outpace the growth for Google Chrome, which went from 1.6 percent of the market immediately following its September release to 2.0 percent by December, and Apple Safari, which continued through the six-month period with a 1.4 percent market share.

However, the Forrester report argued, the growth in alternatives to Internet Explorer was stunted somewhat by IT administrators' concern over whether customized enterprise applications would run successfully on another choice such as Firefox, leading them to bind their particular businesses to one "approved" browser.

The report argues that the enterprise acceptance of new browsers has a substantial chance of boosting worker productivity. "IE 8 and Firefox 3-and eventually Chrome and Safari 4 - offer compelling productivity enhancements that can help people work faster as they navigate and engage in applications on the Web," wrote principal author and Forrester analyst Sheri McLeish.