That was the sound Microsoft’s browsers made last month as they leaked user share. Yet again.
According to U.S. analytics vendor Net Applications, the user share of Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge — an estimate of the world’s personal computer owners who ran those browsers — slid by nine-tenths of a percentage point, ending at a combined 22.2%. The August decline was the largest since January.
It can be difficult to accurately spot short-term trends with Net Applications’ data: At times, changes seem more an artifact of the company’s methodology. IE+Edge’s latest plunge may signal a renewal of losses after a five-month slow-down in the desertion rate, or it could be simply a hiccup.
Overall, however, Microsoft’s fortunes remain dark in the browser race. While the share loss in the eight months of 2017 has been just over half that of same period of 2016 — illustrating a slowing of the bleeding — IE+Edge has shed almost a full percentage point each month so far this year. If that reduction rate keeps up, the browsers will vanish before this time in 2019.
That’s very unlikely to happen.
Even so, Microsoft must stare at browser share reports and wonder when the bad news will end. And where IE and Edge will end up as well.
IE, of course, has been pushed aside by Microsoft, which has assigned it legacy status, with a concomitant no-further-development policy. Internet Explorer will live on, in the form of IE11, even after the retirement of Windows 7 in early 2020, but Microsoft has already dug the browser’s grave, if not dropped it in.
Microsoft’s bigger problem
Microsoft’s bigger problem however is the lack of enthusiasm for Edge, the default browser in Windows 10, the forever OS that may never expire. During August, just 20% of all Windows 10 users ran Edge as their primary browser. Edge’s share has headed downhill since the operating system’s mid-2015 debut – when it accounted for 39% of all Windows 10 – even as the latter’s share has grown leaps and bounds.
The more people run Windows 10, the less they collectively like Edge. That’s not a good sign for the browser’s future.
Because the struggle for share is zero-sum, Microsoft’s loss again meant a win for some rivals. Apple’s Safari climbed by two-tenths of a percentage point to 3.9%, and Mozilla’s Firefox stayed in place, while the generic “Others” category grew by nearly a full point, largely fueled by a big bump in what Net Applications dubbed “Proprietary or Undetectable” browsers.
Google’s Chrome, which has taken in most of the IE+Edge refugees, fell by two-tenths of a percentage point in August, ending at 59.4%, or back at the number it held in May.
Net Applications estimates user share by sniffing the browser agent strings of those who visit its clients’ websites, then tallying the various browsers and operating systems. It also weights each country’s data by the size of its online population to account for areas, such as China, where it lacks large numbers of analytics customers.