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Hanging on to Market Share: Can IE9 Keep Up With the Lads?

In my most recent post, I asked you which browser you use. The question was prompted by the news that Microsoft is actively encouraging the 12% of Internet users still running IE6 to upgrade to one of their more up-to-date browsers.

The following is from StatCounter, the service I use to monitor hits on this site. This graph depicts the breakdown of browsers accessing this blog (the numbers inside the bars indicate the browser version):


The majority of you access this blog via IE, followed by Firefox and then Chrome. These statistics are largely compliant with the worldwide browser usage numbers (see below).

In the early days of popular Internet, Internet Explorer killed Netscape Navigator (here's the story: "Netscape Navigator is Dead: The Rise and Fall of Our Favorite Browser".)  Surviving a lawsuit that sought to prevent MS from including IE as the default browser in Windows systems, IE held on to the lion's share of the market. However, the tide is shifting.

This from Wikipedia:


It would seem that IE is still solidly in the lead. However, all is not rosy for the veteran browser. IE has lost a ton of market share, especially to Chrome, which came from a market share of zero to nearly 11% in almost no time (Firefox has remained relatively flat in terms of market share.) According to this blog post on winrumors.com:
Microsoft’s Internet Explorer market share bled for seven months continuously as the company struggles to convince users to pick Internet Explorer for their browsing needs.
Furthermore, a spectacular IE8 hack in this year's CanSecWest Pwn2Own security competition received much attention. Cnet News reports:
[Stephen] Fewer's IE exploit was the most impressive of the contest, according to Portnoy. "He had three different vulnerabilities he used in tandem to exploit IE and break out of IE's protected mode, which is Microsoft's equivalent to sandbox architecture," he said. "It was a unique technique he discovered."
To be fair, Safari, iPhone and Blackberry were also hacked; prepared hacks for Chrome, Firefox , Android and Win7 did not eventuate for a variety of reasons.

However, all does not seem to be lost. IE gained a few market share percentage points of late, increasing it's slice of the pie to approximately 56.77%.

The penny seems to have dropped at Microsoft's Redmond headquarters. To date, Windows has been the leading operating system and IE has almost always held top ranking. That's a nice situation for any company to be in. But MS has woken up to the fact that users are no longer in awe of Microsoft products simply because they bear the famous logo. Users are more savvy, they are more demanding and they are not scared to try other brands - they have a choice and they know it.

Among others, OSX, Linux, iOS, Android, Firefox, Chrome, and WebOS are all excellent alternatives to MS products, each in their own way. In recent years, consumers have clearly and loudly voiced their opinions about MS software. Windows Vista was a dismal failure. IE7 and IE8 did not help to increase, or even maintain, Microsoft's grip on the browser market. When faced with competition, MS was forced to pull up its socks and come through with top-quality, competitive products (Win7 for mobile notwithstanding.) Another Vista-like OS would have destroyed Microsoft's reputation in that market. Likewise, a slow, heavy, lumbering old-school browser would likely have caused the younger, sleeker browsers to boot IE out of the browser-war forever.

MS may have saved themselves. Windows 7 has been lauded as an excellent choice of operating system. IE9 beta (and now IE9 RC) has been downloaded more than 36 million times since it became available in September 2010. It has also been given a good rap by reviewers as being fast and feature-rich. In a February 2011 review of IE9 RC, Michael Muchmore of PCMag writes:
Though this is called version 9 of IE, in some ways it feels more like a version 1: it's a complete rebuild of Microsoft's browser...IE9 is the result of a massive effort by a large team of super smart people, and huge number of beta testers. And it's an impressive, innovative app that I'm sure will come to benefit millions of Web users, especially once graphics-heavy sites are common.
Michael Muchmore goes on to say that it is still too early to rate this browser. After all, it is still only a Release Candidate, but he indicates that it is a solid offering from Microsoft.

Microsoft must remain vigilant. As they make steady gains, Microsoft has to make sure that IE9 keeps up with the lads. Firefox 4, with a shiny new look-and-feel, is nearly here (the Firefox Release Candidate is already available) and Chrome 11 is purported to be the fastest browser on the market (at least on systems running OSX.)

We are yet to see if IE9 does for Microsoft's Internet browser what Windows 7 did for their operating system. Is IE9 good enough, fast enough and secure enough to keep Microsoft ahead, or will Firefox and Chrome et. al. relegate IE to the chronicles of Internet history?

Comments are most welcome!
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