Microsoft’s share of the browser market across all versions of Internet Explorer has dropped, by one estimate, dropped from 78.58% in December 2007 to 68.15% in December 2008 (or by just under 8% in another estimate).
[IE’s] share dropped from 69.77% in November to 68.15% in December. [During the same period,] Firefox gained more than half a point and ended up at 21.34%, Safari approaches the [10%] hurdle with 7.93% and Chrome came in at 1.04%, the first time Google was able to cross the 1% mark.
This is particularly interesting:
Since IE6 is used primarily within corporations, its market share is much higher during the week than it is on weekends. As a result, all other browsers gain on weekends and especially during a holiday. Because of that circumstance, Net Applications noted that the December numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. However, it is worth the note that IE6 achieved … market share numbers of about 28% during the week and about 21% on weekends in early 2008. In December, these numbers were down to about 20% during the week and 15% on weekends.
So, Microsoft still has an established base among corporate users, where IT administrators generally prevent employees from installing new applications (including browsers) and the sysadmins often don’t roll out alternative browsers across a corporate network for any one of several possible reasons, including:
- They just don’t want to bother having to install, regularly upgrade and support another piece of software;
- They may overestimate the security vulnerability of such alternative browsers compared to Internet Explorer;
- The crustier sysadmins may not realize that today’s browsers are not only free for individual users, but also for corporate users–unlike the old Netscape Navigator; and
- Corporate intranets may be designed for IE, in which case rolling out an alternative browser might cause confusion among less tech-savvy employees.
Microsoft may still have an advantage that could be considered “unfair,” but so what? IE’s share of home browser usage may have fallen faster among home users than corporate users, but the overall trend line is clear: increasing numbers of Americans are taking advantage of the rich browser options available to them, both at home and at work. As Microsoft’s share of the browser market falls further with each passing year–at an apparently accelerating rate–the concerns about Microsoft’s “dominance” of the browser market that drove the Justice Department’s antitrust jihad against the company a decade ago seem increasingly obsolete.
If nothing else, the increasing competitiveness of the browser market should be a persistent reminder to those who advocate top-down regulatory “fixes” to perceived iniquities of online markets that competition and innovation may move faster than government regulators or the courts.
My prediction for 2009: IE’s overall share will fall even further than it did in 2008, with particularly strong growth in Google Chrome’s market share.