Internet Explorer Loses Ground in 2009
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Use of Internet Explorer (IE) hit its lowest point ever in December and, overall, was down just over 7 percent for the entire year, according to year end numbers from one Web analytics firm.
Although IE continues to be far and away the leader for browsers, the recipients of Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) involuntary largesse are the usual suspects -- Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera.
In December, Microsoft's share of the browser market fell to 63 percent, according to Web tracking firm Net Applications.
That's down 7 percent since last January, when IE held just below 70 percent share.
In the same time, Mozilla's Firefox grew by 2.5 percent to a little more than 24.5 percent share at the end of December. Apple's (NASDAQ: AAPL) Safari, by comparison, picked up just less than 1 percent to 4.46 percent.
The biggest surprise, however, was that Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Chrome browser surpassed Safari. Chrome jumped from a market share of just 1.5 percent last January to a little more than 4.5 percent in December.
Additionally, for the first time, that puts Chrome ahead of Safari's share of just under 4.5 percent.
Meanwhile, Opera, from Norway's Opera Software, held table at just under 2.5 percent.
Microsoft's situation is made more tenuous by its recent anti-trust settlement with the European Commission (EC), according to one analyst.
The company and the EC, the European Union's executive branch, settled their row over bundling IE with Windows in December, with the adoption of a "choice screen" that lets users choose whichever browser they want as their default when starting up a new PC for the first time. The screen will present the top dozen browsers in a random order, blocking much of Microsoft's inherent advantage over other browser competitors.
That will likely drive IE's market share even lower, particularly in Europe.
"We have browser wars again," Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group, told InternetNews.com.
"By allowing people [in the EU] to make these choices when they buy a new PC, that should accelerate the slide," he added.
The company's market share has been gradually sliding for more than five years, ever since the debut of Firefox, which has been gaining share in its second-place position almost continuously, and even the release last March of IE 8 has not staunched the blood.
"Firefox is still holding really well, and Chrome has been doing amazingly well," Enderle said.