Internet Explorer 8 gains at expense of Chrome and Firefox

Stats suggest Chrome is the leading browser, but behind the scenes the real winner is Internet Explorer 8.

The results are out from the latest Net Applications survey of Web browser market share, and Google continues to capture market share and headlines with its Chrome Web browser. Drilling down into the stats, though, and looking behind the curtain reveals that real winner in the market share department is Internet Explorer 8.

The main headline coming out of the most recent data is that Chrome captured the largest gain--growing .32 percent to a new market share of 7.05 percent. Chrome's gain is further enhanced by the fact that both Internet Explorer and Firefox declined.

Fair enough. Those statistics are true, and there is no denying that Chrome is a solid Web browser that is enjoying relative success at the expense of competing browsers. However, if you look at the stats through some other lenses, Internet Explorer 8--and the upcoming Internet Explorer 9--are both gaining momentum as well.

While Internet Explorer did decline in overall global market share yet again, it is worth noting that it was the smallest decline Internet Explorer has experienced in the past year. What is more impressive is the fact that, breaking out Internet Explorer 8 separate from the rest of the Internet Explorer versions, IE8 actually had the biggest gain--growing 2.5 times faster than Google Chrome.

Even in Europe, where the browser ballot presents users with a randomized list of available browsers in order to level the playing field and ensure some degree of fairness, IE8 was up .48 percent to 29.69 percent for May. Narrowing the field to just the Windows operating system--since that is the only OS that Internet Explorer is available for--IE8 has over 31 percent of the market.

In the United States, Internet Explorer as a whole is up .76 percent to 63.27 percent of the market. Coincidentally, Chrome fell .45 percent, and Firefox fell .24 percent--a combined total of .69 percent. Apparently, Internet Explorer ate up the losses of Chrome and Firefox put together...and then some.

The early success of Internet Explorer 9 is also promising for Microsoft. The Internet Explorer 9 Platform Preview build--which is not even a functional beta version yet--has already surpassed a million downloads.

At just under 60 percent market share overall, Internet Explorer still has an overwhelming advantage over competing browsers. The second place browser--Firefox--has less than 25 percent market share, and Chrome is in a distant third place with just over seven percent.

Just as the success of Windows 7 is driving increased PC sales, Windows 7 is also responsible--at least in part--for the success of Internet Explorer 8. As Windows 7 adoption continues to ramp up through 2010 and into early 2011, expect Internet Explorer 8 to continue following suit.

Since Chrome entered the scene, Internet Explorer has steadily declined, but only by fractions of a percent. The fact that Internet Explorer is only available on Windows, and eight percent of the systems in the world don't run Windows means that Firefox, Chrome, and other browsers get to fight amongst themselves for that chunk of market share.

As Chrome continues to gain market share, it seems like it will mostly cannibalize it from Firefox for the time being. Since IE8 is the fastest growing browser, but Internet Explorer overall is losing market share, what little market share is being whittled away from IE is apparently coming from the attrition of users (finally) abandoning IE6.

Perhaps at some point in the future when Chrome has 25 percent and Firefox has fallen to seven percent, then we can focus on a two-horse race between IE and Chrome. In the meantime, despite the Chrome hype, Internet Explorer 8 is actually the king of the hill.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com . He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW .

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Tony Bradley

PC World (US online)
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