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IE’s browser share recovers, Chrome down for third straight month

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Sign of a Microsoft turnaround, or just a calculation change by metrics company?

Computerworld – Internet Explorer posted another major gain in share last month, the second in the first quarter of the year, perhaps signaling a turnaround in Microsoft’s fortunes, a Web metrics company said Sunday.

Meanwhile, every rival, including Google’s Chrome, which is usually the one stealing users, lost share.

Internet Explorer (IE) gained 1 percentage point during March, said measurement firm Net Applications, to end the month with a 53.8% share, its highest level since September 2011. Last month’s growth was the second this year of 1 point or more.

Chrome lost a third of a percentage point to close March with 18.6%, while Mozilla’s Firefox slipped by about the same to 20.6%, the open-source browser’s lowest number in more than three years.

Apple’s Safari and Opera Software’s desktop browsers also dipped, falling by two-tenths and one-tenth of a point, respectively, to 5.1% and 1.6%.

Chrome’s decline is especially notable, as March’s slide was the third consecutive month that Google’s once-hard-charging browser lost share. In the first quarter of 2012, Chrome has dropped more than half a percentage point, representing a 3% decline from the browser’s December 2011 number.

Previously, Net Applications has attributed Chrome’s skid to Google’s January demotion of the browser’s search ranking and then last month, to recalculations that eliminated the extra activity generated by Chrome’s pre-rendering feature.

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Google restored Chrome’s search ranking last month.
It was unclear whether the rise of Internet Explorer (IE) and the fall of every rival was due to a rejiggering of Net Applications’ numbers.

Like most Web measurement firms, Net Applications has more data on some nations — the U.S., for instance — and relatively small samples from others, such as China. To produce what it believes is a more accurate representation of global browser usage, Net Applications weights its Chinese data proportionally higher because that country has a greater percentage of the world’s Internet users than the U.S.

Net Applications uses online population numbers provided by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which has regularly tracked big jumps in China’s part of the browser-user pie, and corresponding drops in the percentage of the world’s users who hail from the U.S., Europe and other developed countries. Earlier this year, a company spokesman confirmed that it would revamp its calculations with newer CIA numbers at some point.

In February 2011, after Net Applications’ last accounting change, IE’s usage share jumped an eighth of a percentage point, at that time its largest one-month increase ever.

Because Chinese users overwhelmingly rely on IE, or a modified version of Microsoft’s browser, the country can easily skew Net Applications’ share estimates toward IE as more people there access the Web.

Microsoft, not surprisingly, applauds Net Applications’ country-by-country weighting system, going so far last month as to explicitly challenge the accuracy of the data from another metrics company, Ireland’s StatCounter, which also publishes monthly browser share numbers.

Net Applications did not reply Sunday to questions about whether it revised its weighting formula last month, and if so, what impact that had on IE’s share.

Microsoft mentioned the overall gains of IE in passing on Sunday, but as it’s done for months, focused on increases of Internet Explorer 9 (IE9).

“We … see great strides made against our core metric: IE9 against Windows 7,” said Roger Capriotti, director of IE marketing, in a Sunday postto a company blog.

Almost since IE9’s debut, Microsoft has ignored IE’s aggregate performance — which admittedly has been dismal until late — and instead focused on the growth of its newest browser among Windows 7 users, a combination the company has regularly claimed is the only measurement that matters.

By Net Applications’ numbers, IE9 accounts for 34.5% of the world’s browsers used on that operating system, an increase of more than four percentage points from February, and owns a 48.9% share of the Windows 7 browser market in the U.S., a jump of 8.5 points.

The browser’s global share of all operating systems, however, is significantly lower, at 15.2%, but even that was a bump of 2.6 percentage points, the largest single-month gain since IE9’s March 2011 launch.

Other editions of Microsoft’s browser didn’t fare as well: IE8 lost 2.5 percentage points to fall to 25.4%, while IE7 dropped to 4.5%. IE6, the nearly 11-year-old browser that Microsoft has been trying to bury, stayed flat at 6.9%.

StatCounter, however, told a different tale.
The Irish company, which neither adjusts its statistics for each country’s online population nor discards Chrome’s pre-rendered pages, said that IE controlled 34.8% of the browser market, down nine-tenths of a point, while Chrome grew by more than a point to end March at 30.9%. Firefox, said StatCounter, remained stable at 25%.

Net Applications calculates browser usage share with data obtained from more than 160 million unique visitors who browse 40,000 Web sites that the company monitors. More browser share figures can be found on the company’s site.


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Chrome edges Firefox, grabs second browser spot

StatCounter puts Chrome over the edge, but rival metric firm says it won’t happen until 2012

Computerworld – Google’s Chrome edged Mozilla’s Firefox last month to take the number two spot in the browser popularity wars, an Irish metrics company said today.

 

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Data from StatCounter, which tracks browser usage through the free analytics tools it offers websites, had Chrome with a 25.7% global share in November, a half-percentage point higher than Firefox’s 25.2%.

In September, Computerworld used StatCounter’s numbers to project that Chrome would pass Firefox no later than December 2011.

According to StatCounter, Chrome has gained 10.8 percentage points of usage share this year alone, vacuuming up nearly all the losses posted by Firefox (5.5 points) and Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (6.3 points).

Internet Explorer (IE) accounted for 40.6% of all browsers used last month, StatCounter said.

Rival Web measurement firm Net Applications saw the Chrome vs. Firefox tussle differently. Its tracking put Chrome behind Firefox in November, controlling 18.2% of the market compared to Firefox’s 22.1%.

But if both browsers keep to their recent trends in Net Applications’ accounting, Chrome will pass Firefox in April or May 2012 to slip into second place behind IE. By that time, IE’s share will have fallen to 47%-49%.

Both StatCounter and Net Applications noted an anomaly last month: IE either gained usage share or held stable.

Net Applications, for example, had IE holding steady at 52.6%, the same as in October, while StatCounter said IE had boosted its share by four-tenths of a point to 40.6%.

IE typically loses users each month in both company’s eyes, some times in large amounts: In October, Net Applications said IE had posted a 1.8-point decline, while StatCounter had IE down 1.5 points that month.

Vince Vizzaccaro, vice president of marketing for Net Applications, did not have an explanation, only a suspicion, for the turn-around. “We believe there may be some anomalous data from last month,” Vizzaccaro said in an email reply to questions.

If the data holds up, IE’s turn-around from its precipitous decline in October will have been remarkable.

Microsoft did not address that today, but instead beat the IE9-on-Windows 7 drum one more time, citing Net Applications’ claim that globally the browser is now more popular than either Chrome or Firefox on Windows 7.

IE9 on Windows 7 passed rivals in the U.S. months ago.

Among individual editions of IE and figuring in all operating systems, Net Applications still had IE9 in second place behind IE8, with the former posting a 10.3% worldwide share and the latter 28.2%.

But IE6 — the browser Microsoft has been trying to kill for the last two years — got a reprieve of sorts in November, boosting its share by half a point to 8%. Previously, IE6 had had a years-long string of losses.

StatCounter’s take was at odds with its U.S. rival: The Irish company said IE6’s share had dropped nearly three-tenths of a point to 2.2%, a decline in its usual ballpark over the last year.

Apple’s Safari — the clear-cut No. 4 browser — remained flat (StatCounter) or lost share (Net Applications), during November. According to Net Applications, Safari fell four-tenths of a percentage point to end the month at 5%, essentially back at its September position.


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Mozilla and Microsoft release custom Firefox with Bing

Microsoft and Mozilla have announced a special release of Firefox that integrates with the Bing search engine. The build, which is called Firefox with Bing, is available for users to download from a Microsoft-hosted website.

 

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When Firefox 4 was released last year, it added Bing as one of the available options in the browser’s built-in search box. Google remained the default, but Bing became easily accessible to users who prefer Microsoft’s search engine. Microsoft and Mozilla also took the opportunity to establish a revenue-sharing agreement around the search integration.

The new “Firefox with Bing” browser sets Bing as the default search engine and comes with Bing configured as the start page. These changes are tied to the special version of the browser and won’t impact the current defaults in regular Firefox releases. Users can also optionally install the Bing Search for Firefox add-on to get the same features in a regular Firefox build.

Mozilla has previously released a number of similarly customized Firefox builds in collaboration with various partners. For example, they released a special version of Firefox with Twitter integration earlier this year. Mozilla has been expanding its relationships with commercial partners over the past year, leading to some unexpected tie-ins. The release of Firefox with Bing is merely the latest development.


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