By Gregg Keizer
Google’s Chrome added more to its total of utter domination last month as a small recovery by Mozilla’s Firefox screeched to a halt in July.
According to data published Saturday by metrics vendor Net Applications, Chrome’s share during July rose eight-tenths of a percentage point, the most since March, to 71%. The browser has been on a seven-month run of gains, adding 4.4 percentage points to its account since January. The only other browsers to enjoy a positive 2020 thus far: Microsoft’s – Edge and Internet Explorer (IE) – and that pair increased their combined share by less than a 10th of Chrome’s.
Chrome continues to assimilate other browsers’ share, month after month, with an almost casual cannibalism. Its increases over the past six months, in fact, have been nearly double that over the last 12, hinting at another acceleration of absorption.
The only barrier to Chrome remains the minimum shares still held by its rivals. If one assumes that desktop competitors like Apple’s Safari, Firefox, IE and Opera Software’s Opera can, in fact, fall further under Chrome’s assault, dwindling to boutique browser status as they do so, there’s no reason why Chrome cannot, say, capture 80% of the market, perhaps even more, before cresting.
On the linear basis of Computerworld‘s forecasts – pegged to a 12-month average change in share – Chrome should make 72% by December and 73% by March 2021. Come January 2022, Chrome could hold almost 75%.
Chrome’s posterior may be on the throne now, but there’s no reason to think it will be pressed there forever. Every browser that has crushed its enemies has been, eventually, usurped. Netscape Navigator was destroyed by IE, IE by Chrome. It may be an admittedly small data set, but it does point to an eventual eclipse of Google’s browser. By something.
A decade ago, Mozilla’s browser may have dreamed of upsetting the then-order of things, taking its April 2010 share of 25.1% and parlaying it into victory over IE – down to 61.2% by then. IE’s losses turned into Firefox’s gains.
But that was Firefox’s peak.
At the end of July, Firefox stood at 7.3%, down three-tenths of a percentage point from the previous month. The downturn put an end to a three-month stretch that included one increase and two stand-pats. (At this point, a month when Firefox doesn’t gain ground but also doesn’t lose it, must be thought a win for Mozilla.)
Firefox let its second-place spot (far, far behind Chrome) slip away in March, when Edge snatched it. That did not change in July. The gap between the two more than doubled, in fact, to 1.2 points. On almost every browser share metric, Firefox is in trouble.
Things could turn around, as they have many times before, albeit briefly, for the open-source browser. But to return to its glory days? That seems as unlikely as an elephant tap-dancing to victory on Dancing with the Stars (if it ever restarted).
Since the end of January, Firefox has been stuck in the 7s; for the eight months before that, it was mired in the 8s; and between May 2018 and March 2019, Firefox floundered in the 9s. The trend is crystal clear.
Computerworld‘s latest forecast predicts a dip below 7% in November (a month earlier than last month’s prognostication) and a year from now puts it at 6.2%. The fall into the 5% range will occur in September 2021.
Microsoft’s browsers added an amazing – and frankly, unbelievable – 1.9 percentage points in July, an increase in size similar to ones in December 2019 and April 2019, both of which were quickly repudiated by following months, including the very next. In other words, it’s unlikely that the enormous increase will stand, signaling that it’s more an artifact of Net Applications’ counting or how it weights some results over others.
The boost sent IE + Edge to a share of 14.5%, the highest level for the pair since August 2018.
Even more remarkably, the bulk of the 1.9 points – 1.5 of them, or almost 80% of the total – originated from IE, which jumped 4.5% to 6% in a single month. For IE to add not just significant share but otherworldly amounts of share, was not only hard to believe, what with the browser’s place as an enterprise-only sop for outdated web apps and intranet sites, but neigh impossible.
Where have all those hundreds of thousands of IE users been hiding all this time?
One explanation, although not sufficient in itself, might be that, freed from their employers’ corporate networks, more IE users have become visible to Net Applications. But if that’s the case, why hasn’t IE been on the uptick all through the coronavirus pandemic and its work-from-home mandates? After all, IE has been on a systematic slide; it lost 1.9 percentage points from March through June, for example.
More digestible was Edge’s increase of four-tenths of a percentage point, the most since December but certainly not outside possibilities. Edge accounted for 8.5% of all browser activity in July, and that month’s increase marked the eighth consecutive month of gains. Since the end of January – Microsoft released the Chromium-based revamp of its browser in the middle of that month – Edge’s share has climbed by 1.4 percentage points, an increase of almost two-tenths of a point per month and a quarter of a point monthly average increase.
At its current 12-month average, Edge should own a share of 11.1% by the end of July 2021.
Elsewhere in Net Applications’ numbers, Apple’s Safari plunged to 3%, a loss of six-tenths of a point, its lowest mark since late 2008. Opera software’s Opera also took a dive, ending July at 0.8%, a decline of three-tenths of a point. Those numbers have to be frightening to both those browsers’ makers.
Net Applications calculates share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm counts visitor sessions to measure browser activity.
Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.