Top web browsers 2018: IE and Edge catch a break – and their breath

For the first time since June, Microsoft's two browsers managed to hold onto their share of the browser market; the same could not be said of Firefox.

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Top browsers, September 2018

Microsoft's tired Internet Explorer (IE) last month slumped below 10% for the first time, dragging down the company's total browser user share to a record low.

According to California analytics vendor Net Applications, IE's user share plummeted by nine-tenths of a percentage point in September, falling to 9.94%. The bulk of that - approximately 83% - was accounted for by IE 11, the final version of the 23-year-old browser. It's IE 11 that is run in Windows 7 and Windows 10; the browser is relegated to legacy status on the latter.

Together, IE and Edge - the default browser for Windows 10 - controlled just 14% of the September global user share, a decline of 1.1 percentage points from the month prior. That 14% figure was a record low for this century.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people run to reach the company's clients' sites. The firm tallies the visitor sessions - site visits, essentially, with multiple sessions possible daily - rather than count users, as it once did. Net Applications thus measures activity differently than rival firms that total page views.

The IE and Edge slide

IE's September slip-and-slide was nothing new: The browser has been in a tailspin since Microsoft announced it would require Windows users to upgrade to the latest version. IE has plummeted 48.5 points, equivalent to a decline of 83%, in the four-plus years since the 2014 announcement that triggered Microsoft's browser disaster.

At the current average monthly loss, IE + Edge will drop beneath 13% by December, under 12% by February 2019 and below 10% by next July. While Computerworld's forecasts have at times missed marks, Microsoft's assumed fall is built on some fundamental facts. First and foremost, because IE has received only security updates since January 2016 it has not been refreshed for more than two and a half years. In plainer terms, it's at least that far behind rivals like Chrome and Firefox.

Second, Edge has been marginalized - pushed to the edge of irrelevance - on Windows 10. In September, just 10.9% of all Windows 10 users relied on Edge, a half percentage point reduction and another new low for the browser Microsoft hoped would turn the tables.

Instead, Google's Chrome became the bully that regularly shook down Microsoft for its user share lunch money.

Google Chrome continues its streak

Chrome added a full percentage point of user share last month to reach 66.3%, a record for the cross-platform browser. In the last 12 months, Chrome has gained 6.7 percentage points, the only one among the top four browsers to raise its total during that span.

If the trend of the last year continues unabated, Chrome will account for two-thirds of all user share at some point this month. Chrome could account for 70% of the global share as soon as April 2019 and an amazing 75% by January 2020.

No current browser can realistically be viewed as a worthy competitor to Chrome. Microsoft's Edge has clearly failed to energize Windows 10 users, Apple's Safari is restricted to the macOS enclave and Mozilla's Firefox teeters on the wire between survival and extinction.

Net Applications pegged Firefox's user share change as down more than a tenth of a percentage point. The open-source browser ended September with a 9.6% share, its lowest mark in two years. Calculations using the 12-month average predicted the browser will fall under 9% by December, and below 8% by April 2019.

Elsewhere in the September data, Apple's Safari lost less than one-tenth of a percentage point, descending to 3.6%. During September, only 38% of all Mac owners ran Safari as their primary browser. Like Windows users, they have shifted from their operating system's default to a cross-platform alternative, most likely Chrome.

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