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, August 2018

Google's Chrome last month continued to creep up on a two-thirds supermajority of browser share, while Microsoft's once-dominant position deteriorated. Again.

According to analytics company Net Applications, Chrome's user share climbed half a percentage point in August, reaching 65.2%, an all-time high. In the last 12 months, Chrome has gained 5.9 percentage points, the only browser of the top four - others include Apple's Safari, Microsoft's Edge and Internet Explorer (IE), and Mozilla's Firefox - to add to its total during that period.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people use to visit its clients' websites. The firm then tallies the visitor sessions - which are effectively visits to the site, with multiple sessions possible daily - rather than count only users, as it once did. Net Applications primarily measures activity, although it does so differently than rival sources, which total page views.

If the trend of the last 12 months continue, Chrome will take the two-thirds prize in November. Barring any change in the browser battle, Chrome will account for 70% of the global share by June 2019.

The only other browsers to have accumulated that much share since the web broke out of its academia-government ghetto in the 1990s were Netscape's Navigator and Microsoft's IE. The former faded under assault from the latter, vanishing for good in early 2008; IE is following in its one-time rival's footsteps.

Whither Edge and IE?

Microsoft's combined Edge and IE user share slipped two-tenths of a percentage point last month, falling to 15.2%, another record low this century. During the four years since Microsoft announced it would require Windows users to upgrade to the latest version of IE - in effect, pulling the plug on the still-popular IE8, IE9 and IE 10 - the browser has plummeted 43.3 points, representing a massive decline of 74%.

At their current average monthly loss, IE + Edge will drop beneath 14% by November, under 12% by March 2019 and below 10% by next July. While nothing is guaranteed - including Computerworld's forecasting - there are solid reasons why Microsoft's user share will almost certainly keep falling.

First, IE has been demoted to legacy status and now receives security updates only; it will be disowned by commercial customers as they migrate to Windows 10 and, more importantly, update and modernize the web apps and websites that force them to support the aged browser.

Second, Edge has never taken up the slack. In August, just 11.4% of all Windows 10 users relied on Edge, a drop of one-tenth of a point and another record low for the browser.

According to Net Applications, IE and Edge accounted for 17.3% of the browsers that ran on Windows in August. (The 17.3% was larger than the 15.2% IE and Edge tallied overall because Windows did not power 100% of all PCs; in August, it ran 87.8% of the world's systems.)

Firefox: Running in place?

Elsewhere in Net Applications' data, Mozilla's Firefox picked up nearly one-tenth of a percentage point, clawing back to 9.8%. The open-source browser, which Mozilla revamped in late 2017 and aggressively updates with new features in an attempt to stop the losses, continues to have a dim future by Net Applications' numbers. Calculations using the 12-month average change predicte that the browser will dip under 9% by December and keep falling.

By May 2019, Firefox could have a scary user share of just 7.9%.

Apple's Safari added approximately two-tenths of a percentage point last month to edge up to 3.7%. As of August, 39% of all Mac owners ran Safari as their primary browser, showing that they, too, have largely abandoned their operating system's default browser for cross-platform alternatives like Chrome or Firefox.

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