The battle between the browsers might be over

The battle between the browsers might be over

Summary: It's now quite possible that the browser wars are over -- for now at any rate, as all the major browsers' market share has flat-lined.

TOPICS: Browser, Google

For years, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome browsers have been locked in a fierce battle for market share. But data by web metrics firm NetMarketShare suggests that the battle between the browsers may be over.

Take a look at this data for the last 12 months:

Notice something interesting?

Apart from a little fluctuation in the Internet Explorer usage share -- which given its greater than 50 percent dominance isn't all that significant -- all the major players have flat-lined. This is good news for Microsoft, which had been seeing its usage share eroded away month by month. It's possible that Microsoft's television and light-hearted web campaign had something to do with this stabilization.

Here's a closer look at the timescale in question:

Even Google's Chrome, which was at one point gaining ground at a rate of knots at the expense of both Internet Explorer and Firefox, has now pretty much stabilized.

I've been expecting this to happen. New browsers attract attention, which is exactly what we saw with Chrome in the beginning -- and Firefox, but you have to go back a few years to see this effect, and the internet was a very different place back then). It was fresh and new, and people wanted to try it out. It was also blazingly fast compared to the competition.

But new versions of existing browsers don't attract as much attention. It could be argued that in the case of Firefox, unleashing too many new versions on end users was harmful to market share, and the pace of innovation slows down so there's less incentive for people to try out a different browser.

Browsers also gain a certain level of 'stickability' and users customize them and start relying on add-ons and extensions. Once a browser is set up the way a user wants it, and it contains things like the favorites list and passwords, it's not so easy to switch to another browser. Mozilla learned the value of add-ons for keeping users loyal to Firefox, and now Google is using similar tricks to keep users loyal to Chrome.

It's now quite possible that the browser wars are over -- for now at any rate -- until a new browser or some new innovation comes along to shake things up.

Image credit: NetMarketShare.


Topics: Browser, Google

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Browser War

    Glad it's over as I was never in it as I like my browser and will always like my browser. One format, then maybe you can sneak attack!
  • The battle between the browsers might be over

    Good, now we don't have to read sensationalist headlines about which browser is #winning, which lost some point percentage of share, and which one constantly crashes for someone but not for others.
    Loverock Davidson-
    • There never was a real battle IMO

      I choose a browser based on what it does or doesn't do for me, not which one runs benchmark X nano seconds faster than another, which seems to be what gets published here in the imaginary zdnet browser wars.
    • Yo, Loverock

      I'm with you on this one!
  • Windows 8

    The launch of Windows 8 will only drive this number higher, given the lack of a Metro browser at launch (to compete, yes i know there are other browers in development).

    Plus the hype surrounding a new OS will bring sales which brings more user s(i.e. IE moves higher).
    • the launch of Windows 8 will drive

      many people insane just like Vista did, and people will be putting 7 on their new pcs instead so that wont change much about the preferred browsers.
      • Or maybe

        many people will keep running Win8 but will be working in Classic Desktop mode instead. No need to downgrade to Win7.
  • Poor SJVN

    What will he write about now?
  • Statistics...

    I use Firefox only. Windows, however, uses Internet Explorer to update itself. Since this happens every other day, I "suppose" I am an Internet Explorer user, even though total interactive usage is zero. Then again, the iPad is getting more and more use. Now that AdBlock has a browser App on the iPad, that may be my next main browser...
    Tony Burzio
    • Do you use XP?

      That was the last version of Windows to use a browser to update...
      • doesn't really matter

        whether it uses IE or not, those downloads won't show up in the statistics as only MS sites are contacted.
  • Firefox, Google or Apple - who's to blame more??

    I don't know who to blame more, Firefox, Google or Apple for being so selfish as to not work together in open source. All of those browsers are free - why not work together in an open source community to build the best browser?

    Why not?
    • There is no money in it

      as are not browsers designed primarilly with search revenue in mind?
      Tim Cook
    • Nobody, however I wouldn't trust Google or Apple anymore than Microsoft

      Being open source doesn't mean the same thing. Mozilla is sincerely fighting for a open web. Apple is killing the web by monetizing the web into walled gardens called apps. Google Chrome's main purpose is to lock and monetize users towards Google services.
      • Unfortunately

        Firefox has been too bloated, buggy, slow and overbearing for me (and I suspect others) to bother with it.

        In contrast, Chrome was from the outset, clean, fast and compliant. To be fair, Chrome is not locking you into Google services either as you seem to suggest. Ad revenue and privacy are valid concerns, but so is being able to use a decent product.

        I would prefer to use purely open source if it were possible, but many open source products seem to delight in making things harder than they need to be and although I like to learn, tweak and fix mostly, but sometimes I just don't have enough time. A certain other organisation (who shall remain nameless) seems to delight in making things too simple, which is just as bad.
    • You do realize

      that both Chrome and Safari are based on the webkit browser engine which is completely open source?
  • The Business attitude

    One of the reasons that IE still relevant despite all the negative press about it is because of the MS support for the legacy versions of IE and a rock stable release schedule. Firefox and Chrome is zero in the big corporate environment and its only themselves to blame.

    IE9 and IE10 are most secure and the best in the market. ( the term fastest doesn't make much sense these days).
    • Speed and support really do matter

      I disagree. The problem with the legacy versions of IE (such as IE 8, which is the latest version supported on XP) are:

      1. They don't support modern standards, such as HTML 5.
      2. They never properly supported HTML standards even when they were new. I don't know how many times I have had pages fail in only one browser.
      3. Once you get beyond the simplest of forms, speed really does matter on interactive business websites, and the competitors (especially Chrome) have always managed to stay ahead.
      4. IE uses much more memory to do the same things than Chrome or Firefox. This kills users with older computers.
      5. I have found IE to be more buggy, at least on Windows 7, than the other browsers.

      I run the big 5 browsers side by side in order to test websites for compatibility and performance, and have always noticed these differences.

      As far as which browser is more secure, I couldn't tell you from first hand experience, but I know there has been debate about that in the tech press. On a gut level, I don't know how far I would trust the company that gave us Active-X controls!
      • Because Security comes from the gut!

        On a serious note though, IE9 is on par in speed and standard support with the other browsers. IE8 may be the last version supported on XP but why are we entertaining discussions about a 10 year old OS? What version of Safari is supposed on OS X.1?

        IE and Chrome use an almost identical memory footprint. Don't believe me? Check it out. It has to do with process isolation, giving them both better out of the box security than Firefox or Safari.

        Firefox requires addons to secure it. IE9 with tracking protection enabled accomplishes nearly the same thing as FF with AdBlock and it's built into the browser.

        That said FF, Chrome and IE are close enough in terms of features and speed now that it's down to user preference. Which is what all of us were hoping for anyway. I use IE9 for two reasons. Color-coded tabs (why hasn't someone stolen this idea?) and tabs showing as multiple windows when using the Windows 7 taskbar. WHY won't Chrome or FF do this? That feature alone is why I like IE better.

        I use Chrome for SalesForce though because it seems to run better and built in spell check.
      • Are you kidding?

        [i]Firefox requires addons to secure it. IE9 with tracking protection enabled accomplishes nearly the same thing as FF with AdBlock and it's built into the browser.[/i]

        That's just plain wrong. There's nothing like that at all in IE that blocks Flash ads. Use them side-by-side on this website if you don't believe me.