Is Internet Explorer Dying?

October's Web browser numbers are in and Internet Explorer numbers are plummeting, while Google's Chrome and Apple's Safari continues to gain.

IE drops below 50% of the Web browser market

IE drops below 50% of the Web browser market

Sometime in 1998 or 1999, Internet Explorer (IE) became the number one Web browser in the world. It did so thanks to Microsoft illegally bundling IE with Windows. But, while Microsoft lost the anti-trust case, instead of being broken up as it was first ruled, Microsoft only had its hands slapped and Internet Explorer's main competitor, Netscape, was destroyed. By 2004, Microsoft's IE owned 95%+ of the Web browser marker. That was then. This is now.

In that same year, Firefox started taking market-share from IE. At first IE lost ground, ironically enough, because of its de facto victory over Netscape. For years, Microsoft neglected improving IE 6, and Firefox was able to quickly establish itself as the better option. Then, when Chrome was introduced in 2008, it made the Web browser races far more competitive.

In October 2011, according to NetMarketShare, IE is barely above the 50% mark of desktop browsers with 52.63%. That only tells part of the story though.

On the smartphone/tablet market, IE is a total non-player with IE and Microsoft Pocket IE combined having only 0.17% of the market. Put the total Web browser markets together, and you'll see IE has finally dropped below the 50% mark. IE now has only 49.58% of the total market.

While Microsoft continues to try to make the best of IE's decline by focusing on IE 9's growth on Windows 7, the simple truth is that IE isn't just declining, its fall is accelerating.

On the desktop alone, IE's strong point, IE lost 1.8%. Over the last three months, IE has lost 6% of its desktop Web browser users.

Firefox, once IE's greatest rival and still the number two--for now-Web browser--can't take credit for IE's fall. Firefox, with 21.20% of the market, has been hovering around the 21% mark since February.

No, the credit for cutting IE down to size must go to Chrome, which increased its market share by 1.42% to 16.59% and Apple's Safari, which now has a 8.54% market share. Both numbers are all-time highs.

Safari's increase isn't just a matter that it's the dominant, with 62.17%, browser on smartphones and tablets. Mac OS X, where Safari is the default Web browser, has now reached 7.18%, also a new high, on the desktop according to StatCounter.

A closer look at IE's numbers reveals that much of IE's customer base, 7.49%, are using the hopelessly obsolete IE 6. Thus, the percentage of users working with current versions of IE--8 for XP and 9 for Vista and 7--is actually about 42%.

In short, IE is a dead browser walking. Not only is IE's declining on desktops, it doesn't have any presence on smartphones and tablets. Even if you buy into Windows 8 being Microsoft's savior for tablets and smartphone, Windows 8 won't show up until at least 2012.

Were I a Web developer, I wouldn't waste any more of my time building for IE. WebKit, which is the open-source, Web-browser engine behind both Chrome and Safari, is the smart choice for Web developers. The users, with the way they're abandoning IE are already speaking. The day of IE as the dominant Web browser are numbered.

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