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Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Battle of the Browsers: 2009 in Review

Posted by @ 8:12 pm

Net Market Share from Net Applications provides global usage market share statistics for browsers, operating systems and search engines. This data offers valuable insight into significant trends for internet usage.

Below we will examine browser usage for the past year, and the significant events of the past year to affect usage market share. Data included spans from December 2008 to December 2009.



From December 2008 to December 2009, the overall changes in the top 5 browser usage market share percentages were as follows:


The most significant trends of 2009:

  • The gradual erosion of usage share by Internet Explorer to all of its major rivals continued even with a major new version upgrade to IE8.
  • For many years, IE had no browser competition at all, as the primary battle for users was seen to be at the desktop operating system level between Windows, Mac OS and various flavors of Unix and later Linux. This left little motivation for Microsoft to innovate IE until Internet usage grew, and became the primary reason people were using their computers. Competition did arise on several fronts, and Firefox started to push IE with significant gains in market share. Several versions of IE came out that were in essence trying to keep up with the innovations of other browsers, and Microsoft seemed content to slowly lose share as long as IE was still the market leader. But with the release of IE8 in 2009, Microsoft thought it had the features that would stop or even reverse IE’s slide in share. But, with the addition of Google’s Chrome to the arena, browser share is becoming more and more fought over. Unfortunately for Microsoft, IE’s slide in share did continue through 2009. Yet, IE still holds 62.69% usage market share – almost double the share of all of its competitors combined.

  • Google Chrome bursts onto the browser battlefield.
  • Google ‘accidentally’ let the cat out of the Chrome bag before it was truly ready for release, and didn’t put any marketing into Chrome early on. But, the second half of 2009 saw Chrome nearly double its usage share, and as of the end of the year, it is now the third most used browser in the world behind IE and Firefox. Chrome showed up in ads on Google’s search page, which almost never happens. Google also announced the ongoing development of Chrome OS to up the battle with Microsoft and Apple. Chrome’s 4.63% usage share still pales to even number 2 Firefox’s 24.61% share. But now Firefox can no longer just look ahead at IE and work on closing the gap with the market leader. They also have to look behind them at Chrome, and figure out how to hold off a worthy challenger looking to take share from them.

  • Opera pushes the European Union to sue Microsoft to change the way they offer browsers to users with the release of Windows 7.
  • This was a long, drawn out battle with extremely high stakes. The end result is that European users of Windows 7 will be offered a choice of browsers to install instead of having IE pre-installed and set as the default browser. What this means to future browser usage market share in Europe is unknown now, but the bet here is it will be significantly different than it would have been otherwise. Net Market Share will of course be monitoring this.

  • Safari continued its gains in usage share throughout 2009.
  • Safari usage is typically indicative of the operating system battle between Windows and Mac OS. That is until the release of Windows 7. Since then, both Windows and Mac OS share have held fairly steady. Microsoft scored a huge win with outstanding reviews of Windows 7, and in stopping the market share losses to Apple on the desktop and laptop. So how is Safari still gaining in usage with steady operating system share? Enter the iPhone and an explosion of mobile browsing!

  • An explosion in mobile browsing.
  • As reported at the beginning of 2010 by, mobile browsing usage share exploded in December 2009. Mobile browsing now accounts for 1.3% of all browsing. The biggest usage share winners this holiday season were mobile devices. Both Windows and Mac devices lost a small amount of share in December, while all major mobile operating systems attained large percentage gains:


The open questions for 2010 include:

  • Will IE finally rebound?
  • Will Firefox continue to gain on IE?
  • Will Chrome’s gains come primarily from IE, Firefox or both?
  • Will European browser usage be significantly different from previous years?
  • How fast will mobile browsing grow, and who will dominate those devices?

Vince Vizzaccaro Vince is Executive Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Alliances for Net Applications, a leading internet based applications company that provides a suite of products to help customers measure, monitor and optimize websites.

View Vince Vizzaccaro's profile

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