Chrome reaches major user share milestone, climbs above 25%

Meanwhile, more than half of all IE users have about 8 months to change browsers or face support cutoff

browsers chrome firefox internet explorer safari
Stephen Sauer

Google's Chrome browser broke the 25% user share mark last month, putting it in the position that Firefox briefly attained but quickly lost.

In April, Chrome accounted for 25.7% of the total browser user share according to Web analytics vendor Net Applications. User share is a rough estimate of the percentage of the world's online users who ran a specific browser during a given month, and is tracked by the California metric firm using visitor tallies to its customers' websites.

Chrome grew its share by seven-tenths of a percentage point from March's just-under-25%.

Mozilla's Firefox reached that milestone in November 2009, when its Net Applications-measured user share was a few hundredths of a percentage point over 25%. Firefox held onto that for a month, dipped under the mark, regained it in March and April 2010, when it peaked at 25.1%. After that, it went into a more or less permanent decline.

Firefox averaged a user share of just 11.7% in April, losing ground last month after it had gained some in March.

Mozilla's position in the browser space has become increasingly tenuous. In the last 12 months, Firefox has lost more than 5 percentage points, or a decline of 32%. Because the browser war is a zero-sum game, when Firefox lost -- as did Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) to a lesser extent -- someone had to win. The biggest winner has been Chrome, which has added 7.8 percentage points in the past year, representing an increase of 47%.

Chrome's user share future looks as bright as Firefox's looks dark. Using trends of the last 12 months, Computerworld projects that Chrome will break the 30% bar in November, and that Firefox will fall under 10% in August. (The projections are just that: Browsers rarely gain or lose share in a linear fashion; they're more likely to move in fits and starts.)

At 25.7%, Chrome was still lag far behind the perennial leader, IE: Microsoft's browser accounted for 55.8% of all browsers used in April.

While IE did shift share -- it lost seven-tenths of a point compared to March -- of more interest was the movement of the individual versions of the browser.

That's because most IE users face a support retirement deadline of Jan. 12, 2016, after which Microsoft will support IE9 only on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008; IE10 only on Windows Server 2012;, and only IE11 on Windows 7, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, and by then, Windows 10.

The off-support IE editions will continue to work, but Microsoft will shut down technical support and stop serving security updates for the banned versions.

By Net Applications' numbers, the affected editions were used by 55% of those running IE in April. On the plus side, that was a drop from 60% in February 2015.

IE8, for example, accounted for 29% of all instances of Internet Explorer last month, while IE7 and IE10 combined for about 10%. And most of IE9's 14.5% share had to be counted as well, since Windows Vista -- the only OS that will continue to support the edition with patches -- powered just 2% of all Windows machines in April, leaving most of IE9 running on Windows 7. Users of the latter will have to dispense with the 2011 browser in January.

At the beginning of September 2014, about 70% of all instances of IE were on the new chopping block; that has declined to 55% -- an average drop of about 1.9% per month. If users maintain that same pace over the next eight-plus months -- it's likely that migrations will pick up momentum as the drop-dead date nears -- it would mean about 39% of all IE users would find themselves cut off from security updates when the deadline hits.

Microsoft's free Windows 10 upgrade offer, which will swing into action this summer, may accelerate the demise of the affected editions: It will set the new Edge browser as the default. But Windows 10 and Edge are unlikely to prove a panacea. Enterprises, which analysts believe will wait years before jumping off Windows 7, remain wedded to Internet Explorer, particularly IE8, which last month was run by almost three out of every 10 copies of IE used. Businesses are unlike to migrate any significant number of their PCs to Windows 10 before next January.

IE users can find more information about the planned obsolescence in a FAQ Microsoft has published on its website.

IE browser users who will lose support in 2016 Data: Net Applications

The percentage of IE users running a version that will fall off support in January 2016 has fallen since Microsoft's abrupt announcement in last August, but the migration to IE11 has been sluggish.

Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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