Top web browsers 2018: Firefox sits on slippery slope, Chrome grows even bigger

If past is prologue, Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft's Edge and Internet Explorer, and Apple's Safari are all in trouble. Analytics vendor Net Applications' data shows all three web browsers slipping in May as Google Chrome continued to grow.

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Top browsers, October 2017

Microsoft's Edge last month sank to its lowest-ever user share, with less than 16% of Windows 10 users running the browser during October.

According to U.S. analytics vendor Net Applications, the user share of Edge — an estimate of the world's personal computer owners who ran that browser — fell by six-tenths of a percentage point, ending October at 4.6%. The decline was the largest ever for Edge, and set the browser back to the user share spot it last occupied in April 2016.

More notable was Edge's usage when calculated as a percentage of Windows 10. (Edge is the default browser for Microsoft's OS; likewise, Edge only runs on Windows 10.) Of all Windows 10 users, just 15.7%, a record low, ran Edge in October. As recently as March, Edge's share of Windows 10 had been around 22%.

Edge's share of Windows 10, which started off at 36% when the operating system debuted, has steadily fallen since then, wrapping up 2015 at 28% and ending 2016 at 22%.

If every Windows 10 user had stuck with Edge, the browser would now have a user share of 29.3%, or more than six times its mark. Instead, the trend line has shown that the more PCs that run Windows 10, the poorer Edge has performed.

Simply put, Edge never caught on among Windows 10 users. And at this point, it may be in an unrecoverable position. It's hard to envision a strategy that would successfully coax significant numbers to Edge unless Microsoft were willing to take such desperate measures - like barring all other browsers from the OS - that it would invite regulatory intervention.

A user share increase by Internet Explorer (IE) more than compensated for the decline in Edge, with the combined figure for the two edging up by three-tenths of a point to 19.7%. The boost was the first positive move by Microsoft's browsers since December 2014.

Short-term user share changes are often inscrutable, but the three-tenths of a percentage point increase of IE+Edge could be a partial recovery in data collection sanity after the stunning 1.9-point plummet in September. The next month or two will either confirm that that month's free-fall was real or contest its accuracy.

Because browser share is a zero-sum game, Microsoft's uptick meant someone had to face shrinkage. Apple's Safari took the brunt, falling by 0.7 of a percentage points to 4.4%. Mozilla's Firefox and Google's Chrome added 0.3 of a point and 0.2 of a point, respectively, stretching to 13.1% and 59.8%. For Firefox, the October mark was its highest in three years. Meanwhile, Chrome continued to sneak up on 60% but again failed to top that bar.

At the pace of the last six months, Chrome should pass, albeit barely, 60% by year's end.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the browser agent strings of those who visit its clients' websites. It then tallies the various browsers, accounting for the size of each country's online population to better estimate share in regions where it lacks large numbers of analytics customers.

edge oct 2017 IDG/Gregg Keizer

Edge slipped again, with fewer than one in every six Windows 10 users running the browser during October. (Data: Net Applications.)

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