Microsoft Edge has edged out Apple's Safari in browser popularity

New data from one web analytics service indicates Microsoft Edge is now favored as a browser by more desktop users than Apple's Safari. Meanwhile, Firefox is falling even further behind.

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Microsoft Edge has passed Apple's Safari to become the world's second most popular desktop browser based on data provided by web analytics service StatCounter.

In February, Microsoft Edge was on the cusp of catching Safari with less than a half percentage point (9.54% to 9.84%) between the two browsers in terms of popularity among desktop users. StatCounter's latest figures show Edge is now used on 10.07% of desktop computers worldwide, 0.46% ahead of Safari; the latter dropped to 9.61%.

Google Chrome still holds the top spot by a long shot, at 66.58% of all desktop users. And Mozilla's Firefox had just  7.87% of the share, a significant drop from the 9.18% share it held in February. The new data was first reported by MacRumors.

Edge’s lead on other browsers differs greatly depending on location. For example, in the US, Edge is well behind Safari — Edge has just 12.55% market share while Safari claims 17.1%. In Europe, Edge long ago passed Safari, with 11.73% and 9.36%, respectively. 

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World's most popular desktop browsers according to StatCounter

Firefox never really had much market share to begin with. And it doesn’t have the marketing clout of either Microsoft or Google, which means lower brand recognition — and virtually none outside the techie community, according to Jack Gold, principal analyst at research firm J. Gold Associates.

“So I don’t think Firefox will ever be more than a niche ‘alternative’ to the other guys,” Gold said.

Of course, Safari’s lane is mainly as a default browser on Apple's iPhone and iPad tablet. On those devices, it’s a very different story. Chrome has 63.57%, Safari nets 24.82%, and other various browsers account for the remainder.

Some web analytics services already have Edge even further ahead of browsers — except the ever-dominant Chrome. For example, Net MarketShare’s most recent data has Chrome at an eye-opening 73.24% market share, Edge at 12.93%, and Firefox at 4.73%. Safari isn't even in the top four browsers.

The adoption of Edge has been slow. Initially, it suffered from performance and compatibility issues across the web, which pushed many users to Chrome, according to Gold. Now, however, Edge is relatively comparable to Chrome in term of performance largely because it is built on the underlying Chromium engine.

In 2020, Microsoft relaunched Edge, recasting it with the same browser code that powers Chrome. Not only did Microsoft make Edge a Chrome copy, it also expanded support to versions of Windows other than 10, including macOS and Linux.

"When Microsoft switched to a Chromium engine, Edge got a lot faster and more compatible with more websites that, because of the preponderance of Google Chrome browsers, were built to be compatible with Chrome and not the older Edge (it had some unique requirements for full compatibility)," Gold said.

Microsoft has also been adding features to Edge, such as enhanced security and privacy, “coupons” for those use it to shop, and performance enhancements, Gold noted.

Edge also doesn’t have some of the issues earlier versions had handling some websites.

“And you are no longer compelled to have Bing as the search engine,” Gold said. While users were never actually forced to use Bing, Microsoft did make it difficult to switch to Google.

Edge has also been the default browser with Windows 10 and 11, and so with the improvements to it, there’s less reason for users to switch. “I think many people just don’t bother to download Chrome. Edge does pretty much everything they want/need,” Gold said.

Last June, Apple unveiled a substantial redesign of Safari at the company's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). Many of those changes, however, were met with quick criticism from users who described them as "counterintuitive."

Apple went through several iterations over the summer — both on mobile devices and desktops — and allowed users to largely revert to the previous Safari design prior to the release of iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey.

In February, Jen Simmons, an Apple evangelist and developer advocate on the Web Developer Experience team for Safari and WebKit, took to Twitter to ask users for feedback on why Safari was unpopular and to ask that they point out specific issues.

"Everyone in my mentions [is] saying Safari is the worst, it's the new IE,” Simmons tweeted at the time.

Hoping to get to the bottom of the anger, Simmons asked Twitter users to point to specific bugs and missing support that frustrate them or make it harder for them to create websites or apps. “Bonus points for links to tickets,” she wrote.

“Specifics we can fix. Vague hate is honestly super counterproductive,” she added.

Unlike some rival browsers, such as Firefox, Apple's updates to Safari are sparse, with major upgrades coming just once a year. So most new features are rolled out in a single instance. While that may appeal to those who dislike frequent browser updates, it also means upgrades and/or fixes for Safari are rare.

In recent years, however, Safari has borne a raft of complaints about the browser's bugs, user interface and experience, and website compatibility, according to MacRumors.

In March, Apple launched Safari 15.4 beta, which was purportedly “packed” with 70+ new features, such as “lazy loading” images to reduce page load times; a dialog element that represents a part of an application that a user interacts with to perform a task, such as a dialog box or window; and Cascade Layers, which offers users a way to organize styles, such as resets and defaults, up to highest-priority styles, such as components, utilities, and overrides.

Even with improvements, though, Safari faces an uphill climb.

Since Safari is Apple specific, unless someone is a major Apple fan, they probably don’t use Safari, Gold said.

“Windows machines are still way more popular than Macs, so the sheer numbers of PCs means Edge (and Chrome) have a huge installation advantage over Safari,” Gold said. “I didn’t see much Safari on Windows uptake.”

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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