IE Market Share Falls Below 50%

In August 2010, Google Chrome exceeded 10% market share. Another milestone was achieved in September: Internet Explorer’s total usage dropped below 50% for the first time in over a decade.

There have been cheers throughout the web design and development community and the story has spread throughout the technical and mainstream press. However, it’s worth examining the StatCounter statistics in detail…

Browser August September change relative
IE 9.0 beta 0.00% 0.09% +0.09% n/a
IE 8.0 29.40% 29.38% -0.02% -0.10%
IE 7.0 13.91% 12.98% -0.93% -6.70%
IE 6.0 8.02% 7.42% -0.60% -7.50%
Firefox 4.0 beta 0.00% 0.26% +0.26% n/a
Firefox 3.5+ 28.03% 28.33% +0.30% +1.10%
Firefox 3.0+ 2.60% 2.48% -0.12% -4.60%
Chrome 10.76% 11.52% +0.76% +7.10%
Safari 4.06% 4.22% +0.16% +3.90%
Opera 1.88% 2.03% +0.15% +8.00%
Others 1.34% 1.38% +0.04% +3.00%
IE (all) 51.33% 49.87% -1.46% -2.80%
Firefox (all) 30.63% 31.07% +0.44% +1.40%

The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates relative movements, i.e. 7.5% of IE6 users switched browser in the past month.

We can’t make too many assumptions from this data, but there’s one statistic reporters appear to have missed: IE8 usage has barely changed. The 0.02% drop is more than outweighed by the 0.09% gained by the IE9 beta release.

The most significant contributory factor for IE losses is migration from versions 6 and 7. Although a proportion of those users will have moved to IE8/9, a greater percentage has switched to an alternative such as Firefox or Chrome. There are several reasons why this has occurred:

  • IE8 is a capable browser but there are plenty of better options for IE6/7 users.
  • Good web applications are browser-agnostic or work on a variety of platforms. Legacy business applications are being updated and there’s less dependency on IE.
  • Microsoft and all other major vendors are backing HTML5. The rendering differences between browsers is smaller than ever and it rarely matters which application you use.
  • The majority of businesses use Windows XP and may have no intention of upgrading — especially during continued economic uncertainty. Yet IE9 is only available on Windows Vista/7. Why would a business continue to use an application which the vendor has (effectively) abandoned? It’s far cheaper and easier to install an alternative browser than upgrade the OS.

While we should be thankful for the drop in IE6/7 usage, 1 in 5 visitors continue to use the ancient browsers. Predictions of IE’s demise are premature and IE8 remains the world’s most-used browser.

It’s better news for the other vendors. Firefox, Safari and Opera all gained but Chrome remains the biggest winner. Google’s browser increases by nearly 1% every month and shows no sign of peaking. However, it’s about to face a stronger challenge from Firefox 4 and IE9.

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  • Cosmin

    Cool, let’s hope IE6 and 7 will soon vanish!

    Off: guys, what’s with the misleading top banner ad with those JS/jQuery books? It say $4.95 and links to http://sitepoint.com/books/cloud1/ … you should fix that…

  • John

    I prefer firefox. I don’t like Chrome or IE. I think Chrome sucks more than IE though. (A bold statement I know). I find the user interface of Chrome to be exhausting. The tabs are in a weird location and there isn’t enough buttons. Chrome reminds me of FireFox in fullscreen mode. I always hated fullscreen mode because I can’t do anything with it.

  • Wren

    I’ll be happier when I see enterprise usage drop below 10%.

    This is great news, but let’s be real. As web designers and developers, we’ll always have to consider the lowest denominator and especially if you do any corporate work.

    The general number that only something like 6% of people use IE6 doesn’t change that my enterprise clients are 90% on IE6.

  • aemciv

    This is irrelevant as a general population statement. The industry I develop for, insurance, still has 70%. I would like to see a report by industry, I bet it was a marginal difference for each industry. Which is still good, I guess…

  • http://www.iraqtimeline.com/maxdesign Black Max

    Die, IE, die. (But if and when it does, what happens to the rest of the browser world? The competitors will have lost the Big Ugly Crap Standard to measure themselves against. Do we turn on Firefox?)

  • http://www.yacare.fr McBenny

    As stated in earlier comments, IE6 is still very present in business activities (where it should have disappeared first) and IE9 is coming, that means that we have to maintain sites for 4 different versions of MS browsers…
    I’m really glad that MS prefects its browser and version 9 seems very good but 4 versions ! What a mess ! that’s just stupid, they should communicate on the fact that IE8 is almost able to be as dumb as number 6, this way we could eliminate the ancestor.
    Oh, I had forgotten, Father Christmas is a kid tale…

  • SpacePhoenix

    The % varies depending on which counter you believe, Net Applications puts IE’s overall share for September at 59.65% and IE6 usage 15.55%. In corporate or eductional enviroments chances are them % will be a lot higher.

  • nishantk

    this is really exciting news, i hope the day will come when there will be no one using this dumb ass browser. People dont leave IE because it comes bundled with OS and majority of non technical people cant even install the stuff so forget about updating the browser.
    Every time i have to compromise on my designs just because this suck ass IE dont support that property and clients want the website to work on every browser, So many times i was forced to drop great design idea just because this stupid microsoft pimp.
    I am waiting for the day when IE looses its total market share and that day will be celebrated as independence for designers.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    Excellent news that IE6 and 7 are falling. I expect many IE8 users to migrate to IE9 within a year or two, and if most IE6 and 7 are going to other browsers, we might actually start to have a healthy browser environment. (Yes, I know some people are going to hate IE9, but I have no problem with people using it as it will be good enough for years)

  • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

    Wow…. Great news. I just checked Analytics stats on the sites I manage and IE6 usage is well below 5%. I think it was about 15% this time last year. That’s a cause for celebration!!

  • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

    Christmas on a cracker, NOT this idiocy AGAIN!

    Here’s a tip when it comes to percentages and market share — ask “A Percentage of WHAT?”… Think — rub a few brain cells together and you might get fire.

    This is from an post I wrote yesterday on another site where the number was still at 51.34% according to the wikipedia average… which is an update to a blog post I wrote on this very subject a year and a half ago.

    Let’s make this easy and compare 2005 to 2008. We have pretty concrete numbers to play with in that range. Besides, it’s the most up to date numbers available on google public data, and the wikipedia usage article.

    In 2005 IE had roughly 90% of the market. If you take the time to look at percentage of the world population that was online at the time you find out that 15.9% was online. The population was then 6.46 billion, so that’s 1.027 billion people online.

    In 2008 IE had roughly 70% of the market… at the same time the percent of population online had grown to 23.9% and the world population had grown to 6.69 billion, so that’s 1.59 billion.

    90% of 1.027 billion is 924.3 million.
    70% of 1.59 billion is 1.113 billion

    So while “losing” 20% market share, the number of IE users grew by 189 million.

    Current guesstimates put the % of world population online at 34% (given the steady trend of increasing penetration since 2005) and the world population at 6.873 billion, for 2.33 billion internet users.

    51.34% (wikipedia’s number) of 2.33 billion is 1.19 billion.

    Meaning that while dropping from 70% to 51.34% IE gained 77 million new users!!!

    Meaning IE is just as relevant as it was five years ago or even ten years ago!

    You figure in things like FF’s prefetch artificially inflating it’s alleged market share, users smart enough to use other browsers getting counted more than once because of all the different devices they use to get online (like me since I get counted for Opera four times – work, home, road laptop, bedside laptop), and those percentages become even shakier.

    Basically, most of the people who were using IE five years ago are still using it today… and more people are using it than ever!

    DO NO LET SHARE PERCENTAGES BE USED TO PROPAGATE A LIE!

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      IE’s market share is dropping relative to the number of users coming online. Using your own figures, the internet population grew by almost 55% between 2005 and 2008. Yet IE usage grew by just 20%. Remember also that Chrome was not available and Safari was new — IE had one major competitor.

      The largest internet population growth is in Africa and Asia where IE retains a stronger foothold. However, in the US and Europe, the internet population has leveled off: IE is losing users in many of those countries.

      I agree that all browser statistics are flawed, but the trends are clear. Is IE still relevant? Absolutely. IE9 also has the potential to reverse the trend, although it will struggle since it can’t be installed on 70% of (current) PCs.

      • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

        That’s my POINT. Over and over people will try to use market share to say less people are using IE – that’s the exact opposite of the truth… More people are using IE than ever.

        It’s just more people are using alternatives… or using more than one which throws a real monkey-wrench into it.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        Assuming you’re in the US or Europe, have the physical numbers of IE users dropped on your websites over the past few years? Even accounting for traffic increases, there are fewer IE users around.

        My point is that, overall, there are more IE users worldwide. In the west, however, numbers are dropping because population growth is fairly level.

    • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

      Oh, BTW — I mentioned people being counted more than once, let’s figure it with the new percentage giving us 1.16 billion, but riddle me this…

      How many droid users are there? iPhone users? Do they ONLY use droid/chrome and iphone/safari or do they use multiple computers? How many people use more than one browser just because of their machine?

      To balance the userbase numbers you’d have to add everyone who uses more than one browser more than once to the population figures to get a more accurate IE userbase count. How many is that?

      We don’t know! Could be the 60 million or so iphone/droid users combined, could be the 10% world population with office jobs that use one browser at work and another at home…

      Let’s say (pulling numbers our our posterior) it’s only 3% of internet users… likely WAY below the actual figure. (iphone/droid users alone are at least 2%!) That would give us roughly another 70 million to our total, bringing IE’s number of users up to 1.197 billion – back to being MORE than they had this time last year, the year before that, or even eight years ago at their magical ‘peak’ of 92%.

      It’s never as simple as one percentage number. More you ask, the more it falls apart.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        I think you’re over-complicating the issue. The StatCounter statistics aren’t treating you as an individual or trying to work out your default browser.

        If you go to websiteX.com with IE twice, then once with Firefox and Opera Mobile, it’s counted as 4 single browser visits — not a single visit for one person or 1 visit per browser. But that doesn’t matter; the statistics simply compare the number of visits from each device (and they include mobiles if you download the raw data).

    • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

      The key thing is surely where in the IE environment the new users are coming from. If they’re taking up IE8 or IE9, this is fine, because apart from anti-IE fanatics, most of us have the real issues with IE6 and 7 hanging around rather than people using IE at all.

      In any case, these stats are completely irrelevant, because what matters is the number of users on any particular site. For my sites, the absolute numbers of IE users have fallen, and the numbers of IE6 and 7 have fallen pretty fast. *That’s* what matters.

      • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

        Then is your userbase imploding or something? Less users and visits than you used to have? It’s the only way for said claim to make the least bit of sense.

        If I look at percentages the past five years on my highest traffic english language site where 90% of users are in the US and under the age of 24, (forums with 30K posts/mo) my userbase has tripled in size, and I’m still seeing 70% IE use vs. the 90% of 2005.

        Which means I have more IE users than there were.

        What share means is what percentage of the market, the market has grown so the number of people using IE hasn’t dropped even if their share HAS.

      • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

        @deathshadow60, in your stats, what version of IE are the users using? That IMO is more important than anything else. If the increase in IE users are using IE8 which would make sense in your particular scenario, then congratulations. What has happened to the percentage of IE6/IE7 users; has it gone up or down?

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        It will depend on your website’s audience. Technical sites, such as SitePoint, attract people in IT who are more likely to understand what a browser is and the options available. Real numbers of IE users have dropped dramatically on SitePoint even though traffic has grown.

        I have clients with 70% IE users, but they usually have public sector audiences. General sites, such as shops, match StatCounter with 50% IE traffic. Technical sites have 20% or lower.

        Therefore deathshadow60, I suspect your site’s audience are either large corporations, public sector workers, IT novices or you’re offering IE-specific content (such as add-ons).

  • http://www.cotsweb.com cotsweb

    Its a nice trend but it will be a long time before web designers can ignore IE6 let alone the later versions of IE. In the meantime IE6 is still my baseline for testing, I don’t need presentation to be perfect in IE6 but the site must still work properly.

    • http://www.lunadesign.org awasson

      Not when 3% – 5% of the users of the sites I build are using IE6 with the numbers dropping each month it won’t. I’m getting close to pitching IE6 entirely…. I haven’t yet but the day will be soon.

  • shanique

    marvellous. about time IE just melts down completely, and please FAST!

  • http://www.users.on.net/~gulati/ AnilG

    In my current and previous organisation we have mandated non IE browsers for Mac and Windows platforms not because the organisation wanted to, but because there were measurable negative outcomes from using IE.

    In my previous organisation that was because of IE6, no one is surprised, but this time IE6 is officially not supported and we chose Firefox and Safari against IE 7 and 8. Because we experienced specific IE related issues with the web software the organisation is relying on we were forced to standardise on FF for Windows as the mandated browser.

    The majority of our IE usage is external customers (non corporate). Internally we are minimising IE because it performs poorly and incurs additional cost in support calls.

  • joejac

    I will make a party when IE hit 0% so I can forget those hours of dark desing…

    Best regards
    joejac