Will Anyone Ever Abandon Another Browser for IE 8?

By  |  Monday, July 6, 2009 at 1:18 am

Internet Explorer 8 LogoErick Schonfeld of TechCrunch has noticed that StatCounter’s browser market share data shows Internet Explorer usage in surprisingly sharp decline. According to StatCounter, IE has lost 11.4 percentage points to Firefox and other browsers in the U.S. since March, leaving it with 54.4 percent of the market. If IE loses another half a point of share, the combined forces of all other browsers–which I like to think of as a virtual Microsoft rival called Anything But Internet Explorer–will exceed IE’s market share. And it’ll be the first time in eons that Microsoft’s browser isn’t used by the majority of Web users.  It’s a remarkable reversal of fortune for a product that was once used by nine out of ten people on the Internet.

Like ZDNet’s Larry Dignan, I’m skeptical about the idea of IE’s usage swooning as strikingly as StatCounter is showing until we get more data from other sources. Still, there’s no question that IE faces fierce competition, and I haven’t seen any market share numbers that show it to be in anything but a period of decline. Every day, fewer people are using IE and more people are choosing something else.

For a very long time, the biggest competition for any new version of Internet Explorer has been…earlier versions of Internet Explorer. Much of Microsoft’s marketing for IE 8 seems to target IE 7 and IE 7 users, such as this list of the top eight reasons to download the browser. But it also addresses people who are at least thinking of using another browser in items such as this comparison of IE 8, Firefox 3.0, and Chrome 2.0. Which, incidentally, maintains that the three browsers are equally customizable–I’d be stunned if there’s anyone outside of Redmond who agrees with that.

If Microsoft merely prevents IE 6 and IE 7 users from jumping to another browser, the browser’s market share will stabilize. (At least among Windows users–if Apple continues to chip away at Windows’ dominance, IE’s overall share will continue to shrink.) But I assume that Microsoft would prefer to not only stop the bleeding but to get IE growing again. The only way that’ll happen is if users of other Windows browsers–Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari–switch to IE in measurable quantities.

What are the chances of that happening? Slim, I think. For Windows users, running anything other than IE represents a conscious decision to use a browser other than the default one their OS came with. Typical users of Chrome, Firefox, Opera, and Safari-for-Windows users all seem to be dedicated fans of their browser of choice. And once you’ve found a browser you’re comfortable with, the incentive to stick with it is high. For all these reasons, any version of IE is going to need to be strikingly different and better to lure expatriates back.

As a wholly unscientific experiment, I asked my Twitter followers if any of them had abandoned another browser to use IE 8. As I write, 26 people have responded. Only two of them had dropped something else to run IE 8.

Is anyone out there a “new” IE user? What do you think it would take for Microsoft to get its browser’s market share creeping upwards again?


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12 Comments For This Post

  1. Simon Says:

    The fact that two people did drop something else for IE surely suggests all might not be lost…

  2. JustCallMeBen Says:

    That comparison MS made with Chrome and Fx is just outrageous!

    I mean, what is up with their explanation to consider IE8, Fx3 and Chrome equally good at supporting web-stanrads:
    “Firefox and Chrome have more support for emerging standards like HTML5 and CSS3, but Internet Explorer 8 invested heavily in having world-class, consistent support for the entire CSS2.1 specification.”
    What the eff?
    So they are basically saying they only support old standards and that’s actually a good thing? Give me a break MS, you’re getting pathetic…

  3. Jeevan Says:

    The next time I have to reinstall Windows, once my updates are complete, I will navigate to getfirefox.com with the browser that happens to come installed by default with the OS…

    That’s the 30 second window (once every year or so) that Microsoft has with almost every Windows user. If I found IE 8.1 “radically improved” in those 30 seconds of usage, I would probably give it a try.

    I believe this to be true for a lot of other folks as well.

  4. Dave Barnes Says:

    I am a nerd, but it is not the nerd aspects of a browser that attract me.

    I use Firefox for 3 reasons:
    1. Multilevel bookmarks directory in the side bar. Every day I use those to visit 30+ sites to keep up-to-date on news, technology, entertainment. Safari’s lack of such a directory prevents me from using it.
    2. AdBlock Plus. Could not give it up.
    3. 1Password. Could not give it up. I like Opera, but lack of 1Password will prevent me from using it. I have over 500 login/password combos.

    Support for standards and speed are nice to have features for me.

  5. Matt Nowack Says:


    Couldn’t agree more with you. And even in that window they do a lousy job, their slow runonce.aspx is such a pile of garbage, their ugly old school interface, the abysmal render speed. It all but has me sprinting to getfirefox.com

    Microsoft has been consistently thumbing their nose at standards and it made them into a multi-billion dollar company, so I won’t shed a tear when there sub-standard IE crapware loses out to far superior free and open source software.

  6. Dave Says:

    I switched from IE to phoenix in 2002 and have never looked back. I switched from Firefox to Chrome when it first went to a public release. I like my browser to be fast, light, intuitive, functional, and standards compliant. IE hasn’t been any of those things for a long, long, long time. And it isn’t on the right track to compete with Chrome (now or in the future), either. I’ve written IE off as the next (current) Navigator: obsolete, irrelevant, clunky, and just bad.

  7. Alfiejr Says:

    browser feature preferences are all over the map, but the one thing every user responds to is speed – how fast web pages load, how “snappy” a browser feels doing anything with it. and IE is clearly losing the speed war to all the web kit browsers. there is just no factual debate here, the differences are big enough for anyone to notice and every test to measure. IE’s basic architecture may just be obsolete.

    this means IE will keep losing market share to users willing to experiment with other browsers, because a significant number of them – at least half i would guess – will switch to the faster one. but the improved IE 8 will at least allow MS to hang on to the remaining large number of users and enterprise that never use/try anything but the default system anyway – about 40% of the market i’d imagine. we’ll see …

  8. Neil Anderson Says:

    Even our totally MS tech shop thinks IE is a second-class browser.

  9. Andrew Velis Says:

    I personally find it crazy that any web development with IE support in mind would have to support up to THREE versions of ONE browser. It drives me nuts. The best analogy I can give on IE: would you expect a ten year old car to perform exactly the same as a brand new car? Would the older car have the better features as the newer one? More importantly if you had to pay the same price either one which one would you choose to buy? There is nothing more I want then IE to get its act together or get out of the way.

  10. Andrew Velis Says:

    There is nothing more I want then for IE to get its act together or get out of the way. Since it doesn’t seem to know how to get it together if it’s market-share is dropping then its music to my ears.

  11. Danny Says:

    I switched from IE 7 to IE 8 because some of the websites I was visiting suggested I upgrade, not to mention IE 7’s constant bombardment telling me to get the new and improved…. ya great. Now I was stuck not being able to open up 5 websites properly. Unable to properly use Facebook. Unable to properly use ebay. Unable to access my kid’s marks on the schools secure website and IE 8 would hang in limbo. IE 8’s SLOWNESS in opening up new tabs. Like really, it is suppose to open new tabs faster with less memory than it would take to open a new browser isn’t it?

    Yup so now I’m forced to use FireFox half the time. I’m sitting here wondering why I bother to use 2 browsers at all and not just switch over completely to Firefox, a browser that hasn’t had the security issue MS has been plagued with in their various versions of IE and Windows.

    Maybe I should have gotten a Mac now that I think about it.

  12. l zell Says:

    i use opera, safari,firefox, and ie8. ie8 only when necessary to do a download that requires using it. firefox has the most addons, most of which i don’t use. safari and opera allow me to access and save websites that may be mutually exclusive. both seem to be faster than ie8. i use firefox beta version for web searches. with google frame on top it is incredibly fast. i don’t find it necessary to have 500 passwords. 1 or 2 will suffice for my purposes.

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