Browser Wars: News From The Front

By April 3, 2012

Saint Michael's Blog

Who’s winning the browser wars?

It might look like Internet Explorer is starting to recover from a downward spiral while Chrome’s meteoric rise is broken, or that quite the reverse is true: Chrome is still buoying to the top while Internet Explorer slowly falls out of favor.

At the end of the day, it depends whose data you’re looking at and the methodology used to collect it.

California-based analytics firm Net Applications, for instance, takes into account the fact that they collect more data on browser use in some countries than in others by weighing local rates by the estimated number of internet users there. That result is far kinder to Internet Explorer, which has a strong foothold, for example, in the populous China.

Not surprisingly, Microsoft praised Net Applications’ methodology in a recent blog post.

Irish analytics firm StatCounter, in contrast, which recently reported that Chrome had momentarily surpassed Internet Explorer in popularity, does not weight browser usage data by nation. According to StatCounter, Chrome is still gaining while Internet Explorer fell nearly a point in March.

StatCounter also counts Chrome’s pre-rendered pages in its usage statistics.

But ComputerWorld’s Gregg Keizer noted that Microsoft has pretty much ignored Internet Explorer 9’s overall performance, which “admittedly has been dismal” until recently, in favor of how many users choose the browser on Windows 7, the company’s most recent consumer operating system. Internet Explorer use fares worse on most other platforms and operating systems.

And that speaks to a wider image problem for Internet Explorer – the perception of the browser as an insecure, poorly-designed product that commands a significant market share only because it’s prepackaged on consumer PCs and the de facto standard in the business world.

Windows 8’s tablet-oriented “Metro” interface will likely mesh with an initiative to portray Internet Explorer as a sexy option. And Microsoft is now courting users of other browsers with an offbeat new marketing campaign titled “The Browser You Loved To Hate”: In a self-effacing advert associated with the campaign, a young man talks with his therapist about his negative feelings toward Internet Explorer.

The company is also hoping some consumers will dabble their toes in Internet Explorer even while sticking primarily with another popular browser, like Firefox or Chrome.

“You don’t need to ditch your current browser, but there are probably a few sites you go to each day like Facebook that you can pin with IE9 and see what you think,” wrote Microsoft’s director of marketing for Internet Explorer Roger Capriotti.

Image: Saint Michael's Blog