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by Paul Kiser [Twitter: ] [Facebook] [LinkedIn] [Skype: kiserrotary or 775.624.5679]

Paul Kiser - CEO of 2020 Enterprise Technologies, inc.

Browsers are simply a platform that facilitates our access to webpages on the Internet. They are a vehicle that takes a user to the places they want to go on the Internet. Using the auto analogy, Internet Explorer (IE) would be a utilitarian type of car….a white, 4-cylinder sedan with no air conditioning and an AM radio. That may sound like a biased description, but it is not meant to be derogatory. IE’s browser has served us for 15 years (version 1.0 was launched in 1995) in the capacity it was designed; to get us around on the web with no frills or flash. But many people are no longer satisfied with just getting there. They want more, and IE is losing market share as customers learn to expect more from their browser.

In May 2005, ninety percent of website hits were via Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. It was the 800-pound gorilla of the Internet, but by April 2010, IE users only made up about half of the Internet browser market and one group (w3schools.com) showed IE’s share down to almost one-third. The past two years have seen a major change in the industry with Mozilla Firefox’s browser in a commanding second place and Google’s new Chrome browser successfully gaining market share.

April 2010 Market Share (Ave. of data by Wikipedia)

According to a report by Net Applications, Firefox had 18.3% of the browser market in May 2008, which grew to over 24% (Wikipedia’s average is 28%) by last Fall; however, Firefox’s market share growth has been flat (most survey groups actually indicate market shrinkage) during the last seven months while Google’s Chrome browser (introduced in December 2008) has had a steady half percent growth in market share each month during the same period. It is clear that Google’s new offering is still not on the radar of most browser users, but it seems that it is nearing a Tipping Point that could create a major jump in market share by the end of this year.

May 2008 Browser Market - Data courtesy of Net Applications

Dissatisfiers Driving the Change
Internet Explorer has had the advantage of being the product of Microsoft and as such it was the default browser for most Internet users. Several attempts have been made to usurp IE but none were successful until Firefox managed to gain a foothold in 2004 and started a march to capture almost a quarter of the browser market by late last year. During its growth Firefox exposed the increasing dissatisfaction of IE users with Microsoft’s product.

The most common issue for users has been the slow response of IE browser. As everything else in the world has sped up, Internet Explorer has been slowing down. It can take a minute or more for the IE browser to load up pages. Also, many of the Internet Service Provider (ISP) services like Yahoo have embedded advertising (spam) in prominent places on the page and they don’t allow the user to delete or move the ads. These ISP pages have become the home page for many IE users and they associate the spam with the IE browser even though it is a function of the ISP, not Microsoft.

Google Chrome App Page

Chrome ‘s Speed  and Apps Capturing IE Users

As people become more educated about browser alternatives, IE is likely to lose more market share to newer, flashier options. Google has used Firefox’s success with a new concept of an Internet tool to advance web browsing to a new level. Users are pleasantly surprised with Chrome’s a 15-second response time versus IE’s 30 to 60 second wait. Google’s browser also offers a wide group of applications for an easy build-it-yourself home page that doesn’t include any spam. Firefox also offers apps, but it does not have the ease of drag and drop page construction of Chrome, which makes Google’s browser feel more like an Apple product in the sense that it seems more user-friendly.

That brings up the question of where is Apple in the mix? Apple has attempted to duplicate Microsoft’s model of forcing it’s Safari browser on users of Apple’s iPod/iTunes users. In over three years in the market and despite it being included in every update of iTunes, Safari (not so goody) has failed to make any headway with consumers. Google has managed to leapfrog Apple’s product, which has to be a source of irritation for the company that wants to be the primary thorn in the side of Microsoft.

The rest of 2010 will be important to the three leaders in the browser market. Google is positioned to capture a significant percentage of the Internet users and if they end the year with a market share of 14% or more it is likely that Internet Explorer and Firefox could be in a battle for survival in 2011.

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