Thursday, November 3, 2011

MSFT Browser Share < 50%

CNN informs us that Microsoft's browser Internet Explorer no longer commands more web share than all other browsers combined. At least, not when mobile traffic is included. As of October, the no.2 browser Firefox accounted for 21.20% of the web's traffic, and Google's WebKit-based Chrome reached 16.6%. Although Apple's browser – the WebKit-based Safari – commanded 62.17% of the mobile web traffic, its overall share was 8.72%.

As described by CNN's original source NetMarketShare, desktops (a category that, based on the information on the page, seems to include notebooks) seem to drive most of the web traffic. And in access from desktop hardware, Internet Explorer holds 52.63%. Overall, IE has fallen to 49.6% of web share. With mobile devices' share of web traffic reaching 5.5%, though, and the market for both tablets and smartphones apparently outpacing that of desktops, the commanding share of Safari (on iOS) and Chrome (on Android) in mobile seems likely to further dissipate IE's top-ranked position in browser share with passing quarters.

Why does this matter? Despite the advance of web standards and developments such as Ajax and HTML5, Microsoft technologies still tie enterprise web functionality to its browser so that clients of Microsoft-vended server solutions are required to use Microsoft's browser. This, in turn, requires clients to use a Microsoft operating system. Rejection of the browser is likely to lead to trouble in the marketing department: does MSFT uncouple web apps from its browser and risk desktop migrations, or insist on controlling the browser and risk losing the servers in favor of a solution that is client-neutral? Yes, one can develop client-neutral solutions for delivery from Microsoft platforms, but I have continued to see IE-only web-delivered solutions vended in the enterprise. Movement from MSFT's browser is a movement toward standards, which is good for the quality of software available to users: if competition is on features people care about rather than on corporate linkage with a server solution, users stand a better chance at a higher-quality software product.

But back to the NetMarketShare data: As of October, Apple made 62% of the mobile devices measured on the web and holds 61.5% of the mobile browser share. Google received 91.1% of the mobile search traffic, though providing the operating system for 18.9% of the devices and providing only 18.6% of the browsers. Both Apple and Google have a browser share tightly linked to platform share. By abstracting away the search interface, Siri offers an opportunity to drive iOS search traffic from Google to sources with which Apple has a more favorable relationship. Whether or how Apple will monetize this is something of a mystery, but that's what we've got at the moment.

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