A new year is here, but the Microsoft Internet Explorer team might be wishing they could roll back the hands of time. The latest statistics from data firms StatCounter and Net Applications shows that Internet Explorer is consistently losing market share to rising star Google Chrome

Google Chrome. Winning.

Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) has long dominated the desktop browser market. Bundled with Windows, many users never considered using anything else. However, times are changing. Users have multiple browser options and increasingly they are just saying “no” to IE.

According to global data from Net Applications and StatCounter, IE still owns a significant segment of the market -- 51.87% (Net Applications) and 38.65% (StatCounter) -- as of December 2011. This might seem impressive, but viewing the trend data shows that IE’s leadership position is in peril.

NetApplication Browser Share January 2010 to December 2011

StatCounter Browser Share January 2010 to December 2011

Looking back two additional years using StatCounter data starting in July 2008, the precipitous decline is demonstrated even more clearly.
StatCounter Browser Share 2008 - 2012

You could focus on the wide discrepancy in the market share statistics, because Net Applications and StatCounter use different collection methodologies. However, no matter how you spin the data, IE is clearly on the decline on the desktop.

What’s the reason for this decline? A quick examination of the trend lines shows that relative newcomer Google Chrome is clearly a factor. Its speed and minimalist user interface seems to be creating fans and causing Chrome utilization to grow rapidly. Chrome surpassed Firefox’s global market share recently. If current trends continue, Chrome will move into the number two market position soon. Firebox’s recent 3-year/ US$ 900 million deal with Google probably helps soothe Mozilla’s sting a bit.

What This Means

Browser software is almost universally free. So, why should companies care about how much market share they are able to gain if they are not directly profiting from higher adoption levels? Browsers are a window into the rest of the user’s machine. Users are more likely to consume additional services and software by the vendor if they have a positive experience with the vendor’s browser. It’s the same strategy that allowed Microsoft to dominate the desktop. This is even more important as software increasingly moves away from local installations to the cloud and use the browser as a launch point.

It will be interesting to see if the emergence of Windows 8 Metro impacts Microsoft’s declining browser market position. What’s your preferred browser? We would love to hear your thoughts.