Browser wars are getting more dramatic. For the first time ever, Mozilla Firefox (news, site) overtakes Internet Explorer. For now the dominance of Firefox is only in Europe but is this the beginning of the end for Internet Explorer (news, site)?

Recent data from StatCounter showed that Europeans love Firefox a lot. In fact, Firefox is the most popular browser right now in Europe. It might be a tiny difference -- i.e. 38.11% for Firefox versus 37.5% for Internet Explorer but this could be the turning point in the browser wars. Or as StatCounter puts it,

Internet Explorer loses crown in major market for first time”


Annual Stats (Dec 09 - Dec 10) for Major Browsers, Source: StatCounter

It is still early to tell if the trend will continue but it certainly looks like Internet Explorer is losing ground in Europe.

Firefox Benefits from the Popularity of Chrome

In addition to the indisputable advantages of Firefox, the secret to its first place in Europe is hidden elsewhere -- in the popularity of Chrome (news, site). Yes, it sounds peculiar that Firefox can benefit from the popularity of a competitor but the rising percentages of Chrome are the main reason IE has been dethroned.

To put it simply, in the last year, Chrome has increased its share almost 3 times (from 5.06% in December 2009 to 14.58% in December 2010), while the results for Firefox are with almost no change over the same period. This jump is mainly due to Chrome stealing users from Internet Explorer. It is this chunk that Chrome bit from IE that has placed the former winner behind its direct competitor -- Firefox. Chrome might not be ready for business yet but it certainly is ready to fight with the Big Ones.

Another reason some analysts see for the dethroning of Firefox is that European regulations made Microsoft give users more freedom as far as browsers are concerned. As a result, millions of users picked an alternative browser (mostly Chrome). The data for the US, where there are no such regulations to break the monopoly of IE, show that IE has an overwhelming majority there (48.92% for IE, 26.7% for Firefox, 12.82% for Chrome and 10.16% for Safari).

The Implications of Firefox Dethroning Internet Explorer

I guess that many web designers and web developers say “Oh, no!” because they are used to optimizing their sites in Internet Explorer only and the fact that Mozilla Firefox is becoming so popular is hardly their dream come true. Anyway, web development and design best practices postulate that a site must be optimized for all major browsers, so there are no excuses to stick to Internet Explorer only, even if it is the most popular browser.

It will be interesting to see how the story develops -- i.e. will Internet Explorer regain Europe or not. Let's see how browser wars go on when the next versions of the major browsers get into prime time. There are also new contenders -- the RockMelt browser and its presence might make browser wars even more dramatic.