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Browser wars: IE vs. Firefox vs. Chrome vs. Safari vs. Opera

Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are battling for the No. 2 position; could No. 1 player Microsoft eventually be unseated?

By , Network World
November 02, 2011 06:09 AM ET

Network World - All eyes are on Google's Chrome browser as it battles Mozilla's Firefox in a tight fight for the No. 2 position behind Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which is holding onto its market-leading share of the desktop browser market.

"In September 2009, Chrome was at 2.35% for worldwide usage. As of September 2011, it's now at 23.61%. There's been a massive increase for Chrome," says Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, a web analytics firm in Ireland.

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StatCounter's monthly statistics for September show IE in the lead with 41.66% of the market, followed by Firefox with 26.79%, Chrome with 23.61%, Safari with 5.6% and Opera with 1.72%.

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Most of the monthly fluctuations in market share revolve around Chrome, which has hit a number of milestones lately. It exceeded 20% of the global Internet browser market in June for the first time, according to StatCounter. On a country basis, it surpassed Firefox and became the No. 2 browser in Ireland in May and in the UK in July. And for one day in October -- Sunday, Oct. 16 -- Chrome overtook Firefox on a global basis by a fraction of a percentage point, snaring 26.22% of the global market to Firefox's 26.16%.

"For one day, on that Sunday, Chrome became the No.2 browser," Cullen says.

Chrome's steady increase since its introduction in 2008 has come at the expense of IE, primarily, and Firefox to a lesser degree. If its trajectory continues, Chrome will surpass Firefox on a global basis in the coming months, industry watchers predict.

"Chrome is gaining on Firefox in usage market share. It's coming on strong. It could certainly overtake Firefox -- it seems to be on that path -- but, that being said, things tend to change rather quickly in this market so you just never know," says Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of marketing and strategic alliances for NetApplications.com.

Chrome's ascent and Firefox's staying power beg the bigger question: Is it possible for either one of them to unseat IE as the leader in browsing usage?

"I personally don't think it is," Vizzaccaro says.

Chrome's success has come from its speed, rapid development cycles and ability to constantly release new features, using beta versions to get people to help work out the kinks.

"Chrome is growing without the benefit of a homegrown hardware system. They're doing it with a rapid development cycle. That's great for personal usage. But corporations have a very slow process for testing, deployment and implementation of a new browser," Vizzaccaro says. "I think IE is entrenched as No. 1 for the foreseeable future."

Indeed, stats from Forrester Research paint a slightly different picture of browser trends, since Forrester's view is centered on corporate usage. The research firm analyzes the browsers of PCs that visit its web site. By its count, IE dominates the corporate browser landscape with 58.7% market share, which is considerably higher than the 41.66% StatCounter credits to IE. In Forrester's rankings, IE is followed by Firefox with 17.8%, Chrome with 14.1%, and Safari with 8.8%.

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