Chrome, Firefox Have Little Chance of Ever Catching Internet Explorer

Staunch Chrome and Firefox users aren't going to like this statement, but Internet Explorer has won the browser war, or so it seems. It wasn't always a foregone conclusion that IE would win. After the demise of Netscape, Firefox emerged as the first legitimate threat to IE's throne, and then Chrome came along and started gaining market share as if destined to finish the job. Now nearly five years later (from Chrome's debut), browser shares seemed to have plateaued.

According to tracking information provided by NetMarketShare, IE commands a 55.83 percent share of the browser market, followed by Firefox at 20.21 percent and Chrome at 16.45 percent. If we dig deeper, we see that the end of March marks the seventh consecutive month of growth for IE. Back in August, IE held a 53.6 percent share, versus Firefox and Chrome at 20.05 percent and 19.13 percent, respectively. So in the past seven months, IE has increased its lead over the combined shares of Firefox and Chrome from nearly 14 percent to just over 19 percent.

If we go back a full year, IE's share is up exactly 2 percent, versus Firefox dropping a third of a percentage point and Chrome down more than 2 percent. Yes, IE's share is well below where it was when Chrome first debuted, but there isn't much moving and shaking going on anymore, and what little movement there is appears to favor IE.

Why does any of this matter? There are two reasons, starting with search revenue. Browsers are free on the consumer side, but from a business perspective, search engine providers like Google pay big money to be featured as the default search engine in browsers. To wit, Mozilla in late 2011 inked a new search agreement with Google worth around $300 million annually, plus it receives royalties from other search providers. In 2011, royalty payments accounted for 99 percent of Mozilla's income, so you can see why market share is so important to these companies.

HotHarware on IE

The other reason has to do with web standards. IE has done a much better job adhering to web standards in recent years, but it wasn't always that way. Back when IE commanded around three-fourths of the browser market, it made sense for web developers to code their pages with IE in mind, standards be damned. In a sense, the web was largely 'broken' back then, though with the big push for HTML5 coding combined with a somewhat more level playing field, this isn't a huge concern anymore.

Which browser are you running these days?