Why Internet Explorer keeps losing users

Sure, Internet Explorer still has nearly three quarters of the browser business market, but Chrome and Firefox keep nibbling away

Maybe Redmond should hurry up with IE 9, before it loses the rest of its users. According to the latest data from Forrester Research, business market share for Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE6 through IE8) has slipped nearly five percent, while Firefox and Chrome are on the rise.

To keep things in perspective, that's a slip from from 77.2 percent in April 2009 to 72.5 percent in March 2010.IE still has triple the market share of its nearest rival, Firefox, which enjoyed a three-percent bump, from 17 to 20 percent. As for Chrome, Google's PR folks can happily trumpet that Chrome has tripled its share: from 2.3 percent to 6.9 percent. Double digits, here we come.

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The big question, then, is what's fueling the move away from IE and toward competitors. Forrester offers some suggestions -- Firefox's bevy of add-ons, Chrome's speed and features for so-called "tech-savvy, empowered workers," and the security issues that have plagued IE. A survey of InfoWorld's contributing editors also named IE7's and IE8's awkward interface and difficulty opening more than a handful of windows without crashing as reasons that people have moved elsewhere.

It's worth noting that browser market share isn't a zero-sum game, since plenty of people use more than one browser. Still, IE's share is shrinking, and users generally don't jump ship unless they are unhappy.

And failing an incredibly irresistible IE9, it's hard to imagine IE's share recovering. As InfoWorld's Neil McAllister says, "People who start using IE do it because it's there; it's the lazy option. People who do not to use IE are probably not going to go back to IE, because they have already made a choice not to. So unless the total number of people using Windows is growing measurably, IE's market share cannot go up. It can only go down."

But Microsoft can at least feel better than Apple. The former fourth competitor, Apple's Safari, is looking more and more like Mosaic 2: Doomed to get squeezed out by bigger, badder competitors. Its share has fallen from miniscule (1.25 percent) to statistically insignificant (less than one half of one percent). Ouch.

This article, "Why Internet Explorer keeps losing users," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog.

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