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The browser wars: The decline of Internet Explorer, rise of Chrome

The browser wars may come to a head at the end of 2012, according to a projection by Memeburn.

Using data from reputable analytics company StatCounter, Memeburn analysed the current and future growth rates of the web’s three main web browsers excluding Safari, namely Internet Explorer, Chrome and FireFox.

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StatCounter is a free service and has been in business for more than 10 years, reporting on over 10 billion page loads per month, collected from three million websites. The global statistics service provides many useful stats on browser version, screen resolution, operating system and mobile browser data.

By projecting the current growth of these web browsers into the future, the StatCounter shows that all will have similar market share around about December 2012, with Chrome experiencing a rapid rise, Internet Explorer experiencing a decline and Firefox achieving relatively flat growth.

Since 2004 Internet Explorer has seen a steady decrease in market share, with a marked decline from September 2008 when Google launched its Chrome browser. Firefox has largely maintained market share since 2008, but with only flat growth. (see Graph below)

Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Market Share

By projecting the data above into the future we see a scenario which predicts the steady demise of Internet Explorer as the dominant web browser. The graph below takes data from September 2008 to April 2011 and extrapolates it to December 2012 when Chrome seems set to continue its steady rise to the top of the food chain.

The method above is by no means scientific, and relies on current trends continuing unchanged in a industry that changes on a daily basis. It does however predict some interesting scenarios for a future where Google hopes that most of our computing experience occurs from within the browser environment. It will be a time when all our computing is online and the browser replaces current “offline” operating systems such as Microsoft Windows.

The predicted demise of Internet Explorer will happen if there is no intervention by Microsoft to arrest its declining web browser. From experience — we know this is unlikely to happen, because Microsoft loves a good fight and loves re-inventing itself to take on new competition. Let’s not forget what Internet Explorer did to Netscape in the 1990s.

Perhaps Microsoft will remodel Internet Explorer into a more customer-centric browser, focused on simplicity, speed, and compatibility. Firefox, which has seen only flat growth, may also be set for a boost: The recent release of its fourth browser is a great improvement on the previous sluggish versions, resembling Chrome in many ways.

However, if there is a greater adoption of Google’s hosted solutions via Google Apps and Chrome OS, we could be looking at even more accelerated Chrome growth, meaning Google may win the browser wars. At least for now.

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