Though its decline has been a long time coming, 2016 was the year that the iconic Internet Explorer (IE) ceased to be the most popular way to browse the web on desktops. Though IE was the most popular desktop browser in the world at this time last year, 2017 has heralded a new king in the form of Google Chrome. The king, it seems, is finally dead.
Chrome’s ascension to the world’s most widely-used browser was reported by Ars Technica, citing numbers from Net Market Share. The same data also shows IE’s fall from grace, which has been helped along by its own creator.
The IE brand was more or less abandoned in 2015 when Microsoft announced it was working on new software, eventually revealed as Microsoft Edge. At the end of 2015, 46 per cent of web users were using IE — then built on 20 years of history — as their favoured desktop browser. But now, even though the software is still working and receives security updates, that number has fallen to 21 per cent.
Yet those fleeing IE have not turned to Edge, which is only available on Windows 10. Microsoft’s new browser started 2016 with 2.8 per cent of web users, finishing at just 5.3 per cent, giving Microsoft around a quarter of the market between its two offerings.
On the other hand, the platform-agnostic Chrome browser increased its share from 32 per cent at this time last year to 56 per cent by the end of 2016, meaning it’s used by a majority of web users on desktop overall.
Longtime underdog Firefox makes up much of the remainder, with 12 per cent of web users favouring it. Safari, which is only available on Macs, sat at less than five per cent in January 2016 but was down to 3.5 per cent by December. This leaves around three per cent of people using smaller browsers like Opera, Vivaldi and Brave.
Chrome’s dominance also crosses over to the mobile and tablet space, where as of December — according to Net Market Share — it was used by more than half of all mobile web users. Safari, the default iPhone browser, followed at just less than 30 per cent.
As well as being available on the most devices, Chrome excels at security and compatibility and has the advantage of being advertised through Google’s various sites and services.
Comparing desktop browser figures to the number of users who have upgraded to Windows 10, Ars Technica calculates that only 22 per cent of Windows 10 users are using Edge, while 32 per cent of those on older versions of Windows have stuck with IE. This suggests that either people generally prefer IE to Edge, or that the kind of people who upgrade to new operating systems when possible are not interested in using a Microsoft browser.