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Top web browsers 2019: Firefox flails as user share falls again

Mozilla's Firefox took a user share beating for the second straight month, slipping under 9% for the first time since November 2018.

According to web analytics vendor Net Applications, Firefox's June user share fell seven-tenths of a percentage point to 8.9%. The month's decline was the second-most since Net Applications reset shares - to purge bot traffic from its data - more than a year and a half ago. Firefox's largest one-month decline since then? May's slide of just over seven-tenths of a point.

As Computerworld pointed out a month ago, Firefox has had a very tough time generating share growth over the last two years. Every once in a while, the browser posts a positive number, but those gains are quickly erased. Over the last 14 months, for example, Firefox recorded a share of 10% or more just twice, most recently in April. But then May and June came along and washed Firefox back under the 9% bar.

Firefox's long-term prognosis remains dire. In the past year, the browser shed 1.3 percentage points of user share, a depressing amount for an application that has no fat on its frame. Computerworld's newest forecast has Firefox slipping below 8% by March 2020, then flirting with a sub-7% share near the end of that year.

But Mozilla's browser has been in a slightly deeper hole before, then climbed up if not out of that hole. Three years ago, Firefox sank under 8%. Yet in six months, it had added more than four percentage points to its share total. Firefox largely held those gains for the next year before again heading into a downturn. Maybe Mozilla can pull another rabbit from a hat, perhaps on the back of its anti-tracking initiative, which has garnered attention if not users.

More for Microsoft's Edge

While Mozilla's browser lost user share, Microsoft's found some more.

The combined user share of Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge climbed by three-tenths of a percentage point to 13.3%. But the added share did little to change Microsoft's overall trend, which has been negative for much longer than CEO Satya Nadella has held the company's top spot: IE + Edge lost 3.1 points in the past 12 months.

The user share drop-off came from IE, the legacy browser Microsoft maintains with monthly security updates but won't upgrade with new features. Over the last year, IE's share dropped 4.9 points; meanwhile, Edge added 1.9 percentage points during the same period.

In June, just 8.3% of all Windows users ran IE, a record low for the iconic browser. At its current 12-month average, IE will zero out within two years. That's unlikely - someone will be running the creaky application in July 2021 - but the projection still speaks a truth, that like the rivals Microsoft crushed, IE will eventually go extinct.

Edge's user share of all personal computers grew by seven-tenths of a percentage point in June, ending the month at 6%. The latter was a record high for Windows 10's default browser. Edge accounted for an estimated 13.2% of all Windows 10 browsing activity last month, up 1.5 points from May and that metric's highest point since April 2018.

It was unclear why Edge's user share jumped in June, but it was almost certainly not due to the still-under-construction "full-Chromium" Edge, the revamp that will be powered by the same open-source rendering and JavaScript engines as drive Google's Chrome. Full-Chromium Edge has yet to reach beta status, much less a production-quality stable build, and has been available to Windows 7, Windows 8 or Windows 8.1 for less than two weeks.

Elsewhere in Net Applications' numbers, Chrome stalled for the second time in three months, losing 1.6 percentage points to drop to a still-overwhelming-user-share-lead of 66.3%. June's decline was the third largest for Chrome, beaten only by August 2013's 1.8 points and April 2019's 2.2 points. The whacky up-down-up-down-up rhythm of Chrome's short-term moves thus continues.

Even the April and June losses, however, didn't eliminate the year-long gain by Chrome: Google's browser added 3.5 percentage points in user share over the past 12 months. June did, though, confuse Chrome's future. Where the prior prediction pegged the browser making the 70% mark by October, the latest losses postponed that milestone to July 2020, near the prognosis put forward after April.

Apple's Safari stayed stable in June at 3.3%, its lowest mark since the end of 2008. Safari's smaller share was yet again partly due to the continued shrinking of macOS, which slipped between one- and two-tenths of a point last month. Just like IE, Edge and Firefox, Safari has been damaged by Chrome's growth; Safari's share of all macOS stood at 36.3% in June. Even though that was slightly better than the month prior, it was a shadow of its past. Four years ago, Apple's browser accounted for two thirds of all Mac browser activity.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people use to reach the websites of Net Applications' clients. The firm tallies visitor sessions to quantify browser user activity.