IE 8's Poor Reception Not a Good Sign For Microsoft

internet explorer 8 loses marketshare to Intenet explorer 7
Artwork: Chip Taylor
The honeymoon appears to be over for Internet Explorer 8 -- and it wasn't much of a honeymoon to begin with, either. Just days after the browser's big debut, its market share has fallen a full 28 percent from its peak. Alternative browsers, meanwhile, have held steady ground, losing no significant number of users to Microsoft's new offering.

IE 8 By The Numbers

IE 8 managed to break the 2 percent mark within a day of its release last Thursday, according to tracking data by analytics firm Net Applications. It grew slowly over the weekend, topping out at 2.59 percent of the overall browser market at 3 a.m. (EDT) Sunday. From there, things started heading downhill.

With a steady decline, Internet Explorer 8 dropped down to 1.86 percent of the market by Monday morning. It's bounced up and down a bit since then, but thus far, there's been no sign of a second wave of supporters rushing to make the switch.

Compare that with the release of Firefox 3 last summer: Within just three days of its launch, Mozilla's next-generation browser more than doubled its beta share, jumping up to nearly 19 percent of the market.

"I suppose the kindest description of user reaction to IE 8's first public outing would be 'underwhelming'," says Aodhan Cullen, CEO and founder of online data firm StatCounter.

When it comes to the big picture, it looks like IE 8 was essentially a wash: Most of the new IE users seemed to come from IE 7, data from StatCounter suggests. The previous browser's market share has fallen by 1.54 percent since IE 8's release. Chrome has remained constant, while Safari, Opera, and Firefox have all actually seen slight gains since IE 8's release.

(To be fair, Microsoft could still see a surge in corporate adoption of IE 8 once businesses have a chance to review and approve the product. Still, most of those places will likely be upgrading from past IE versions, so any significant overall change in market share doesn't seem probable from that effect alone.)

Putting It Into Context

The results shouldn't necessarily come as a surprise. Internet Explorer has been losing market share consistently for months now. In February, Microsoft's overall slice of the pie slipped to 67.44 percent, down .11 percent from the previous month.

It's the overall trends, however, that are most striking: From the start of 2008 to the start of 2009, Internet Explorer dropped down nearly 8 percent in its total market share. Other browsers continually climbed, with Firefox growing by 27 percent in the same time period.

In February, I used a simple mathematical analysis to project that IE's days of domination are numbered. Put simply, if these trends continue, Microsoft's stronghold on the browser market will slip away sooner than most may think.

So is the battle effectively over? Maybe. Given that IE 8 was hyped as the company's big leap into outperforming its competitors, and given the dismal results we're seeing so far, one has to wonder what further tricks Microsoft could possibly have up its sleeve.

Connect with JR Raphael on Twitter (@jr_raphael) or via his Web site, jrstart.com.

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