Apple's Safari Browser Makes Meaningful Gains In Browser Wars

Apple's Safari Browser is a Dark Horse Winner in Browser Wars
Internet Explorer's remarkable rebound is the most noticeable trend in this months' browser market share statistics, but a more subtle and important change is the growth of Apple's Safari browser.

The two-month rise for Internet Explorer is fairly easy to explain: Microsoft's been advertising, with two commercials airing during primetime on Fox. Those ads started in June, the same month Internet Explorer bounced back over the 60 percent mark. Ads are a band-aid measure, and they don't say anything profound about the browser market itself.

Meanwhile, Safari has grown steadily since November 2009, cracking the 5 percent mark for the first time. With Chrome hitting its first brick wall this month, dropping from 7.24 percent to 7.16 percent, Safari is the only browser to have gained consistently over the last year.

One explanation might be the release of Safari 5.01, which added an extension gallery to compete with, well, all the other top browsers that already offer extensions and add-ons.

Artwork: Chip Taylor
But the answer probably has more to do with the iPhone and mobile Safari. Between June and July, Safari's market share grew 0.24 percent, the biggest increase since June-July 2009, when Apple released the iPhone 3GS. When Apple releases a new iPhone, sales spike and Safari grows, simple as that.

Other browsers have been slow to adapt. Firefox's mobile Fennec browser is in "pre-alpha" on Android, and there is no mobile Chrome (the Android browser uses Chrome's Javascript engine, but is otherwise generic in aesthetics and features). Advertising will only take Internet Explorer so far. If Microsoft really wants the browser market back, it needs Windows Phone 7 to be a smashing success over a long period of time.

In five years, mobile devices may be the most popular way to go online, according to a recent study by Morgan Stanley. Safari's consistent climb is foreshadowing.

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