Firefox 4 Dominates IE9 in Market Share, But Does It Matter?

Since its release, Firefox 4 has set an unofficial record for downloads in a day, while Internet Explorer 9 hasn't exactly burned up the wires. As a result, Firefox 4 market share is rocketing, while IE9's is on a gentler growth curve. Sound like bad news for Internet Explorer. But does it really mean anything?

On the second day of Firefox 4's launch, it set an unofficial record for downloads --- a whopping 8.75 million according to Mozilla. Since its release last week on March 22, Firefox 4 has quickly leaped to a 3.7% market share by yesterday.

Internet Explorer, meanwhile, has been on a far gentler growth curve. Computerworld reports that

By comparison, IE9 is off to a much slower start, climbing just six-tenths of a percentage point -- an 80% increase -- and averaging 1.1% during its first six days. Since its launch two weeks ago, however, IE9 has doubled its usage share.

There are several reasons for that. First is that IE9 isn't available for XP, while Firefox 4 is. Considering that XP is the world's most popular operating system, it should come as no surprise that Firefox 4 is beating Internet Explorer 9 in consumer take-up.

There's another reason as well --- Firefox users tend to be more passionate and committed to their browser. They're more likely to be aware of new available versions ... in fact, they're likely to be hungry to get them. That means that they'll be far more likely to upgrade quickly than IE9 users, who will likely take their own sweet time to upgrade...or at least until they get many reminders from Windows that it's time to upgrade.

The upshot? Comparing the first few weeks of downloads of Firefox and IE9 tells you nothing. We don't know yet whether Firefox 4 users are switching from another browser, or just upgrading from Firefox. If they're only upgrading from Firefox, it will have absolutely no effect on browser market share.

As Computerworld's Gregg Keizer reports, the market share of both Firefox and IE have been on a downward trend, with Firefox losing 2.5% market share in the last year, and IE losing 4.8%. Meanwhile Chrome has gained 5.3% and Safari grew 1.9%.

So it's still far too early to tell what the big download numbers mean for Firefox, and the moderate ones for IE. My guess is that overall Chrome will continue to gain market share. As I've blogged about before, Chrome may not be the market leader in the number of people using it, but it's become the design leader.

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