Microsoft's browsers may have hit rock bottom

Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge browsers may be near the bottom of their unprecedented crash in user share, measurements published Sunday show.

Analytics vendor Net Applications reported that the user share of IE and Edge -- an estimate of the proportion of the world's personal computer owners who ran those browsers -- dropped by seven-tenths of a percentage point in December, falling to a combined 26.2%.

That seven-tenths of a point decline was notable because it was less than half that of the browsers' average monthly reductions over the last 12, six and three months, which were 1.9, 1.8 and 1.5 points, respectively. The slowly-shrinking averages over the three different spans supported the idea that IE and Edge may be reaching rock bottom.

Microsoft's browser collapse has been unparalleled. In 2016, IE and Edge -- Net Applications pours their user share into the same "bucket" -- shed 20.1 points, representing 43% of its December 2015 share. No other browser has bled that much user share that quickly, with the possible exception of Netscape Navigator in the 1990s.

The disintegration was triggered when Microsoft stopped supporting all but the newest browsers -- IE11 and Edge -- in January 2016. Microsoft's early end of support for some versions of IE gave users a choice of upgrading to a newer edition of Internet Explorer, upgrading to Windows 10 and adopting Edge, or dumping IE for a competitor. Millions did the latter.

Using Net Applications' data for browser and operating system user share, as well as Microsoft's claim that about 1.5 billion PCs run Windows worldwide, Computerworld put the debacle in terms of millions of users. At 2016's end, IE and Edge were being run by about 428 million users, down a remarkable 370 million for the year. On the bright side, December’s loss of approximately 15 million users was the smallest in 2016.

The biggest beneficiary of IE + Edge's decline last month was Google's Chrome, which climbed by six-tenths of a percentage point to 56.4%, a record high.

But Mozilla's Firefox was also rewarded in December. By Net Applications' accounting, Firefox boosted its user share by three-tenths of a percentage point to 12.2%, the highest share throughout 2016.

Although Firefox was on a downward spiral of its own earlier in the year, it began a come-back in September. During the year's final four months, Firefox's share rose by 4.5 percentage points, an amazing recovery from what in the summer appeared to be the open-source browser's final death throes.

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