The end of IE; the rise of Chrome

By Razib Khan | April 19, 2012 6:24 am

A comment below prompted me to recheck the browser stats on the web. People are now starting to give Google crap for not having really hit the jackpot on anything since Gmail, especially after the flubs with Google Wave and Buzz, and the mixed reviews at best for Google+. But it looks like Chrome may actually reach a plural majority this year. Back in the day (i.e., 1990s) control of the majority browser share was actually a big deal. My earlier hunch that eventually Chrome will start eating into IE’s user base more than Firefox’s seems to be panning out.

He’s a similar chart from the w3schools website (because it’s a tech oriented site IE automatically suffers a penalty, but the overall trends are similar):

MORE ABOUT: Browsers
  • simplicio

    “People are now starting to give Google crap for not having really hit the jackpot on anything since Gmail”

    Android is a Google product, isn’t it?

  • Razib Khan

    #1, android is cool (i have an android phone). but Gmail destroyed Yahoo and Hotmail’s brand. android is just competitive with iOS.

  • candid_observer

    Well, I’m no Apple fanatic by any means, but what’s striking about Android is just how much of a complete ripoff it is of the iPhone interface. Apple invested large monies in the innovation which is the iPhone, and all Google has had to do is copy it as fast as apes can, and with virtually no investment. Of course, they can then offer it for “free” –unlike the iPhone OS — because what have they put on the table to bring it about in the first place?

    And so it is with both GMail and Chrome. 98% of it is pure copy of preexisting ideas and software developed elsewhere. They add an additional 2% of bells and whistles that consumers take a little shine to, and they can gradually take over the market.

    But where’s the real groundbreaking innovation coming out of Google? Very hard to find, for all their vast wealth. And why should they innovate, when copying gets and keeps them rich as kings?

    Google is really the Microsoft of the Internet.

  • Razib Khan

    #3, people say the same stuff about apple having copied xerox parc. here is the issue: people switched to gmail and chrome. they often don’t switch back. that’s the key test. android is competitive, but people don’t switch to android and stay forever. i have thought about moving to iphone several times. main reason i do not is free tethering. wave and buzz are forgettable, and at least as a social pure play g+ is marginal.

  • Amos Zeeberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Interesting. I just checked the stats for Discover visitors, and Chrome passed Firefox for the first time *yesterday*. Based on how they’re trending, Chrome’s share will continue to increase for the foreseeable future, though #1 and 2 slots might bounce back and forth for a bit due to noise. Firefox’s reign on our site began back in February 2008.

    Wednesday, Apr 18:
    1. Chrome 27.51%
    2. Firefox 26.83%
    3. Internet Explorer 18.32%

    Tuesday, Apr 17:
    1. Firefox 27.42%
    2. Chrome 27.32%
    3. Internet Explorer 16.11%

    March 2012:
    1. Firefox 27.81%
    2. Chrome 26.67%
    3. Internet Explorer 17.77%

    September 2011
    1. Firefox 33.14%
    2. Chrome 25.00%
    3. Internet Explorer 18.27%

    March 2011
    1. Firefox 37.60%
    2. Chrome 21.68%
    3. Internet Explorer 18.43%

    September 2010
    1. Firefox 41.94%
    2. Internet Explorer 24.42%
    3. Chrome 16.59%

    September 2009
    1. Firefox 53.32%
    2. Internet Explorer 27.63%
    3. Safari 10.22%
    4. Chrome 5.41%

    October 2008
    1. Firefox 51.73%
    2. Internet Explorer 35.19%
    3. Safari 7.39%
    4. Chrome 2.69%

    February 2008
    1. Firefox 47.98%
    2. Internet Explorer 41.83%
    3. Safari 6.31%

    January 2008
    1. Internet Explorer 45.64%
    2. Firefox 44.26%
    3. Safari 6.26%

    [There’s probably some way to get Google Analytics to spit this data out as graphs, but I don’t know how to do it.]

  • KKaiser

    We (my husband and I) started using chrome when we purchased tablets (eee Shell PC) to communicate via Skype. I read that chrome was a more efficient browser for the Atom processor. Have loved it ever since, only ran into one or two instances where IE had to be used.

  • Yacko

    The decline of Firefox too. It’s a sad situation.

  • candid_observer


    It’s certainly true that Apple copied Xerox Parc (while adding some very relevant innovations, certainly in implementation to render it a consumer product). But my strong recollection is that Apple at least licensed the technology (or at least some portion of it). Android, though, is a typical Open Source ripoff of ideas innovated elsewhere. (“Information is Free!! That means I can steal your ideas!!”)

    And while it’s true that people have to choose to stick with Gmail or Chrome, that choice to stay can be based on the most trivial of perceived advantages. Again, the lion’s share of the true, groundbreaking innovation went on elsewhere, and usually goes without recompense.

    This is not exactly any way to run an economy pitched towards innovation.

  • Cathy

    The main reason I use Chrome over IE is because Chrome opens faster, opens pages faster, opens tabs faster, and generally just feels more responsive. I don’t want to have to wait 2-3 seconds for the browser to open a new tab; I want it to open right away. Chrome opens a new tab and loads the home page in under one second.

    That’s the main reason I switched to the Google home page as well. MSN, Yahoo!, and all those other guys literally take upwards of 10 seconds to open up all their bling and their ads. That was acceptable in dialup days, but not when you’re running on a modern 6 mbps download. Google’s austere main page means it loads in about one second. On Chrome, the new tab opens in one second, and then loads fully in about three seconds. opens in about six seconds. In IE8, it takes 3 seconds to load the new tab, another 6 seconds to load, and a full 8 seconds to fully load MSN.

    That’s something I hate about a lot of tablets as well. I want a computer to respond to me with such a small delay that it feels like no delay at all.

  • Matt

    Feel free not to publish this as it has nothing to do with the blog post, but I noticed you have an article on Kenyan distance running on top of your pinboard. I actually had just come from a blog which debunked some of the more dramatic statements and statistics associated with the article, and I thought that might be of interest to you.

  • Maju

    My readers are more conservative than yours: I get (approx figures visually taken from pie chart):

    All time (last year and half): Firefox 40%, IE 35%, Chrome 15% (most of the rest is Safari)

    Last month: Firefox: 40%, IE: 30%, Chrome 20% (most of the rest is Safari but slightly more mobile)

    So I do see a similar trend but is much less marked than among your readers. Chrome is still far from Firefox’ popularity and has yet to overtake Internet Explorer. Mobile visits are still way too few. (‘For what they were…’ has >15,000 pageviews/month – for the record – 1/3 of them from the USA).

  • James

    I agree with Cathy. The main reason I use Chrome is because it’s faster, to do just about everything. Another thing that gets my goat is sites that load up all the adverts first, and then the main text of the site. Wrong way round guys!
    And, if you put the main text up first, leave holes for the adverts, so they don’t shunt the text all over the screen when they load making the text unreadable.
    I know it’s a radical concept, but the whole idea is to make the web page easy to read.

  • ST

    @candid_observer: Innovative interface? You are kidding right. GUIs have been the same for the last 20 years and Apple certainly wasn’t the first to combine it with a touchscreen. Mind enlightening me what Apple really innovated aside from hardware “packaging”?

  • Chris T

    I’ve used Firefox for years and haven’t seen a sufficient reason to learn a new browser.

  • Amit

    I saw an tv ad for IE yesterday and laughed. I haven’t used IE in 9 years

  • Anthony

    Candid_observer – the iPhone is an obvious ripoff of the Palm interface, with only minor improvements made to it.

    It’s also funny to hear an Apple fanboi trashing open-source, considering that OS X is based on BSD and Mach – both effectively open-source, that iTunes relies on the Gracenote database which was originally an open-source project, and that Apple’s Safari browser is a fork of KHTML, an open-source browser.

  • Karl Zimmerman

    I’m in the process of migrating from Firefox to Chrome. Sadly I’ve found if you use other Google tools (docs, maps, etc) they are now very clunky in browsers besides Chrome So I switch back and forth between the two, but I presume in another six months I’ll have made the transition.

  • candid_observer


    Well, yours is a pretty typical response — at least typical of those who get behind Open Source, though I’ll admit I don’t know that that is where you are coming from.

    Look, what are we to believe here, according to your account? That there’s been no innovation on the mobile phone interface, or in GUIs in general, in the last twenty years? That, despite the fact that just about everybody talks about the innovations coming out of Silicon Valley, and the tremendous inventiveness of those who work there, it’s all a scam, and all that’s really going on is that everyone is just copying ideas that have been around forever, and pretending that they’re innovative?

    You’re right that certain BASIC aspects of the iPhone interface have been around for a long time. But there are such things as IMPROVEMENTS on those basics that can, indeed, prove to be the absolutely crucial innovations to the success of the technology. Somehow, the iPhone managed to make smartphone technology accessible and successful in a way that no previous entrants to the field managed to do, including, for example, Symbian and Windows Mobile. Perhaps it was the way in which the apps were presented; perhaps it was the ability to scroll or expand images that one finds on the iPhone; perhaps it was any number of things in the iPhone, or the combination of them all that made for the breakthrough market; but it was something. I don’t think anyone objective has seriously argued that the iPhone really did NOTHING original.

    The point is, there was certainly SOME important level of innovation represented by the iPhone. And the problem is with Android, and more generally with Open Source just about anything, that there’s nothing even remotely resembling that level of innovation. It is, instead, absolutely shameless copying, and almost nothing but. The concept of “innovation” in Android and Open Source more generally is something like, “Oh, look at how I reduced this code to a macro!! Did you ever see such a thing??”

  • candid_observer


    You may be sure that I am no Apple fanboi. I think in general that the contributions of Apple are far overrated, nor do I deny that Apple has itself borrowed heavily from other sources.

    But here’s the point: it also ADDED something very important to the iPhone interface that wasn’t there before. What it added was, by all evidence, absolutely crucial to the breakthrough success of the entire market of smartphones.

    That level of innovation is PRECISELY what Android lacks, and open source more generally. They are both, nearly without exception, shameless copying of pre-existing ideas.

  • ST

    @candid_observer: Thanks for spinning around what I said. Here is what you said “Apple invested large monies in the innovation which is the iPhone,”…but can you explain what they actually innovated? Nope. Apparently the iPhone is simply MAGIC. Classifying my response as “typical” also indicates you spend a LOT of time touting Apple. But heck no, you aren’t a fanboi at all.

  • juan

    I find it stunning how slow IE can be. I switched from IE to Firefox years ago because IE was so slow. I switched from Firefox to Chrome because Firefox kept suffering memory leaks and crashing.

    I actually use both Firefox and Chrome these days — often using one browser to consume some media, while using the other for reading.

    And I’m consistently underwhelmed by the “innovation” that comes out of Apple. Apple does world class marketing and pays attention to that last .1% of detail which makes a big difference. I’m more willing to deal with kludgy tech products though (I’m running Linux) and don’t see much fundamental innovation coming out of Apple. They wait for tech to mature and put a wonderful polish on it.

    I had a smartphone that did everything the iPhone did long before the iPhone. But it was a bit of a pain and a bit kludgy and most people wouldn’t want to deal with the hassle. Apple has provided a very valuable service for most people. I just see disappointingly little fundamental innovaton. Their products are generally just nicer versions of stuff that already exists.

  • candid_observer


    Look, I did mention at least some of the characteristics of the iPhone that were largely new, or at least so organized that they made its use very accessible.

    The iPhone certainly made great use, as never before, of the touchscreen in order to use a large GUI on a mobile device. It scrolled and expanded the GUI in a way, by using one’s fingers, that allowed people to think about and use the relatively small geometry of a mobile phone so that they could effectively expand the conceptual windows in which that device’s applications were displayed. This went well beyond the mere use of a touchscreen; it employed a touchscreen to overcome the most significant deterrent to the use of smart phones: their extremely cramped space. Because, unlike virtually all other smartphones at the time, no space was required for physical buttons, the GUI itself also became distinctly larger.

    I think it’s pretty fair to say that Apple understood with great clarity exactly what the deepest problem to overcome was with smartphones, and put together the best possible elements to solve that precise problem.

    Now no doubt certain aspects of this might have been attempted before. But I don’t know of any credible case in which all of the elements were put together in such a way that the GUI was able to overcome the well known limitation of smartphones.

    I should think that it might be obvious that Apple must have gotten SOMETHING important right in the iPhone that, say, Palm never got right, because why would the iPhone take off as it did, and create this explosive market, when Palm had had so much time, and natural advantage, to do so if it possibly could?

    And I continue to ask: what has the Android introduced that anybody cares about, or ANY open source venture, that might compare to the iPhone?

    Imitation is the most sincere form of Open Source. In fact, it’s the ONLY form.

  • DK

    Sadly I’ve found if you use other Google tools (docs, maps, etc) they are now very clunky in browsers besides Chrome

    True. And I am sure that Google does this intentionally. Everyone used to hate Microsoft for this sort of thing but the Google gets a pass for any crap it does. I am not going to use Chrome for the same reason that I never used IE.

  • ST

    Wow you are annoying. Here is what you said above:
    “And so it is with both GMail and Chrome. 98% of it is pure copy of preexisting ideas and software developed elsewhere. They add an additional 2% of bells and whistles that consumers take a little shine to, and they can gradually take over the market.”

    Sounds to me like you are now saying Apple’s SOMETHING right amounts to about 2%.

  • TGGP

    I switched from Firefox to Chrome quite recently and I’ve noticed Chrome seems to time out on pages much more frequently.

  • candid_observer


    What on earth are you even arguing?

    Look, there’s a HUGE difference between adding the essential innovations THAT MAKE A MARKET EXPLODE and adding trivial little bells and whistles that ever so slightly make one device or application more desirable than another, but are enough to allow a new entrant into a an ALREADY ESTABLISHED MARKET gradually to take over that market. What Apple did in the iPhone was clearly the first case; what Android does, is, at most (and probably not even), the second case.

    If you can’t see the difference between the two, what do you really have to add to the discussion?

    In the end, your overall argument collapses into absurdity. You seem to think that because the touchscreen existed before the iPhone, for example, that Apple could not have innovated in its application to the iPhone. But if you want to be that reductionistic, why not conclude that there’s no innovation at all in Silicon Valley, despite the belief in virtually everyone that it’s rife with innovation? Virtually everything has an identifiable precursor — does that mean innovation never happens?

    I will, though, tell you one place innovation NEVER seems to occur: in Open Source.

  • Razib Khan

    looks like i’ve updated up the monster from the deep, the /. thread :-)

  • Tom Bri

    I’ve been using gmail for quite a few years now, since shortly after they introduced it. I loved it then because it was so much better than what I had before. Now, I am feeling more like it just sucks. Takes forever to load the page, constantly changing look on the page so I don’t just ‘know’ where everything is. I am looking for a superior alternative. Preferably one that isn’t threatening to track my every click.
    Maybe I am getting paranoid, but I have stopped using Google to search, and I certainly won’t be going to Chrome. Google just rubs me the wrong way.

  • Djami

    Back in 2008, I had been eager to try out Chrome right after it was announced. But although it was supposed to be leaner and faster than other browsers, it seemed to be clunky in comparison to Firefox (at least with Windows XP). I uninstalled it shortly after.

    Now I am thinking that I should give it another spin.

  • Sandgroper

    “Wow you are annoying” LOL! Most people are :)

  • Naughtius Maximus

    In the Game of Chrome, you win or you die!

  • Anthony

    Web pages in general are getting clunkier as they stuff more and more ads and tracking javascripts into the headers and ahead of the actual content people are looking for. Switching browsers won’t affect that much, except for ad blocking.

  • AndrewV


    Firefox has add-ons such as Ghostery, Noscript, ShareMeNot etc. to help with that sort of thing.

    I also run three different browsers concurrently (Firefox, Chrome, Opera) depending on what I need to do.

    But then the OS I use most often is Linux (around 80% of the time), followed by Win7, and OS/X 10.6.8 for very specific applications.

    I almost never use Windows for anything important, and almost NEVER use IE (too much risk).

  • Ben

    Firefox is much, much better than Chrome at handling dozens of tabs. Some guy tested it on a fairly high-end machine, and it’s been my experience on the low-end machines I typically use, so Firefox for me.


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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at


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