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39% of Windows Users Don’t Use IE

 Billy Hoffman on July 10, 2013. Category: Statistics

With the IE11 getting closer to release with Windows 8.1, I thought it was a good time to look at where IE is now and what that tells us about how people browse the web.


According to NetMarketShare the total market share for Windows among traditional computers (desktops and laptops) is 91%. NetMarketShare also reports that the total market share for all versions of IE is 56.15%. Again, that number is for browsers on traditional (desktop and laptop only) devices.

Putting those numbers together reveals something pretty amazing. Of all the machines that are capable of running IE only 61.7% of them browse the web with IE! In other words, 39% of Windows users are browsing the web with a third party browsers like Chrome or FireFox. (You can arrive at this by directly dividing IE’s market share by Windows’s market share to get the percentage of Windows machines that use IE.)

The fact that 39% of Windows users browse the web with a non-IE browser is immensely important. Think of everything that they had to overcome. All of those computers come with IE already installed, with prominent desktop and quick launch shortcuts to IE, often labeled “Internet.” All of those computers will default to opening hyperlinks sent via email or instant messaging or embedded in a document using IE. And yet, 39% of people will go out, download a third party browser like Chrome or Firefox, and use that instead. 39%!

Clearly IE is failing to provide the experience people want for a growing segment of web users.

The Windows XP Iceberg

Right now, 37.17% of all computers run Windows XP. However, the latest version of IE that Windows XP can run is IE8, released over 4 years ago. If those XP users want a good web browsing experience, they would have already downloaded a third party web browser. Windows XP will be completely unsupported in about 9 months. Undoubtedly, Windows XP’s market share will drop as people are forced to adopt newer operating systems that actually receive critical updates like security patches. Do you really think all those users, 37% of all PCs that are out there, are suddenly not going to want to keep using awesome browsers Chrome or Firefox on their new machines? Especially when newer versions of IE do not make it easy to import your bookmarks and settings from FireFox or Chrome? IE will not see a surge in users as people dump XP over the next 18 months.

What Does This Mean?

The number tell us that 39% of Windows users are so dissatisfied by Internet Explorer that they use a different browser. Why might this be the case? I believe the biggest reason is customer response to the slow development cycle of Internet Explorer as compared to the other browsers.

As I discussed at length in the post IE is the Hare (And That’s a bad thing), Internet Explorer has a 18-24 month release cycle. Every 18-24 months, Microsoft releases a new version of IE with support for new features, standards, and APIs. This is the only time new features are added. In between these major releases, the only updates IE gets are security patches as part of Microsoft’s regular monthly patches. While this seems to be accelerating with IE11 there was still a 19 month gap between IE9 and IE10. In the 18-24 months that IE is stagnant, FireFox and Chrome release 8 or more new versions all with new features and standards support.

Let’s use SPDY as an example. You would think Microsoft and its large market share of installed browsers and web servers with IE and IIS would be best positioned to launch a new HTTP replacement protocol. And yet Google, with its smaller browser share and no web server software succeeded. Not only did they create the protocol, they got major websites like WordPress.com, Facebook, and Twitter to adopt it in a little over 3 years. Firefox and Opera even support it. SPDY is now the basis of HTTP/2.0 development work. Meanwhile IE won’t get SPDY support until IE11 ships sometime this year.

The sad thing here is IE10 is a reasonably good browser. The current IE team has shown they can create some amazing technology. The problem is the release schedule they follow to get that technology into the hands of users is simply ridiculous and unsustainable. Will I really care about IE11’s features when I already have 80% of them today with Chrome? Or when I’ll have 100% feature parity in Chrome within months of IE11’s release? Or when I’m getting continual improvements and awesome new features with Chrome in the year-long lull between IE11 and IE12?

I think not. And that’s a shame.

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