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Top web browsers 2020: Firefox sheds share, falls behind Edge

Firefox last month continued a march toward ruin, falling twice its average loss over the past year and losing its place as the world’s second-most-used browser.

According to data posted today by analytics company Net Applications, Firefox’s share in March slumped to 7.2%, down four-tenths of a percentage point. It was the fifth month in the last six in which the browser shed users – and much more importantly – a record low since Firefox climbed out of obscurity to threaten Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (IE) 15 years ago.

This record was the second in a row for Firefox, after February’s debut below the 2016 slump that previously marked the browser’s trough. Two do not a dataset make, but if a legitimate trend develops with, say, another month or two of declines, Mozilla will be, to say the least, in deep trouble.

Notably, Firefox’s fall meant it ceded second place to Microsoft’s Edge. Although Mozilla’s browser had handed second place to Chrome in March 2014 as the latter climbed ahead in the race against the still-dominant IE, Firefox resumed the silver spot in December 2018 when Microsoft’s browser lost it for good.

Computerworld again has had to adjust its forecast based on the latest losses. A month ago, that prediction – based on Firefox’s 12-month average – signaled the browser would fall under 7% in June; now, that mark should be reached in the first few days of May. By year’s end, Firefox’s share could be as low as 5.6%.

Now No. 2, Edge

Microsoft’s browsers – IE and Edge – lost three-tenths of a percentage point in March to end at 13.5%.

But as has been the case recently, the Redmond, Wash. company’s two browsers forged different paths, with Edge rising and IE falling. IE shed half a percentage point last month, plunging to 5.9%, while Edge added two-tenths of a point, climbing to 7.6%, another record high for the five-year-old browser.

Edge’s increase was the fourth consecutive, matching the longest stretch yet of that browser’s gains. In the last two months, Edge has added nearly six-tenths of a percentage point to its total, which represented a growth rate of 8%.

That two-month span was not randomly selected; February and March were the first two complete months after Microsoft released a stable, polished version of the revamped Edge – built atop Chromium code, the same that powers Chrome – on Jan. 15.

Yet the cause of that increase remains unknown. It may be that Microsoft’s decision to clone Chrome is behind the increase, but it is far from certain. More data is needed.

There was a positive-for-Microsoft signal, however. March’s percentage of Windows 10 PCs running Edge – assuming that Edge on Windows 7 and macOS has added little to the total – was 13.2%, tying the record previously set by the browser several times since its introduction. The growth on Windows 10 may be from the beginnings of Microsoft’s automatic swap of old-Edge for new-Edge, even though the firm promised it would not make the latter the default on systems where it wasn’t already set so.

IE’s downturn, meanwhile, was also a positive for anyone rooting for Windows. The browser – in this case IE11, last of its kind – is on what appears to be its deathbed, now under 6% and by all rights should slide under 5% by the end of July. Getting rid of IE – along with its ancient technologies and security vulnerabilities – will be a win for everyone, even if that means shifting legacy labors from that browser to the IE mode inside Edge.

Chrome jumps, again

Chrome leaped 1.2 percentage points last month – the most since September – to reach 68.5%, the highest mark since July, when the browser peaked at a tenth of a point higher.

The increase improved Chrome’s 12-month forecast, putting the browser on a slow river of growth: The prediction now pegs Chrome at around 69% by the end of this year. Computerworld wouldn’t be surprised if that didn’t pan out, however, as the two times Chrome crested 68%, both because of 1.2-point or larger increases, it immediately slumped, albeit not by as much, the month following.

Elsewhere, Apple’s Safari slipped three-tenths of a point to 3.6%, and Opera Software’s Opera remained flat at 1.1%. Safari’s impressive growth of last year, estimates that were flawed because Net Applications counted iPads running iPadOS 13 as macOS devices, was erased from the record when the metrics vendor revised several months of data. By March, Safari had settled into a dead tie with its year-ago number. All the fuss, then, had been for naught.

Net Applications calculates share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm counts visitor sessions to measure browser activity.

Have work-at-home, stay-at-home orders impacted the browser shares?

To answer that question: Who knows at the moment? But the general drift of the browser shares does hint at an affirmative.

The downturn in Firefox’s fate, for example, makes sense, as it’s the least likely of the top three – Chrome, Edge and Firefox – to be favored by IT. Sent home to work with company devices or told after that to download the preferred browser to their personal PCs to, say, access corporate assets, Firefox may have been replaced in many instances, if only temporarily, by Chrome or Edge.

Meanwhile, Chrome, and to a lesser extent Edge, might have received usage boosts based on the same conceit, that commercially-approved browsers – and both those would certainly apply – would benefit from a mass work-at-home order as has happened in large swaths of the U.S. and elsewhere.

An April of continued gains by Chrome and Edge – and a concurrent loss by Firefox – might confirm the theory, since few companies, at least in the U.S. asked employees to work at home all that month. (Microsoft and Google, for example, ordered theirs home in the first week of March.)

If the COVID-19 pandemic did spark a browser usage shift, will that become permanent? Too soon to know.

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This $40 cloud training can help you master AWS, Azure, and more top tools

When innovations are developed, it almost always pays to be among the first with expert knowledge. That’s certainly been the case with cloud technologies so far, where skilled professionals can earn $98k per year. If this is an area of expertise you would like to explore but aren’t yet ready to commit to a lengthy and expensive post-secondary program, we’d recommend first getting your feet wet with The Complete 2020 Cloud Certification Bundle.

This economically priced bundle, valued at $3,800, provides students with a great introduction to cloud technologies. They’ll learn about major players like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, discover the basics of building and deploying cloud-based infrastructures, and find out what makes the technology so advantageous as we move to a web-based world. And students will earn actual certificates upon completion too, so they could even use this training to find entry-level work.

What makes this particular program so enticing is the fact that students are able to direct their own studies. There are no actual classroom sessions to attend, so you won’t have to worry about fitting a tight learning schedule around work. And, you have a full year to complete all twelve courses. Plus there are no textbooks to purchase, making this training route even easier on the pocketbook.

It’s vitally important that information technology professionals keep their training on the cutting edge. But that doesn’t mean you have to put your life on hold and shell out big dollars on time-consuming post-secondary training. Instead, learn the 21st century way with The Complete 2020 Cloud Certification Training Bundle, currently offered to readers for just $39.99.


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Prices are subject to change.


Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Top web browsers 2020: Firefox sinks to share unseen since 2005

Firefox took a significant turn for the worse last month, falling three times its average share loss over the past year and dropping to a level not seen since 2005.

According to data published Sunday by web metrics vendor Net Applications, Firefox’s share in February sank to 7.6%, down six-tenths of a percentage point. It was the eighth month in the last 12 in which Firefox spilled users and the third largest downturn during that stretch.

The last time Firefox recorded a share that low was in September 2005, when it also posted a 7.6% marker. At the time, Firefox was still chipping away at Internet Explorer (IE), Microsoft’s then-keystone of browsers, as it slowly grew to become a legitimate threat to Redmond. IE accounted for an astounding 86.8% of global share in September 2005.

Firefox’s decline erased nearly 7% of the browser’s position at the start of the month. To put that into context, Firefox’s slide was equivalent to Google Chrome’s losing 4.5 percentage points since Feb. 1.

The plummet upended Computerworld‘s forecast, which relied on Firefox’s 12-month average. A month ago, that prediction pointed to a June share of 7.7%. Not only did Firefox lose all that, and more, in just a month but according to the revised forecast, June now looks to be when the browser slips under 7%. By year’s end, Firefox could be as low as 6% unless something clots the bleeding.

The stress of these share losses was recently revealed, as Mozilla posted a revenue-expense imbalance in 2018 and a little later laid off 70 people.

It’s possible things will become even bleaker at Mozilla.

Getting Edgy?

Microsoft’s two browsers – IE and the revamped-with-Chromium-Edge – added two-tenths of a percentage point in February, a slight rebound from the triple-that decline of the month before. IE+Edge ended last month at 13.8%.

The increase, such as it was, came solely from Edge: IE spilled two-tenths of a point, sliding to 6.4% while Edge put four-tenths more on its tally, climbing to 7.4%. That’s as it should be, the old out and the new in.

Edge’s increase put it at a record level, something that’s occurred monthly for the past three quarters. But it’s still impossible to say with certainty that Microsoft’s decision to abandon its own Edge technologies and replace them with those from Chromium has been behind the gradual increase. It is looking increasingly likely, however. February’s percentage of Windows 10 PCs running Edge – assuming that Edge on Windows 7 and macOS contributions has been negligible – was 12.9%, above the 12-month-prior median by a full point.

Meanwhile, IE’s share was at its lowest since September, when it took a temporary dip.

Forecasting Edge’s future will be difficult until it establishes a clearer trend, which may not happen until Windows 10’s growth slows. (Up to Jan. 15, when Chromium Edge officially launched, Microsoft’s newer browser was Windows 10-only; it almost certainly will remain Windows 10-dominant.) Microsoft has promised that it will not make the new Edge the default browser on systems where it wasn’t already so set. That means the company’s plan to replace the original Edge with the Chromium-based Edge shouldn’t artificially boost the browser’s numbers.

Staying Chromey

Chrome added three-tenths of a percentage point last month – the same as in January – to end at 67.3%, its highest mark since October.

The increase left Chrome short of its 2019 peak – 68.6% in July – and improved the 12-month forecast by putting Google’s browser back on a growth road, albeit a very slow road. (The forecast had Chrome staying within 67% through year’s end, even past the midway point of 2021.)

In plainer terms, Chrome will continue to play the browser gorilla. Unless Microsoft pulls some unknown-as-yet rabbit from its Edge hat, Chrome will remain untouched by rivals for the near-to-mid-range future.

Elsewhere, Apple’s Safari slumped four-tenths of a percentage point to 3.9%, while Opera Software’s namesake dropped two-tenths of a point, falling to 1.2%. Safari’s once impressive growth by Net Applications’ account – spurred by mistakenly tallying iPads running iPadOS 13 as macOS devices – was reined in last month when the analytics company revised several months of past data. In February, Safari did stay above the same month’s 2019 level, though (but by just two-tenths of a point).

Net Applications calculates share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers used to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm counts visitor sessions to measure browser activity.

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Top secret | Computerworld

It’s back when 5-inch floppy disks roamed the Earth, and a customer service tech sends a software update to a customer known to be a bit more than a little computer-challenged, says a pilot fish in the know. This involves physically mailing a stack of disks to the customer, along with a note saying to call the tech when she’s ready to install the update.

When the call comes, the tech is prepared to walk her through the installation step by step. After getting the computer booted up and verifying that the user has located disk No. 1, the tech says, “Insert the floppy disk into the disk drive, with the label facing up.”

Customer: “Done.”

Tech: “Type ‘A,’ and press the Enter key.”

Customer: “It says that the drive isn’t ready.”

Tech: “Is the door closed?”

Customer: “Not yet; hold on a sec.” And over the phone, the tech can hear the sounds of an office chair squeaking, footsteps, a thump, then more footsteps. “OK, the door is closed now.”

Tech: “Did you just close your office door?”

Customer: “Yes. That’s what you wanted me to do, isn’t it?”

Tech: “I meant close the little door that holds the floppy disk in the disk drive.”

Customer: “Oh! I thought you were about to have me type something confidential, like a password.” 

In relating the story to the rest of the office later that day, the tech had to admit: “Really, it made perfect sense from her point of view.”

Shut the door, close the blinds and type up your confidential true tales of IT life. Then send them to Sharky at [email protected]. You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.

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Top web browsers 2020: Edge passes IE for the first time, 4-1/2 years after launch

After three months of gains, in January Microsoft’s browsers flipped to the “Decline” setting and shed user share. And for the first time, Microsoft’s newer browser, Edge, posted a larger share than the aged veteran Internet Explorer (IE).

According to data published Saturday by analytics company Net Applications, Microsoft’s January browser share – a combination of Edge and IE – fell by six-tenths of a percentage point to 13.6%. On its own IE dropped almost nine-tenths of a point – that browser’s largest one-month decline since September 2019 – but Edge’s increase of three-tenths of a percentage point nullified some of the older browser’s loss.

For January, IE recorded a user share of 6.6%, while Edge posted 7%. It was the first time since Edge’s mid-2015 debut in its original form that that browser bested IE. (Microsoft relaunched Edge on Jan. 15 as a browser built atop Chromium, the Google-led open-source project whose technologies also power Chrome.)

Although IE might again occasionally edge Edge in user share, the trend will almost certainly be IE’s continued decline. The browser will be supported on Windows 7 for three years and Windows 10 for likely as long, but it’s a dead end kept alive only to keep enterprise customers from revolting. Even Edge’s integrated “IE mode” will eventually be retired.

Meanwhile, Edge’s portion of Windows 10’s browser activity – a measurement Computerworld has touted as a better indicator of the browser’s mettle than user share on all personal computers – ended January at 12.3%, the same number as the month before, hinting that there was little new demand for the revamped Chromium-based Edge on Windows 10, or the other platforms (Windows 7, Windows 8.1, macOS) that it runs on, for that matter.

Edge’s user share performance will be worth watching in 2020, as Microsoft has staked everything on the all-Chromium clone of Chrome, what with IE relegated to a legacy role and the original Edge a complete flop. Going for the new Edge: Microsoft’s reputation in supporting its software in the enterprise, primarily through its management chops. Against it: Chrome’s dominance in corporations, unequal management be damned, and strangely enough, Microsoft’s odd decision to force Chrome in Office 365 environments to default to Bing as its search engine.

If Microsoft perseveres – resistance has mounted, with users and IT administrators denouncing the decision – and weds Chrome to Microsoft Search for Office 365 tenants, it’s annulling one of the most obvious reasons enterprises would adopt Edge.

That just seems odd.

Firefox slumps to share low not seen since 2016

In January, Firefox gave up two-tenths of a percentage point of user share, sliding to 8.1%, the lowest mark since August 2016.

Last month was the eighth straight that Firefox’s user share was lower than 9 percentage points, also a record. (Firefox had a four-month slump in the summer of 2016, but it bounced back, climbing to 13% before it again started the decline that continues.)

Nor is the forecast anything but depressing for Mozilla. That prediction – based, as always, on the 12-month average of changes – now has Firefox slipping under 8% as early as April and falling to 7% by September. Both dates are sooner than the forecast of a month ago because of the January dip.

That’s the last thing Mozilla needs at the moment. It’s 2018 finances showed slightly greater expenditures than income. More recently, the organization admitted it had failed to make its revenue goals, which had included significant subscription moneys, and laid off 70 employees.

Firefox-related subscriptions can’t save Mozilla if Firefox has fewer and fewer users.

Can anything unseat Chrome?

Chrome turned it around – somewhat – in January, adding three-tenths of a point to its user share to end the month at 66.9%. (Ironically, that was the same number Chrome hit in February 2019.)

The small gain put an end to a three-month stretch of losses, a first for Chrome. It also softened the impact of Chrome’s 12-month downturn so that Computerworld‘s forecast now predicts the browser stays about 66% well through this year and all of next. Without considerably more turbulence in Chrome’s share movement, there’s no chance Google loses its top-of-the-heap spot.

Considering the weakness of Firefox, the only viable threat to Chrome has to be Edge, Microsoft’s attempt to supplant the leader with, well, the leader’s step-sister.

Safari’s explosive growth? Yeah, that didn’t happen

And here we thought that Apple’s Safari was making a huge comeback on the Mac. Not so, said Net Applications.

“Due to changes made to the user agent in iPadOS 13, iPads were identified as macOS devices,” the California metrics vendor wrote on its website. “This change propagated progressively from September to December and required an adjustment to the data in that timeframe.”

In other words, by mistakenly tallying iPads running iPadOS 13, which launched in September, as macOS-powered devices, Net Applications overestimated not only the share of macOS but also of anything running on it, like Safari.

In Safari’s case, the differences between the contemporaneous shares and those recently adjusted to remove the iPadOS data were dramatic. In December, for instance, Net Applications had pegged Safari’s user share as 6%.That month’s adjusted share: just 3.8%.

The other months from September on showed similar variance between original and adjusted shares. November’s 5.3% (reported at the time) fell to 3.6% (adjusted by eliminating iPadOS); October’s 4.8% became 3.4%; and September’s 4.4% sunk to 3.4%.

In January, Safari added another five-tenths of a percentage point to climb to 4.2%, meaning that during 2019 Safari grew by less than one-tenth of a point, not the gargantuan-in-comparison 2.3 percentage points Computerworld reported a month ago.

Frankly, the very large gains by Safari should have raised eyebrows and questions. Instead, Computerworld posited that Safari’s growth “demonstrated that Chrome can be vulnerable, at least in some spaces.”

How naive.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people run to reach the websites of Net Applications’ clients. The firm tallies visitor sessions to measure browser activity.

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