Requiem For IE

I haven’t done it in a long time. But over the years, I’ve posted charts or non-graphical updates on what kinds of browsers and operating systems people use to access TPM. So for instance, way back in January 2010 (amazingly, that’s 6 years ago), our browser breakdown was like this.

Firefox: 39.82%
Internet Explorer 29.10%
Safari 21.83%
Chrome 7.17%

Today it is …

Chrome 39.41%

Safari 28.8%

Safari (in-app) 12.48%

Firefox 10.97%

Internet Explorer 5.32%

Now, this is over a six year period in which a huge amount has changed, not least the smartphone and tablet revolutions. As I’ve noted many times, our audience differs significantly from the general population – mainly in more use of Apple Mac and Apple iOS operating systems. But what really jumps out at me is IE at just 5%.

As a point of perspective, in August 2008 Explorer accounted for 39% of visits to TPM. Now, at one level, this is hardly surprising. Microsoft hasn’t made Explorer for Macs in years – and we have disproportionately high Mac usage. And frankly, IE sucks. Why would you use it? But think back over the 20 year time horizon. The antitrust litigation involving Microsoft was in part about the dominance of the Windows Operating System. But the real focus was how and whether Microsoft would be able to use Windows to lock in the dominance of Internet Explorer. If Explorer had an equally strong monopoly position, Microsoft would all but own the Internet.

Needless to say, it did not work out that way. What was very hard to envision in the late 90s was that two companies would build new platforms or product configurations outside the dominant platform (Windows) which would give them both the platform power and the economic clout to launch competitor browsers. It also helped that like most monopoly products IE was a terrible browser and also had been – with the critical exception of the window of time in the mid/late-90s when it was fighting for market share with Netscape.

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Google built itself on search which was in an embryonic form in the mid to late 90s. Search led to gmail, AdExchange, DFP and a growing network of product/platforms that allowed it to launch Chrome. (Yes, they have the Android operating system. But that accounts for relatively little of Chrome’s market – at least at TPM. Meanwhile, Apple revived Mac/OSX and then built iOS, both of which provided a platform for Safari.

Some would likely say that this is the problem with the antitrust laws. Markets are better at destroying monopolies than the government. But that’s not quite the whole story. If you look at the specifics, DOJ scrutiny of Microsoft in the mid-late 90s did quite a lot to prevent Microsoft from taking a number of actions that would have locked in its dominance much more.

In any case, at least at TPM, barely anyone uses IE anymore.

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