Top web browsers 2018: Firefox sits on slippery slope, Chrome grows even bigger

If past is prologue, Mozilla's Firefox, Microsoft's Edge and Internet Explorer, and Apple's Safari are all in trouble. Analytics vendor Net Applications' data shows all three web browsers slipping in May as Google Chrome continued to grow.

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Mozilla's Firefox landed on a slippery slope last month and may face a slow demise as users desert the browser for Google's Chrome.

According to California-based analytics vendor Net Applications, Firefox lost a quarter of a percentage point of user share in May, ending the month at 9.9%. It was the first time Firefox has fallen below the 10% marker since November 2016.

Net Applications calculates user share by detecting the agent strings of the browsers people use to visit its clients' websites. It then tallies the visitor sessions - which are effectively visits to the site, with multiple sessions possible daily - rather than count only users, as it once did. Net Applications thus measures activity most of all, although differently than rival metrics sources that focus on page views.

Eight years ago, Firefox accounted for more than a quarter of the globe's browser share. That's fallen to less than a tenth. More importantly, the trend for Firefox looks ugly. If the six-month average holds, Firefox will drop below 9% by September, then slide under 8% by January 2019.

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While Mozilla may have access to different data - it should know, for instance, whether the active-user count is up or down - Net Applications' numbers must be tough to swallow. The company has poured time and resources into revamping Firefox, which produced "Quantum" late last year. But the redesign failed to stop the browser's drip-drip-drip of user share.

Other browsers also got bad news in May.

Microsoft's browsers - Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge - shed seven-tenths of a percentage point last month, accounting for 16.1% of all visitor sessions worldwide. The decline erased two consecutive months of gains by IE and Edge. Like Firefox, IE and Edge are on a downward line; the six-month trend forecasts that they will dip below 16% by September.

That number will fall even more as the months tick by, and more enterprises discard Windows 7 for Windows 10. IE has been downgraded to a legacy application - suitable for running older web apps and sites, though with all but maintenance servicing abandoned - and as corporations revamp their apps, the need for it will vanish. And Edge has simply been a flop: In May, only about one in eight Windows 10 users ran the browser, a record low in its three-year history.

Even Apple's Safari took a hit. The default Mac browser lost three-tenths of a percentage point to finish at 3.7%, the lowest number in nearly a year. And Apple's "Chrome Disease" continued to progress, with no cure in sight, as just 41% of Mac users relied on Safari in May. The bulk of the rest had almost certainly deserted Apple for Google and its Chrome browser.

Chrome, in fact, gained an impressive 1.2 percentage points in May, the largest one-month increase since January 2017. The additional user share pushed Chrome to 62.8%, closing in on two of every three desktop and laptop browsers. The last time a browser had such a dominating position was more than eight years ago, when IE accounted for 63.2% of all user share.

If the six-month trend holds true, Chrome should pass the 64% milestone sometime in September, and zip above 65% before New Year's Day.

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