History of the Browser Wars

Recently a client commented “most people use Internet Explorer” which might have been true 10 years ago, but that is a very common misconception these days. This got me to do some research into the latest browser usage figures and a golden idea to look into the history of browsers and how the landscape has changed in time from new operating systems, the mobile explosion, and Google’s introduction into the market. All having a significant effect on the direction of browsers. Lets start with…

What is an Internet Browser?

Definition: An internet browser is the program that you use to access the internet and view web pages on your computer.
Also Known As: Browser, Web Browser

During the boom of personal computers in the mid 90’s, IBM dominated the marketshare and after a deal with Microsoft, included Internet Explorer with every PC. The only other viable option in these initial stages was Netscape Navigator (which would later become Safari) and this would require you to own a Apple McIntosh computer which was being hopelessly crushed by IBM. Of every 100 computer sales 95 would be IBM and 5 Apple.

Internet Explorer would largely dominate the browser wars up until 2003 when a project started by 3 members of the Mozilla Project created a standalone browser called Firefox. This would be in direct competition with Internet Explorer 6. IE6 will arguably go down as one of the worst browsers in history due to its security flaws, and lack of standards. This new browser Firefox was a game charger and created to be all the things IE was not, much more secure, standards compliant & faster browsing, however ridding the Internet of IE6 would not be easy as it was built in to the most successful operating system in history Windows XP.

Over the years Firefox would gradually take market share off IE.

January 2004

Internet Explorer – 84.7%
Firefox – 5.5%

January 2005

Internet Explorer – 74.5%
Firefox – 16.6%

January 2006

Internet Explorer – 66%
Firefox – 25%

January 2007

Internet Explorer – 58.6%
Firefox – 31%

In December of 2008 Firefox was on the verge of becoming the worlds most popular browser, having 44,6% usage compared to IE 46.0% however before they could celebrate a huge game changer had recently entered the market and was about to take over!


In August 2008, Google had decided to enter the Browser wars with its product Google Chrome. With a huge development team, endless pit of resources and money, they were determined to take over. Chrome essentially took what people loved about Firefox (along with some key Firefox developers) and made things even better. Web pages would load even faster! The browser was more secure. Its rapid upgrade schedule left Firefox and IE in it’s wake, often releasing an updated version every couple of months as opposed to years that the competition was providing. Word quickly caught on about this whiz browser and the users came!

January 2009

Internet Explorer – 44.8%
Firefox – 45.5%
Chrome – 3.9%

January 2010

Internet Explorer – 36.2%
Firefox – 46.3%
Chrome – 10.8%

The mainstream introduction of the Android mobile operating system would only help boost the numbers. This would give the user ability to create a Google account of which all your preferences, browser history & favourites could be shared across all your devices. Something no other competitor was offering! Google’s seamless syncing with its other services such as Gmail, YouTube, Google Docs would all help establish its stronghold.

January 2011

Internet Explorer – 26.6%
Firefox – 42.8%
Chrome – 23.8%

January 2012

Internet Explorer – 20.1%
Firefox – 37.1%
Chrome – 35.3%
Safari – 4.3%

January 2013

Internet Explorer – 14.3%
Firefox – 30.2%
Chrome – 48.4%
Safari – 4.2%

So now we get to today, Microsoft have been well and truly crushed and only hold a 11.8% which is rapidly dwindling. Microsoft years ago have accepted their product was inferior and have recently dedicated much resources and development to win back users however the damage may have already been done. Firefox is hanging in there but with each day more people switch over to Google, will their be any stopping them? Only time will tell!


As much as Apple fans may tell you how good and popular their products are, the facts are Safari is a minor player even today when it comes to Browsers. All browser stats are that of Desktop computers only so do not include iPad or iPhone devices. Safari usage has hovered around 3-4% for most of the past decade.

July 2013

Internet Explorer – 11.8%
Firefox – 28.9%
Chrome – 52.8%
Safari – 3.6%

… and the winner is Google Chrome!

*All statistics quoted from: http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp

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