Hearing news that Firefox’s market share slipped from 8.71% to 8.07% from June to July while Internet Explorer’s edged up about one percent, a friend emailed me:
Apparently Firefox is losing market share. I think it’s just that everyone who wants it has already gotten it. The general public might try it but the minute they hit a site that doesn’t support it they’ll switch back to IE.
I think he may be right on the first point but not the second. I’ve suggested before that about 10% of Internet users are savvy. By “savvy,” I mean comfortable enough with the web that they’re willing to do things like download and install a program they’ve never used before. I’m surprised at how often people just use the programs as they were when their computers were new. So my friend might be right that Firefox users will always be in the minority, so long as users have to go out of their way to download the program. But on that front times may be a-changing. There’s talk that Mozilla’s recent privatization will lead to Firefox bundling.
But I disagree that incompatible sites will drive users back to IE. For one thing, the trend in web design is towards standards compliance and away from single-browser dependence. A web developer who makes his site usable only with ActiveX uses bad business sense and invites the scorn of the web design community.
Also, bad design and security flaws didn’t drive hordes of people from IE, so why would the reverse happen? My experience has been that people blame a site for bad appearance and functionality before they blame their browser. They just assume that the browser’s doing what it’s supposed to do (or that the big blue “E” is the Internet). That’s another reason why it will take some a long time to switch (just look at how many are using old, security-hole-ridden versions of IE).