If you used Windows in the 90’s, you probably remember the Browser War between Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape’s Navigator. That war culminated in an antitrust case against Microsoft, in which the plaintiff (the USA) claimed that Microsoft’s bundling of IE with Windows was anti-competitive.
Regardless of whether you believe Microsoft acted fairly, Internet Explorer’s market share increased steadily during the period from 1995 to 2001, getting close to 100% at its high water mark. Microsoft never charged anything for its browser, but controlling the window through which most of the world viewed the web clearly provided a huge advantage to the company.
Now, all that ‘hard won’ market share is being given away by Microsoft, mostly to Google’s Chrome. Internet Explorer’s share plummeted from 40% to 20% in 2016, and there’s no bottom in sight.
Why is this happening?
Microsoft has abandoned Internet Explorer, switching its browser development efforts to Edge, which only runs in Windows 10. Only the most recent versions of IE are still supported, and only on Windows 7, 8.1, and 10. And that support is limited to fixing security issues and other bugs. You won’t see any more new features in IE.
Clearly, Microsoft thought everyone would upgrade to Windows 10, especially given the free upgrade offer, and the company’s aggressive upgrade tactics. But that appears to have backfired; Windows 10’s growth has been less than stellar, and even though Edge is arguably a better browser than IE, Windows 10 users are mostly choosing other browsers.
Microsoft may soon own as little as 5% of the total browser market, thanks to Edge’s lackluster uptake. Edge started 2016 with a market share of about 4%, and ended it with about 5%.
I think this qualifies as a major strategic blunder on the part of Microsoft.
Numbers are courtesy of NetMarketShare.