A little over twenty years ago, US Attorney General Janet Reno stated Microsoft had “used its monopoly power to develop a choke hold on the browser software needed to access the internet.” Although Microsoft would lose DoJ vs. Microsoft, Microsoft survived. The root cause of this near disaster? Microsoft’s attempt to kill off Netscape, Internet Explorer’s web browser rival. That was then. This is now. This week Microsoft announced it was abandoning its inhouse, proprietary web browser: Edge.
Underlining that today’s Microsoft is not Gates and Ballmer’s Microsoft, Microsoft is replacing Edge’s EdgeHTML rendering engine with open-source Chromium. You know, Edge’s arch-rival Chrome’s engine.
For years, we looked closely as first one browser and then another challenged Internet Explorer for desktop web browser domination in the browser wars. Then, in 2012, Chrome, briefly, came out on top. Microsoft’s days of dominance were ending. By 2016, Microsoft’s time as number one had ended.
Edge? It was never a contender. The best web browser use numbers come from the the US federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP). According to its running tally of 2.89 billion government website visitors over the past 90 days, Edge had a mere 4.4 percent of the web browser market.
Today’s king of the web browser hill is Chrome with 46.5 percent. It’s followed by Safari, thanks to iPhones, with 29.3 percent; then Internet Explorer (IE) with 10.2 percent; and Firefox with 4.5 percent. Even with Windows 10 having 25 percent of the operating system market by DAP’s count, only a handful of users used Edge.
The web browser wars are over. The Microsoft of the 1990s has lost. The winner is the open-source friendly Google of the 2010s.
Another loser is Mozilla Firefox. Ever since Firefox first appeared as the plucky challenger to Internet Explorer’s total domination, it has been a major web browser player. But its days may be numbered as well. Even though Firefox has cuts its bloat and become a reasonably fast browser, its user numbers keep declining. In 2016, DAP showed Firefox with 8.2 percent of users.
Looking ahead, Chromium isn’t the only winner. Open-source has won too. As I’ve said many times before, Microsoft has finally recognized that open-source is the way to develop software.