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Internet Explorer Dethroned

Microsoft no longer has the number one browser in Europe, thanks to Google Chrome and EU trust-busters.

Top 10 Microsoft Stories Of 2010
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A year ago, more Europeans used some version of Microsoft Internet Explorer than any other browser. Today, Firefox rules in Europe, according to StatCounter.

Last January, Mozilla's Firefox 3.5 had a larger market share in Europe (29%) than any other single browser version. The runners-up included IE 8 (23%), IE 7 (16%), Firefox 3.0 (8%), IE 6 (6%), Chrome 3.0 (5%), Safari 4 (3%), and Opera 10 (3%). But taken in total, Microsoft had about 45% of the EU browser market compared to Firefox's roughly 40%.

Then in March, 2010, Microsoft began rolling out its Browser Choice Screen to fulfill its commitment to the European Commission, a compromise that ended an EU antitrust case in late 2009.

"For many years, Microsoft has automatically tied its Internet Explorer Web browser to its Windows computer operating system," the European Commission explained. "The Commission was concerned that -- given Microsoft's dominance of the PC operating system market -- this deprives consumers of choice and results in fewer innovative products on the market."

At the end of December 2010, Internet Explorer's share of the EU browser market had fallen to 37.52%. While Firefox is now the most popular browser in Europe, its aggregate market share is lower now than it was last January.

Aodhan Cullen, CEO of StatCounter, attributes Microsoft's change of fortune to the growth of Google Chrome, which has seen its market share in Europe almost triple in the past year. Chrome, in its various versions, accounted for 14.15% of EU browser usage in December 2010.

Culen also blames IE's fall on Microsoft's concessions to the European Commission. "We are probably seeing the impact of the agreement between European Commission competition authorities and Microsoft, to offer EU users a choice and menu of browsers from March last," he said in a statement.

Mozilla appears to be happy with Microsof'ts concessions and with the direction of the browser market. "As a non-profit organization, Mozilla was founded with a mission to drive choice and innovation on the Web," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail. "Today's news reinforces principles that Mozilla has long championed, the importance of respecting user choice and putting users in control of their Web experience."

Microsoft likewise has nothing bad to say about its situation. "We are really pleased with the customer reaction we’ve seen to our newest browser with over 20 million people downloading the IE9 beta making it our fastest adopted browser beta to date," a company spokesperson said in an e-mail. "And around the world we are seeing strong momentum for Internet Explorer 8 which remains the world’s most popular browser."

NetApplications, another firm that tracks browser metrics, sees December's global browser market share breaking down as follows: Internet Explorer (57%), Firefox (23%), Chrome (10%), Safari (6%), Opera (2%), other (2%).

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