Firefox 4 usage share is twice Internet Explorer 9 in half the time

In the early battle for users, Firefox 4 handedly beats Internet Explorer 9, according to NetApplications. As of March 26, IE 9 usage share was 1.78 percent (in 12 days), according to NetApplications. By comparison, Firefox 4 had 3.64 percent usage share (in just 5 days) -- or twice as much in less than half the time.

Microsoft released Internet Explorer 9 at Midnight ET on March 15, but Net Applications is on Pacific Time, so its measurement of usage share is from the 14th. Mozilla released Firefox on March 22nd. Firefox 4 outpaced Microsoft's browser in first-day downloads. IE9: 2.35 million. Firefox 4: 6 million -- 15.7 million in first 48 hours. Last week, Mozilla also issued the Firefox 4 Mobile Release Candidate for Android and Maemo.

"Downloads aren't a good measurement," Betanews reader Matt Shulman claims. His reasoning: Just because someone downloads the browser doesn't mean he or she uses it "It's like a restaurant giving out free coffee one day and the next day saying they are the most favorite place for people to get coffee since they had a billion people drink coffee on that free day."

Another Betanews reader going by the handle of Torchwood (Hey, don't you love that BBC show?) observes: "I don't think it's entirely surprising that Firefox 4 downloads are greater than Internet Explorer 9 downloads. After all, Firefox 4 still runs on Windows XP, while Internet Explorer 9 doesn't (intentionally by Microsoft, who wants you to upgrade to Windows 7)." Windows XP's install base is still much larger than successor 7.

Maybe usage share is a viable measurement. However, Torchwoood's observation about Windows XP most certainly applies to usage share. Would IE9 have greater usage share if all things were equal? I would answer affirmative.

Internet Explorer and Firefox are the two most popular web browsers as measured by usage share. In February, IE usage share was 56.77 percent down from 66.92 percent two years earlier, according to NetApplications. By comparison, Firefox usage share dipped to 21.74 percent from 23.29 percent two years earlier. Both browsers lost share to Apple's Safari and Google Chrome, but Firefox bled a vein while IE burst an artery. Chrome, which only launched in December 2008, recorded 10.93 percent usage share in February, up from 2.64 percent two years earlier. Safari: 6.36 percent up from 3.15 percent.

It has been a busy month for browsers. Besides Microsoft and Mozilla browsers, Apple released Safari 5.04; Google released Chrome 10 and Chrome 11 beta; and Opera launched an app store, issued Opera 10.11 beta and debuted Opera Mini 6 and Opera Mobile 11.

Because of the amazing number of browser announcements this month, a few weeks ago I asked Betanews readers: "Which browser do you use?" -- and posted some of your responses. Many of you use Firefox as your primary browser.

"Firefox all the way for several years now," Ian Brunton writes in comments. "I rely quite a bit on the extensions, it's reliable, and despite what other people have said on many websites I don't find it slow." He's not alone, but many Betanews readers use more than one browser, with the other browser more likely being Chrome or Internet Explorer.

By the way, in my last post I asked "Is Firefox doomed?" in response to a post where Ed Bott, writing for ZDNET attested: "Why Internet Explorer will survive and Firefox won't." He sees Firefox being crushed by Chrome and Internet Explorer. I don't agree. Do you? Please answer in comments to this post or the other. You can also email joewilcox at gmail dot com.

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