It’s 2004: We never miss an episode of Friends and are desperately trying to figure out just what the heck is happening on Lost. Of course, if we go onto the net to look up whether Detective Mackey on The Shield really has been cast to play The Thing, we are using the Internet Explorer browser. Why? Because of all the millions of people around the world using web browsers, 95% of them use IE to the exclusion of everything else. Flash forward to 2012 and a new milestone has been reached as the combined browser market share of IE has dropped to about half for the first time in a decade. The collapse of the IE share speaks volumes for the sophistication of the modern web user as well as to the stodginess of a Microsoft that seems detached from reality.

Squandered Market Share

The wholesale squandering of this enviable market share has very few precedents, as monopolies don’t usually collapse to also-ran status that quickly. Hit by a double front barrage from Firefox (22.51%) and Chrome (17.62%), IE has become known as the browser for people who run their Windows OS at full defaults because they don’t know any different. Chrome and Firefox have based their growth in market share on their ability to be customized and personalized. Firefox is especially noted for having thousands of add-ons that allow the browser to do anything that anyone could possibly imagine (and many things that are difficult to even imagine). In comparison, IE is increasingly seeming like a one trick pony.

25%+ Using Vintage IEs

Another measure of Internet Explorer being the preferred browser of grannies everywhere is the statistic that more than a quarter of all IEs in use are either version 6 or 7. It may seem hard to believe that with the massive increase in sophistication on the web in the last eleven years there are still millions of people using an IE 6 with an August 2001 release date, but it does speak volumes to the aura of IE as being the entry level browser.

Infinitesimal Mobile Browser Share

With the explosion in mobile browser usage, IE has been sitting on the sidelines with a virtually ridiculous 0.16%. Apple’s Safari owns this market at 62.17% with Opera Mini at 18.65% and the Droid browser close behind at 13.12%. However, not all is bad news in Redmond as IE 10 is on the horizon as part of the eccentric and touch-oriented Windows 8 with the “what the #$%& is that mobile OS doing on my desktop” Metro user interface. IE 10 is the browser that Microsoft is counting on to make some serious inroads into the mobile market, but it doesn’t really seem that they’re going about it the right way.

IE 10 Excels at Pseudo-Pong

It seems as if Microsoft is building into IE 10 an impressive set of performance standards that are of primary interest to animation aficionados alone. In a demo of the new browser, various smooth animations including a game of Pseudo-Pong were shown running on the browser directly. This is impressive in the sense that it wasn’t running any form of Java or Flash and only CSS on HTML5 but still… if in 2012 Microsoft is asking us to get excited about a game of Pong there seems to be a fundamental disconnect. At the cost of sounding like Bill “640K is more memory than anyone will ever need” Gates, most of the web will remain an essentially static version of the printed page for the foreseeable future, so the newly possible swoopy effects will swiftly go the way of the marquee or flashing type of 1990s browser vintage. As it is now, brands are killing their interminable animated intros as visitors rarely sit around to watch them and either hit Skip Intro or just click away.

Browser preference is a very personal issue and IE 10 is going to polarize netizens even further. Only time will tell if IE will attract a whole new generation… drawn by the fervent desire to play Pong.

via Ars Technica