- July 24, 2013
These last few years have been rough on the little blue ‘e’ that sits on the desktop of every new Windows computer. How did Internet Explorer lose 37%1 of its user base over the last five years?
Avid Apple advocates will tell you, “people are realizing Apple is better, so they are buying a Mac.” But over the past half-decade, Apple’s lack of support for Internet Explorer only accounts for an increase of around 5% of their market share2. So what has people heeding the collective plea of Web developers everywhere and ditching Internet Explorer?
Fatima Wahab puts Web surfers into two categories: Web surfers who use the default browser that comes with their operating system, and Web surfers who opt for a another browser from the get-go. I would argue that there is a third group of Web surfers that is responsible for the tumble that IE has taken over the past five years. The “my-grandson-installed-it-and-told-me-to-use-it” group of Web surfers.
This third group, unimpaired by their lack of digital knowledge, uses
Internet Explorer not because it’s their choice but because that little blue ‘e’ represents their gateway to the online world. If that icon vanishes, the ensuing panic results in a phone call to the closest person who ‘knows computers’ and pleas to turn the Internet back on. These people are IE’s bread and butter.
I am familiar with these phone calls. I am a person who ‘knows computers’.
But I have found that the great thing about the third group of people is that they will use any browser that a ‘computer guy’ tells them to use. It doesn’t matter how many commercials with an Alex Clare jazz infused dub-step soundtrack they air, Microsoft can’t compete with the grandson telling grandma she should use Chrome. So, over the last five years, Internet Explorer has lost its market share one sweet-old lady at a time.
And the damage to Web developers and IT professionals is done. Just like an obnoxious co-ed wearing five-inch heels on $1 Jagre-bomb night, Internet Explorer is falling down and there is no one around who wants to catch her. The relationship that I, and other developers, have with Internet Explorer is not unlike a crazy ex-girlfriend that you had years ago. You run into her at a coffee shop, and she’s got some work done, she into some cool things like CSS3 support, and maybe she’s seeing a psychiatrist now. You are happy for her and you are glad she is doing well, but you still have to deal with the scars from all the previous years abuse, frustration, and lack of standards support. Plus your seeing this new girl Google now, all your friends like her and she gets along with everybody. Plus she doesn’t have weird quirky behavior that keeps you up at night before a deadline making you wonder if you are being punished for crimes you committed in a previous life.
And so, whenever I get a phone call asking me to help fix a computer problem the first thing I do is install a browser that isn’t Internet Explorer before I turn the computer off and on again.
So corporations, here is your lesson from Microsoft 101: your product can’t survive if the people who are creating content to be consumed by your product are actively advocating against your product.