Web metrics vendor reports major decline in Microsoft Edge's browser share

But another pair of analytics data sources show Edge holding steady or gaining a bit of ground among Windows 10 users in December

Microsoft's Edge browser is in trouble.

That's the conclusion drawn from data published Friday by a U.S. analytics company, which portrayed a plummeting user share -- a measurement of unique visitors to websites, and one of the few proxies for real-world adoption -- of the browser amongst Windows 10 users last month.

According to Net Applications, Edge's share of the global Windows 10 user base fell to 23% in December, dropping eight percentage points from the month before.

metrics vendors have mixed message Net Applications, StatCounter, Digital Analytics Program

One of three analytics sources report that Microsoft's Edge lost a big chunk of share in December, but the remaining two say the default browser in Windows 10 held steady or gained a small amount of ground.

Although Net Applications had charted the decline of Edge since Windows 10's late-July introduction, December's drop was nearly three times the largest prior single-month contraction.

(Because Edge works only on Windows 10, it's relatively easy to calculate the percentage of Windows 10 users who run the browser. That's not the case with other browsers, including Internet Explorer (IE), Google's Chrome or Mozilla's Firefox, which run on other editions of Windows or on rival operating systems, such as Apple's OS X.)

Another pair of data sources put Edge's situation in a different light, however, showing that the new browser had stayed stable or even gained ground, if only slightly, in December.

Irish metrics vendor StatCounter tapped Edge's worldwide share of Windows 10 for December at 13%, and the U.S.-only share at 18%, the same numbers as for the month before. (StatCounter's figures are dramatically different than Net Applications' in part because it tracks usage share by counting page views tallied for each browser, making its measurements akin to browsing activity, not the fraction of users running a specific browser.)

A third source, the Digital Analytics Program (DAP), depicted Edge's share as improving by a slim margin. DAP pegged Edge's share of Windows 10 for December at 23%, up one point from November. In the four months from September to December, DAP has recorded Edge's share in a tight range from 22% on the low end (November) to 25% on the high (September).

DAP collects and collates visits to more than 4,000 websites on over 400 different domains maintained by U.S. government agencies, including some, like the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), that attract non-U.S. residents. The bulk of the traffic DAP measures, however, is domestic.

(DAP's visits-based methodology is a tweener metric, halfway between visitors and page views in the analytics world: One person visiting a site over two days, for example, who looked at four pages each day, would generate one unique visitor for the month under Net Applications' methodology, two visits for DAP, and eight page views for StatCounter.)

Edge's lackluster adoption flies in the face of concerted efforts by Microsoft to promote the application, including swapping Edge for rival browsers during an upgrade from Windows 7 or Windows 8.1 unless the user intervenes.

Microsoft has been largely silent about Edge's adoption, spending more of its messaging time touting technical and feature improvements -- or in the case of the still-missing support for extensions, announcing the postponement -- than on how its uptake has been going.

Among a list of factoids that Microsoft revealed about Windows 10 on Monday, the Windows group's head marketing executive said that Edge had been used a total of 44.5 billion minutes (about 742 million user-hours) by Windows 10 owners in December. Without context, however -- metrics such as the average time online per month for all Windows 10 users, or a corresponding user-hour data point for non-Edge browsers -- the statistic is meaningless.

Microsoft was able to tally time spent on Edge because Windows 10's compulsory data collection policy, the default setting in the OS, as well as the less-intrusive "Enhanced" option, collects "how frequently or how long you use certain features or apps and which apps you use most often," according to Microsoft.

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