Firefox recovers from near-death experience

And Mac owners continue to desert default browser, Apple's Safari

Mozilla's Firefox backed further from the brink last month, and Mac owners continued to abandon Apple's Safari, new data released today showed.

Also, last month, Microsoft lost another 23 million Internet Explorer and Edge users.

According to analytics vendor Net Applications, Firefox's user share -- an estimate of the proportion of all personal computer users who ran that browser -- climbed eight-tenths of a percentage point last month to finish at 11.9%, its highest mark since December 2015. In the last three months, Firefox has regained 4.2 points, recovering from a near-death experience when in August it recorded a user share of just 7.7%.

Firefox's increases, however puzzling in the face of years-long declines of the open-source browser's user share, were legitimized by three straight months of gains, showing that the recovery was not a short-term counting glitch. However, November's boost was less than half that of September's or October's, signaling that Firefox's rebound has limits.

Safari went in the opposite direction, losing one-tenth of a percentage point to end at 3.6%, the second consecutive sub-4% month. Until October, Safari had kept its head above the 4% water mark for the past six years.

Safari's place as the Mac's preferred browser has also been under attack. The browser's share of all Macs -- Net Applications also estimates global operating system user shares -- slumped to a new low of 54%. Just over half of all Macs owners, in other words, ran the OS's default browser last month.

In the past 12 months, Safari as a percentage of all Macs has declined from 62%, putting OS X and macOS users in the same boat as those running Windows. The latter have abandoned Microsoft's default browsers -- Internet Explorer (IE) and Edge -- in favor of Google's Chrome, the most popular browser on the planet since April. Net Applications' data implied that Mac owners have done the same, with significant numbers dumping Safari for Chrome, or less likely, for Firefox.

Chrome gained eight-tenths of a point in user share during November, putting the browser at 55.8%. Chrome's torrid growth -- in one year, its user share grew by 78% -- has cooled over the past three months, averaging just six-tenths of a percentage point in that stretch. (The three months before that, Chrome gained an average of 2.8 points, or more than four times the more recent period.)

Google's browser was again the biggest beneficiary of Microsoft's plunge in browser relevance.

The combined user share of IE and Edge ended November at 26.9%, a decline of 1.5 percentage points. The month's drop was less dramatic than October's near record, but it was the eighth in a row of 1.5 points or more.

Using Net Applications' data for browser and operating system user share, as well as Microsoft's claim that about 1.5 billion PCs run Windows worldwide, Computerworld calculated that IE lost approximately 23 million users last month. In the last 12 months, more than a third of a billion users have dumped IE.

If declines continue at the rate of the last 12 months, IE and Edge will fall below 25% this month, and under 20% by March 2017.

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