Another month rolls round, bringing with it another bunch of browser market share statistics. July was the first full month during which Firefox 5 was available, so it was the first indication of how well Mozilla's new Rapid Release schedule would play in the market.
First the overall market share numbers. Internet Explorer is down 0.87 points to 52.81 percent. Firefox is down 0.19 points, to 21.48 percent. Chrome and Safari both made gains, of 0.34 and 0.57 points each, to 13.45 and 8.05 percent respectively. Finally, Opera fell slightly, by 0.08 points to 1.65 percent.
At this rate, Internet Explorer is going to lose its majority position by the end of the year. It will still be the most-used browser, by quite a margin, but its days of dominating the Web are by now a distant memory. Firefox's market share fell slightly, but so far, at least, there's no sign of any substantial abandonment of the browser. Enterprise markets may indeed dislike Mozilla's update policy—though we argue that they shouldn't—but that doesn't appear to have made much difference to the number of users the browser enjoys.
Microsoft and Mozilla's losses appear to be Google and Apple's gains. Both WebKit browsers picked up new users during July. Google continues to widely advertise Chrome, and its browser has won significant mind-share among technical types—a factor no doubt proving influential. Safari was updated in July, a consequence of the release of Mac OS X Lion, and it has likely picked up some share from people giving the new version another chance. Opera's losses this month were not as severe as those experienced last month, but the browser has nonetheless suffered a significant drop over the last three months.
The version breakdown follows the familiar trends of the last few months. Internet Explorer 6, 7, and 8 dropped, by 0.94, 0.29, and 0.77 points respectively, while Internet Explorer 9 gained 1.14 points. Firefox users appear to be transitioning smoothly from version 4 to version 5; the older version lost 8.06 points, its successor gained 8.34. The older versions of that browser both fell, with 3.5 falling by 0.44 points, and 3.6 by 0.13 points. Usage of 3.6 remains significant, however, with 6.95 percent of Web users sticking with it.
July's numbers suggest that Firefox users have become fragmented into two groups: the old, using 3.x versions, and the new, using 4 and 5. The latter group appear to be playing the upgrade game and transitioning from one version to another at a healthy pace. But the 7-odd percent of users sticking with old versions are showing no signs of upgrading. 3.6 remains supported and patched, so many users—particularly in the enterprise—might not see any compelling reason to upgrade just yet. The real test for the rapid release schedule will be Firefox 6, due in the middle of this month. There was a three-month gap between versions 4 and 5; the interval between 5 and 6 will be around six weeks, making the risks of upgrade fatigue that much greater.