Rather than follow Microsoft's mandate to update older editions of Internet Explorer (IE) by January, a significant chunk of IE's users switched to Google's Chrome browser instead, data released Monday showed.
In August 2014, Microsoft suddenly told most IE users that they needed to be running IE11 by Jan. 12, 2016, or face a shut-off of security updates for their frequently-patched browsers. After that date, Microsoft will support IE9 only on Windows Vista and Windows Server 2008; IE10 only on Windows Server 2012; and only IE11 on Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows Server 2012 R2, and by then, Windows 10.
(Windows 10 will include the new Edge browser, but will also bundle IE11 for those customers, particularly large organizations and companies, who require the older browser to run their line-of-business Web apps and internal sites.)
The change-browser order has triggered a shift in the mix of individual IE editions that compose the IE aggregate.
Since the end of August, about a quarter of those running a to-be-ditched edition of IE have moved to IE11, the safest spot on Microsoft's support list, according to statistics generated by analytics firm Net Application.
The California company measures user share, a rough estimate of the percentage of the world's online users who run a specific browser, using visitor tallies to its customers' websites.
Some people, however, have abandoned Microsoft's browser instead of moving to a newer IE. And they landed on Chrome.
During the same nine months since August 2014, about a third as many IE users ended up on Chrome as changed their version of Internet Explorer.
Unlike Microsoft, Google has made no sweeping upgrade-or-die demand: In fact, it was only weeks ago that the search giant said it would stop supporting Chrome on Windows XP at the end of the year. Microsoft halted security updates to IE on XP in April 2014.
Chrome has been on a remarkable uptick in user share since Microsoft's announcement, gaining ground each month from both IE and Mozilla's Firefox; the latter has been on a serious slide of its own.
Since August 2014, Chrome has boosted its user share by nearly 7 percentage points, representing an increase of 35% from the moment Microsoft laid down the update IE law. About half of Chrome's increase came from IE, the other half from Firefox's fall.
There are still huge numbers of IE users who need to migrate to IE11 before Jan. 12: As of the end of May, about 52 percent of all IE users were running a soon-to-be-outdated edition. It's very unlikely that that number will reach zero by January. If users maintain their update pace, it would mean that more than a third of all IE users would find themselves cut off from security updates when the deadline hits.
During the same stretch, enough could desert to Chrome to push that browser over the 30% user share mark, making the war a two-combatant battle between Microsoft and Google, with Mozilla's Firefox so far behind it would be little more than an afterthought.
Microsoft may be forcing IE users to change browsers for good reason -- to push them towards Windows 10's Edge, to reduce the cost of supporting so many flavors of the browser -- but by doing so, it's also fulfilled one prediction of analysts last year, who bet that the decree would drive some users to rivals.
The Redmond, Wash. company's core customers, businesses of all sizes, will remain attached to IE -- Microsoft's browser has a lock in corporate because of Windows' dominance -- but it's apparent that a sizable chunk, likely consumers and small businesses, have voted with their feet.
No one likes being told what to do.