With today’s release of Internet Explorer 8, everyone who use Microsoft’s browser will be getting some much-needed improvements: color-coded related tabs, “Accelerator” add-ons, search and site suggestions, toolbar favorites, WebSlice bookmarking, and “inPrivate” stealth surfing (read our earlier coverage). It may not be as fast as its competitors, according to early reports, but anything is better than IE7.
But speed is really everything. Without speed, all the other features fall by the wayside. You can’t enjoy a WebSlice (which is a slice of a Webpage that is constantly updated) if it takes forever to load. And if you look at Internet Explorer’s market share, it has steadily been eroded over the past few years by its faster rivals Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Opera. We’ll have to wait for new independent speed tests to see how IE8 stacks up, but speed does not appear to be its strong point.
Microsoft is doing what it always does: focusing on its massive installed base of users and ignoring the rest. If you’ve already left IE for a speedier browser, IE8 is not going to bring you back, and Microsoft knows it. For instance, Internet Explorer long ago turned its back the Mac and IE8 will be no different. There will be no Mac version, even though Macs continue to gain market share against PCs.
IE may still hold 67 percent of the browser market, according to Net Apps, but that share is declining. Firefox claims 22 percent, Safari has 8 percent, and Chrome has captured 1 percent. And speed is not their only advantage. Many of the new features in IE8 are simply catch-up features. The rest are not enough to make most switchers switch back.
Does Microsoft even care about that other third of the market? It should, otherwise that third will soon grow into something much larger than it already is.