It was a good year for Microsoft's Internet Explorer. According to the latest data from Net Apps, IE gained only slightly in December, but overall it reversed its fortunes from 2011 and recaptured a fair amount of lost market share in 2012.
First, let's look back at the previous year. Internet Explorer started out 2011 with 58.35 percent of the browser market. By the end of 2011, though, Google's Chrome browser had eaten a significant chunk of that market share (and a bit from Firefox as well), and Internet Explorer plummeted more than six percentage points to only 51.87 percent market share.
Much of that drop was function of Microsoft's decision to draw a proverbial line in the sand with Internet Explorer 9, combined with Microsoft's campaign to actively sway users to abandon Internet Explorer 6. IE6 dropped from 11.9 percent to 7.33 percent, but because Internet Explorer 9 is not compatible with Windows XP many users that switched from IE 6 were forced to choose between IE8 or one of the alternative browsers--and apparently the alternative browsers won most of the time.
Internet Explorer 8 dropped precipitously as well--from more than 35 percent down to just over 27 percent. However, the growth of IE9 more than made up for IE8's lost market share. Despite being limited to Windows Vista and Windows 7, IE9 skyrocketed from 0.52 percent to 11.48 percent in 2011.
It was a gamble by Microsoft to shun Windows XP with IE9, but it paid off in 2012 as more and more businesses and consumers switched from Windows XP to Windows 7. IE8 still slid more than four percentage points in 2012, but IE9 gained more than twice that--finishing the year up nearly ten percentage points.
The two biggest rivals didn't fare as well in 2012. Both Firefox and Chrome lost ground--albeit only slightly. Most of the losses from Firefox and Chrome seem to have been claimed by Internet Explorer, but Safari and Opera also had slight increases in market share.
Now, Windows 8 and Internet Explorer 10 are here. With IE10 Microsoft moved the line in the sand so that even Windows Vista is excluded, but with Windows 7 continuing to gain market share, and Windows XP in decline, it seems like there's a very good chance that Internet Explorer will continue to gain ground in 2013. And, since Internet Explorer is limited to Microsoft Windows it's success is also a testament to the strength of the Windows operating system.