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Microsoft Edge steals No. 2 browser spot from Firefox? Not so fast ...

Microsoft Edge
Microsoft Edge (Image credit: Windows Central)

What you need to know

  • Recent figures from NetMarketShare state that Edge passed Firefox in desktop browser market share.
  • The increase moves Edge to second in desktop/laptop browser share, according to the report.
  • A couple of details surrounding Edge and its market share raise some questions.

NetMarketShare recently shared data that states Microsoft Edge is the second most used desktop/laptop browser in the world. While it does seem that Edge's use is on the rise, a couple of things stick out regarding these figures that seem questionable. Firstly, NetMarketShare cannot deliver exact measurements of browser usage. It's a tool that can show trends for analyzing, but exact percentages can be inaccurate. Second, the report seems to combine the new and old versions of Microsoft Edge, which is odd considering how different they are.

NetMarketShare keeps track of a wide range of topics, including browser market share. NetMarketShare explains its methodology in an FAQ page:

We collect data from the browsers of site visitors to our exclusive on-demand network of analytics and social bookmarking products. We count sessions to our network sites, which are defined as a user active on a site with no more than a 30 minute inactive period. A user can have multiple sessions per day. The data is compiled from approximately 100 million valid sessions per month, widely distributed over thousands of websites. The information published is an aggregation of the data from this network of hosted websites. In addition, we classify 430+ referral sources identified as search engines. Aggregate traffic referrals from these engines are summarized and reported monthly. The statistics for search engines include both organic and sponsored referrals.

The methodology of NetMarketShare is more accurate than surveys and many other forms of data collection, but it isn't 100 percent accurate. Edge moving to 7.59 percent over Firefox's 7.19 percent should be treated more as evidence of a trend than an exact figure.

A larger concern is the fact that NetMarketShare's report doesn't list two versions of Microsoft Edge. Sometimes, listing different versions of the same browser wouldn't make much sense. For example, incrimental updates to Chrome shouldn't be listed as different browsers. But in the case of Microsoft Edge, there are two distinct browsers. Edge Legacy runs on EdgeHTML, whereas the new Edge runs on Chromium. These browsers share the same branding but have different rendering tools and features. NetMarketShare splits all of the major Internet Explorer versions into separate categories, so there's a precedent for splitting the two versions of Edge.

Just because there are questions regarding these figures and the fact that Edge passed Firefox doesn't mean that Microsoft Edge is doing poorly. It's impossible to judge the growth of the new Edge as it isn't even the default browser of Windows 10 yet. As it rolls out as the default to more people, and as the new browser matures, we'll be able to more accurately see how it stacks up against other browsers.

Sean Endicott is the news writer for Windows Central. If it runs Windows, is made by Microsoft, or has anything to do with either, he's on it. Sean's been with Windows Central since 2017 and is also our resident app expert. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at sean.endicott@futurenet.com.

25 Comments
  • It's all relative. Edge has always been ahead of fire by a mile.
  • Even though edge chromium is technically different, it's still fair to combine them as it will fully replace legacy just as each version of edge chromium incrementally replaces the previous version. It would be how you could count all versions of windows as windows usage VS Mac usage.
  • I guess it comes down to how precise you want to be. You could do that, but I would argue it's better to distinguish between the old Edge and the new one since they are two entirely different beasts. I for one have uninstalled Chrome from my PC and use Edge Chromium exclusively.
  • I would agree for a developer standpoint, im simply talking from a brand standpoint. Edge as a whole vs chrome or Firefox as a whole.
  • Exactly. I'd even combine it with IE.
    The fact is that Windows NT replaced Windows 95/98/Me and NT became Windows 10.
    There is no distinction.
  • Sounds funny, but the new Edge incorporates the old engine and even IE for legacy functionality and Web page compatibility. Does it mean then that when there is a single Microsoft Edge browser it should measure which rendering engine is used inside? Does it make sense? Is it feasible at all?
  • It could be done, but the percentages of users using the legacy engines are *extremely* tiny. They are only included to allow for backward compatibility which almost no public website needs. They are designed to be compatible with the largest market share browsers and Chrome is more than 2/3 of the market and is 100% compatible with Chromium Edge. The legacy engines only get turned on manually for incompatible sites, primarily for corporate intranet sites that are old legacy sites that are still required for business and can't necessarily be updated on the timescale of a browser release.
  • You could make the same argument for the various versions of Internet Explorer as well, but they still break those out. And to your point, they also break out the various versions of Windows in their OS reports. Ultimately, I agree with the article that the browsers are fundamentally different and should be reported as such. Especially given that the purpose of those reports isn't for score keeping but for developers to know how to prioritize their development and testing resources. From a developer's perspective, the two flavors of Edge have literally nothing in common and need to be treated completely differently.
  • It'd almost be like if Microsoft just bought a different browser and marketed it as Edge. If Microsoft bought Vivaldi instead of making the new Edge, would you count that in the same category as Edge Legacy?
  • I dont consider the two versions of Edge different. For me as a user, there are minimal UI changes between the two plus moving from old to new was easy. I don't know if you can go from old edge to Chrome or Firefox seamlessly. Maybe you can I just don't know. Just because the underlying software is different does not mean the overall experience is different. I know using Office on a Mac may provide a better UI for some and the code between Office on iOS, OSX, Windows, Android is all different. But are we saying a person using Office on multiple platforms is using multiple versions of Office?
  • The reports are really intended to be for developers and when creating all but the most trivial website, the 2 types of Edge couldn't be more different. Everything that makes the website usable on your computer has been replaced in the new Edge, using Chromium's code.
  • Good point. I see what you mean from a developer's perspective.
  • the chromium version still isn't being pushed as part of an update. you have to install in manually.
    I recently did a clean install because the chromium version started doing this LOUD "warning sound" and give an Error code that "didn't exist" when googled/Binged. and this was on normal sites like Engadget, wccftech, etc. (can't remember the code other than i think it ended with 617)
    it had to do with ads but the only fix i have found is to NOT use the chromium version of Edge.
  • This sounds more like either malware or a corrupted configuration. The browser introduces no new sounds of it's own as far as I'm aware, so if it's not the default sound of your windows installation, it sounds more like malware.
  • Combing the Edge versions seems proper to me.
  • Firefox only has a little over 7%? Jesus. Don't be evil my ass, Google. Also, last time I checked, Edge IS the default browser on Windows 10. How is it not? Also, did no one else notice that Edge went up as IE went down? Seems like we should have a total MS browser count to compare.
  • Shhh, thats because everyone youtubes and the first add that pops up is... CHANGE TO CHROME... It's pathetic but I imagine people get tired of the stupid push and click and join. It'd stupid ass stuff.
  • Also, Chrome does shady things like preloading pages that you haven't visited yet.
  • @Andrew G1 "Firefox only has a little over 7%? Jesus. Don't be evil my ass, Google" Not sure what you mean by that Andrew. Google money is pretty much keeping Firefox afloat at this point. As the article points out, these Edge numbers are highly questionable. What isn't questionable is it is an absolute embarrassment for MS that Edge has such an appalling market share.
    FFS! It's the default browser on around a billion devices. The colossal failure that is legacy Edge will go down among the most devastating failures in tech history.
  • Re: Firefox: Yes, obviously Google supports Firefox because they want to increase competition in the browser market. Meanwhile, Chrome's market share has risen to nearly 70% in the past 2 years, and the #2 browser on the market, Firefox, is down to a measly 7.2% ... BTW do you usually rely on Sean Endicott for data analysis?
  • No separators, no deal.
  • A couple years ago Google Analytics was reporting Edge for Windows and Windows Mobile as Xbox One. There are many dirty tricks at play with browser market share analytics. I've been using Edge for years, and use Edge Chromium exclusively now.
  • I still prefer Firefox on iPhone and iPad because it has a night-mode slider built in... edge chrome and safari are too bright on your eyes for browsing in bed when you are suppose to be sleeping..
  • I have been using Firefox for years, on my computers, android tablets and android phones. Dont use Edge or Chrome.
  • Edge Chromium does not play nice with side scrolling on my mouse.