Microsoft’s push to attract users to proprietary Edge browser seems to be working, at least according to one major traffic metric.
There has been a sustained effort from Microsoft to promote Edge since its relaunch in January 2020, and figures provided to TechRadar Pro by SimilarWeb reflect this: visits to the browser’s download page increased that month by over six and a quarter million compared to December 2019, from 228,644 to 6,524,646.
There was another spike in May 2022, with visits going up by almost a million over the previous month – possibly due to Microsoft’s April 2022 announcement that Edge would support the use of VPNs.
Vs the competition
Anyone using Windows machines or Microsoft applications will be well aware of the constant prompts to use Edge, with links to the download page accompanied by promises of faster performance with first-party services such as its email provider Outlook.
The company has certainly focused on integrating these services within the browser, however despite these efforts, Microsoft Edge still pales in comparison to Google Chrome and Apple’s Safari in terms of overall usage.
Although SimilarWeb was unable to provide download metrics for these browsers – their respective privacy policies prevent such data from being gathered – it is well known that these rivals dominate the browser space by a huge margin (opens in new tab).
However, Edge is gaining ground on Mozilla’s Firefox, once one of the most popular browsers in the world. Between May and September 2022, Edge has consistently outperformed Firefox in the number of download page visits, averaging a million more than its rival.
In fact, when looking at confirmed downloads, Firefox’s popularity appears to have waned significantly. Its global monthly average for confirmed downloads between October 2019 and September 2022 was just under 60,000.
On this front, it was beaten most comprehensively by Opera (2,312,387), which has surged in popularity in recent years, perhaps due to its free integrated VPN, a browsing feature which continues to gain traction with general users.
The anonymous browser Tor also bested Firefox, with a monthly average of 1,046,939 confirmed downloads. In fact, the only browser in the data to perform worse than Firefox was Brave, which managed an average of just over 30,000 confirmed downloads during the period.
Tor’s relative success speaks to the rising concern of online privacy, as users become more conscious and even suspicious of the often relentless gathering of personal data by Big Tech. In fact, according to a recent survey jointly conducted by Opera and ad filter firm Eyeo, over 80% of consumers are willing to switch browsers if it means improving their privacy protections.
Edge-ing its way to success
It appears Microsoft Edge is hoping to emulate the success of Safari and Chrome by becoming the default browser for many users. The problem is that these browsers have the benefit of being tied into each of their company’s vast ecosystems – Microsoft doesn’t have that same grip. At the moment, it is trying its best to make it the default browser for Windows 11 users, but currently there are few of these around.
The company does appear to be continuing to cultivate its own ecosystem, though. With PC sales down, and more worryingly, the tumbling revenue of its flagship Windows OEM sector, it seems the OS giant is shifting focus in other directions. Its cloud services, such as Azure and Microsoft 365, as well as video conferencing platform Teams, are seeing success in the business sector, but for the general user Microsoft is often again eclipsed by its two biggest rivals.
What’s more, Microsoft is virtually non-existent in the mobile market, which has brought Apple and Google so much success. With mobile devices ubiquitous around the world, nearly all of them either Android or iPhone, users are again tied into their systems and software, which includes their first-party browsers. Microsoft’s entry into the mobile market is all but dead, having failed to get off the ground in the slightest.
And then there is the hassle of switching browsers, with users having all their login and password stored in them, all the extensions and settings they have tailored to their personal preferences, built up over years and integrated with other services. If you are a user of Safari or Chrome, why on earth would you bother switching to Edge now?
The same of course is true for anonymous browsers. Despite the aforementioned survey from Opera and Eyeo, it appears that their optimistic results haven’t manifested themselves in the real world.
But if the minor trend of using anonymous browsers does take off, then Edge will be hung out to dry. The browser’s record on safeguarding user privacy is no better than its mainstream rivals, and the same goes for Microsoft in general, with Windows 11 receiving flak for its invasive practices too.
So, Microsoft Edge looks like it wants to muscle in on the default browser space, adopting the same promotional tactics as its rivals ahead of them. If we look solely at download page visits, then it seems like Edge is gaining ground. However, despite the rising numbers, Edge’s adoption rates pale in comparison to the big two. If Microsoft is serious about taking them on, then it’s going to need a much more compelling reason for users to switch than it working a bit better with Outlook and a few business apps.