In the past, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was the go-to Web browser for Internet users. But end-user confidence in Internet Explorer appears to be waning.

Last summer, Google Chrome passed Internet Explorer in combined U.S. desktop and mobile Internet market share for the first time. Chrome now holds 31.8 percent of total market share compared to Internet Explorer’s 30.9 percent share. Furthermore, Chrome has been growing at a rate of 6 percent year over year from 2008, while Explorer has been decreasing at a rate of 6 percent during the same time frame.

Mozilla’s Firefox and Apple’s Safari are two other major Web browsers that are now vying for attention in the competitive Internet marketplace that used to be dominated solely by Microsoft’s Explorer. Mozilla currently commands about 12.5 percent of market share, while Safari holds 10.3 percent.

What’s caused Internet Explorer’s dominant reign to end? It could be attributed to a lack of innovation by third-party developers. Internet Explorer remains the only major Web browser on the market that is closed source end-to-end. As a result, third-party developers are unable to alter it to ensure consistency over different platforms, enhance security and experiment with innovative new features. Chrome, Firefox and Safari all give developers the ability to experiment with new software patches that have the ability to be released as official product updates.

Microsoft is therefore at a crossroads; the company can either continue to keep its Internet Explorer source code private, or it can consider embracing the idea of open source to remain competitive.

Which path will Microsoft head down? It remains to be seen. The company, however, is currently using open source code in other projects. Last year, for instance, Microsoft allowed the use of open source coding in its .NET framework. Microsoft also made headlines recently for making its cutting-edge WorldWide telescope project open source for astronomers. If these projects do well, they could pave the way for a possible open source migration for the beleaguered Internet Explorer browser.

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