Browser Trends February 2012: Chrome 16 Obliterates IE8

Contributing Editor

I expected last month’s browser statistics to be a little unusual. With a large proportion of the western world on vacation, the ratio of home to business usage rises. Typically, IE usage would drop and the other browsers would rise. You’d expect IE fluctuations to stop following the return to business in January. So let’s look at the latest worldwide StatCounter statistics to see if that happened:

Browser December January change relative
IE 9.0+ 10.75% 11.45% +0.70% +6.50%
IE 8.0 22.12% 20.82% -1.30% -5.90%
IE 7.0 4.00% 3.63% -0.37% -9.30%
IE 6.0 1.78% 1.56% -0.22% -12.40%
Firefox 4.0+ 19.81% 20.01% +0.20% +1.00%
Firefox 3.7- 5.46% 4.77% -0.69% -12.60%
Chrome 27.33% 28.45% +1.12% +4.10%
Safari 6.09% 6.61% +0.52% +8.50%
Opera 1.99% 1.96% -0.03% -1.50%
Others 0.67% 0.74% +0.07% +10.40%
IE (all) 38.65% 37.46% -1.19% -3.10%
Firefox (all) 25.27% 24.78% -0.49% -1.90%

The table shows market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. another 12.4% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. Party time! There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

I previously reported that, despite widespread reports, Chrome 15′s victory as the world’s most-used browser version was short-lived. The release of Chrome 16 on December 13 2011 split the user base so IE8 quickly retained its lead.

However, we’re now at the end of Chrome 16′s life. In fact, Chrome 17 is around a week overdue so the vast majority of Chrome users — 25.79% — are using version 16 (I was tempted to refer to it as ‘old’ but it’s hardly past its prime at seven weeks of age!) The next release will split Chrome’s user base again, but IE8 is losing ground too rapidly to keep up. It lost another 1.3% in January after a 1.88% drop the month before. The browser looks likely to dip below 20% during the next few weeks.

Although IE9 had a good month, overall, IE dropped 1.19%. Firefox also lost half a percent. While most of those users switched to Chrome, Safari also received a surprise boost. Did you receive a new Mac or iPad during the holidays? If so, perhaps you’re partially responsible for that half-percent jump.

Chrome is looking unbeatable. It’s monthly 1% rise is holding firm and it’s likely to overtake IE by the middle of the year.

Mobile Browser Usage

The mobile market remained busy during January and usage accounted for 8.49% of all web activity.

The primary mobile browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 23.34% (down 0.88%)
  2. Android — 21.39% (up 1.17%)
  3. iPhone — 19.51% (up 1.10%)
  4. Nokia browser — 11.82% (down 1.10%)
  5. Blackberry — 6.68% (down 0.85%)

There’s little point reading too much into these figures; there are too many handset harlots switching phones more frequently than their underwear! The only obvious trend is Blackberry’s continuing misfortunes; but you don’t need browser statistics to see that.

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  • http://Www.johnbrett.com John Brett

    Sitepoint, may I introduce you to ARS Techica … http://arstechnica.com/business/news/2012/02/2001-all-over-again-internet-explorer-6-share-grows-and-chrome-falls.ars

    How can two stories on the same day be completely opposite?

    • http://forrst.me/adityamenon aditya menon

      I’m guessing this is because browser stats are not entirely accurate and there are caveats, as mentioned in the article.

      I do hope that people dump IE 6, 7 & 8 asap. IE 9 is decent.

    • rightythen

      Because the two stories use different stats. Net Applications vs. StatCounter.

      Neither of them very accurate, so it’s about throwing sh*t at the wall and see what sticks, if anything.

      Not sure where Craig is getting “Opera Mini/Mobile down 0.88%” though. Opera had 22.49% mobile market share in November, and 24.22% in December. That’s an increase, not a decrease.

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        StatCounter analyze data from 3 million websites.
        Net Marketshare look at 40,000 sites.

        That doesn’t necessarily prove one is more accurate than another, but comparing them is futile. They’re looking at different sites over different periods using different criteria.

        As for Opera mobile, it had 23.34% in January? How is that an increase?!!

      • rightythen

        Sorry, I was comparing November to December.

  • Mac

    @Craig: Inaccurate and unprofessional as always.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      Many thanks for your insightful critique. I will certainly consider your numerous points and well-reasoned observations before I write my next post.

      • http://www.50secondsnorth.com Patrick Samphire

        I enjoyed that, Craig. :)

      • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

        I know it’s best not to feed the trolls, but I couldn’t resist throwing some raspberries at him.

  • mr. derp

    people, Y U NO dump Internet Explorer lower than version 8???

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      There are two primary reasons:

      1. Many users are tied to whatever browser their organization provides. Larger companies and government departments may have thousands of users: pushing out another browser is not an easy task, could cause numerous support issues, and may break legacy applications. IT infrastructures may be fixed for many years.

      2. Inexperience. To many, the web is that blue ‘e’ on their desktop. It’s difficult to recommend upgrades or alternative browsers when they don’t understand what a browser is.

      That said, IE6 is all but dead and IE7 will follow shortly. Unfortunately, IE8 will linger longer because IE users on XP can’t upgrade beyond that.

  • http://www.split-dalmatien.de toni

    This year we have stopped to optimize on IE6.
    primarily we are optimizing for safari, because of Ipad

  • samanime

    There is a lot of hostility with browser trends, apparently.

    Personally I appreciate these regular looks at browser trends.

    Obviously every web property owner should do this kind of analysis on their own traffic (since every site is different… for example our iDevice numbers almost as high as all of our other mobile numbers put together). However this general analysis is handy to show how things may change.

    People should remember these are statistics… All statistics are subjective and should be taken with a grain of salt. However, we have statistics because we need to be able to infer from some form of data.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      People like trends if it agrees with their viewpoint or, in this case, browser of choice.

      But you’re absolutely correct – your own statistics should be the first source of data. If you’re providing Opera widgets, you’re almost certain to have a larger proportion of Opera users than any other.

      These trends do help you spot issues early though. Chrome’s relatively young, but you’d ignore it at your peril. Likewise, IE8 remains an important browser to many people.

  • Grady

    I would love to see this series address the statistics available from Net Market Share as well as the StatCounter GlobalStats that are already included. There’s some non-trivial differences in the statistics reported between those two services and Net Market Share has traditionally be the most respected source in the media.

    Also, there doesn’t seem to be any mention of the IE force upgrades that were supposed to roll out in Australia and Brazil starting in January. Did that make a difference? Did it even happen? I have been eagerly awaiting the February browser stats just to see if there was any reason for all of the celebration that happened when IE announced their limited upgrade plans.

    • http://www.optimalworks.net/ Craig Buckler

      It’s never a good idea to compare web statistics! The data sources, method of collation, time periods and assumptions made can affect the results significantly. And there’s no way of assessing which is correct.

      I’m not sure if Net Market Share is the most respected, but they’re one of the most frequently published and they sell their results. I suspect they’re often used because they produce some pretty charts and reports.

      Can anyone confirm the forced IE upgrade in Australia and Brazil happened? There don’t appear to be any major fluctuations in either chart but perhaps it’s too early to tell.

  • http://www.vermarc-custom.com.au Steven

    IE arnt doing themselves an favors with the current version. I can live with firefox as a chrome replacement, IE9 no way!

  • http://www.crearedesign.co.uk/ James Willis

    Thanks for the post, Its good to see a continued fall in IE6 usage as a whole. Its good that larger companies are finally kicking themselves into gear and making their bespoke web apps compatible with more modern browsers. It’ll still probably be some time yet before we see the back of it.