If you expected December to be a quiet month in the browser market the results below will surprise you. Every vendor made a gain — except one. Let’s look at the latest worldwide StatCounter statistics:

Browser November December change relative
IE 9.0+ 10.14% 10.75% +0.61% +6.00%
IE 8.0 24.00% 22.12% -1.88% -7.80%
IE 7.0 4.26% 4.00% -0.26% -6.10%
IE 6.0 2.23% 1.78% -0.45% -20.20%
Firefox 4.0+ 18.62% 19.81% +1.19% +6.40%
Firefox 3.7- 6.62% 5.46% -1.16% -17.50%
Chrome 25.74% 27.33% +1.59% +6.20%
Safari 5.90% 6.09% +0.19% +3.20%
Opera 1.84% 1.99% +0.15% +8.20%
Others 0.65% 0.67% +0.02% +3.10%
IE (all) 40.63% 38.65% -1.98% -4.90%
Firefox (all) 25.24% 25.27% +0.03% +0.10%

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 20.2% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. Happy days! There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

Last month’s main story was Chrome overtaking Firefox to become the world’s second favorite browser. Several technical sites also reported that, if you examine individual browser versions, Chrome 15 had overtaken IE8. That victory was short-lived. Google released Chrome 16 on December 13 2011 which split the user base. IE8 retains the browser crown with 22.12% followed by Firefox 8 (15.35%), Chrome 15 (13.34%) and Chrome 16 (11.73%). Analyzing Chrome and Firefox by version number has become futile; a new release appears every six weeks.

Chrome rose by 0.69% in November — impressive, but less than it’s usual 1% increase. December’s overall gain was 1.59% which more than made up for the shortfall. Rumors of Chrome reaching growth saturation point appear premature.

December 2011 was also kind to Mozilla, Apple and Opera who all experienced modest gains. Safari edged above 6%, Opera is poised to break its 2% barrier and Firefox 4+ is gaining users at a healthy rate following a slightly wobbly period.

But not every vendor can be a winner. Microsoft lost almost 2% in December with IE6, 7 and 8 taking a large hit. However, remember that December is an unusual month; a large proportion of the world is on vacation so the ratio of home to business usage rises. In addition, many people will have received new PCs, laptops and tablets as gifts which could cause minor fluctuations. It’s back to business in January and business is Microsoft’s domain.

Mobile Browser Usage

December’s impact on the mobile market was also evident and usage accounted for 8.04% of all web activity during the month. That’s a rise of almost 1% but, again, vacations and gifts are likely to have a short-term effect.

The primary mobile browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 24.22% (up 1.73%)
  2. Android — 20.22% (down 0.19%)
  3. iPhone — 18.41% (down 1.12%)
  4. Nokia browser — 12.92% (up 0.98%)
  5. Blackberry — 7.53% (down 0.67%)

Perhaps it’s not surprising to see the iPhone and Blackberry drop; they’re popular devices for business users. That said, I’ve given up trying to understand the mobile browser market; it’s far too erratic.

Happy New Year!

Tags: apple, chrome, firefox, Google Tutorials & Articles, ie, microsoft, Mozilla, opera, safari
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler
  • http://www.wmwebdesign.co.uk/ Keith Davis

    Interesting results.
    I like using IE for general browsing but I do use Firefox with Firebug to check our CSS and the like.

    I’d got the impression that Chrome was forging ahead of the rest but apparently not.

    Thanks for the figures.

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

      Chrome is performing far better than the others but, if you examine individual versions, IE8 is still the most-used browser. Chrome has a little way to go before overtaking IE but I predict it’ll happen this year…

  • Giulio Antonio Pallante

    Interesting report.
    I like using Chrome. Chrome is performig and i like  think that chrome overtake other the next years.

    Goodbye at all

  • http://www.kreativtheme.com Kreativ Theme

    2012 will be Chrome’s year … Google’s development strategy started to pay off … and it is a well deserved place :)

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

    And Opera has overtaken IE6! Meaning that Opera is still irrelevant, but not less relevant than IE6… :)

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

      You’re playing a dangerous game, Patrick…
      you don’t want to incur the wrath of those passionate Opera users!

      But, yes, IE6 slipping below Opera is an important milestone.

      • http://www.electricmayhemsolutions.net Adrian Robertson

        Opera is awesome!
        Has been my browser of choice for some years (yes, I am THE one)

  • http://www.electricmayhemsolutions.net Adrian Robertson

    How do we know what stats to believe when it comes to IE6 usage (or any browser for that matter)?

    According to IE6 Countdown, IE6 is still at 7.7% worldwide browser usage, with the USA having just dropped below 1% (http://www.ie6countdown.com/)

    I have read your article on how Browser Market Share is Calculated (http://www.sitepoint.com/how-browser-market-share-is-calculated/), but within the first paragraph or two is the caveat that these stats are based on probabilities (perhaps they all are .. I don’t know)

    I don’t understand why there would be such a difference in stats between Stat Counter (saying 1.78% usage) and Net Applications (the source of IE6 Countdown stats, 7.7% in the same period)

    Any thoughts?

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

      First, don’t compare stats unless you fully understand the methods for collation and reporting on each. Net Applications analyze fewer sites/countries than StatCounter and there’s no guarantee the periods are exactly the same either. Also, is IE6’s percentage taken a percentage of all browsers or just IE? It’s not clear on IE6countdown, but it could be the latter.

      The best source of data for you is your own website.

  • http://www.edgeimpact.co.uk Ken Good

    I wonder which browser usage statistics more accurately reflect the real usage because http://gs.statcounter.com/ where I understand these stats come from, are very different to the http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp statistics.

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

      StatCounter is more accurate; they measure traffic from 3 million sites. W3Schools measure traffic from a single, developer-centric website.

      • http://www.edgeimpact.co.uk Ken Good

        Thanks Craig. I guess that the http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp site more reflects the trend of developer oriented people as opposed to the wider public.

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

        Well, it reflects the usage patterns for visitors to W3Schools. It’s likely to contain a big proportion of developers but you can’t assume any more than that.

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