Browser Trends October 2011: Has Chrome Plateaued?

Contributing Editor

September was a busy month for browser vendors. Mozilla released Firefox 7, Google released Chrome 14, and Microsoft are pushing the IE10 platform preview.

Despite this, September 2011 user activity was as quiet as August. Users appear to be relatively happy with their choice of browser and few bother to change. This isn’t surprising. All the top five browsers are excellent applications and there are few fundamental differences between them.

So let’s look at the latest StatCounter statistics

Browser August September change relative
IE 9.0 8.05% 8.94% +0.89% +11.10%
IE 8.0 25.68% 25.08% -0.60% -2.30%
IE 7.0 5.07% 4.79% -0.28% -5.50%
IE 6.0 3.09% 2.85% -0.24% -7.80%
Firefox 4.0+ 18.10% 18.52% +0.42% +2.30%
Firefox 3.6- 9.39% 8.27% -1.12% -11.90%
Chrome 23.17% 23.65% +0.48% +2.10%
Safari 5.18% 5.60% +0.42% +8.10%
Opera 1.67% 1.70% +0.03% +1.80%
Others 0.60% 0.60% +0.00% +0.00%
IE (all) 41.89% 41.66% -0.23% -0.50%
Firefox (all) 27.49% 26.79% -0.70% -2.50%

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 7.8% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

IE9 was the best performing browser during September. It’s been available for six months and has been growing steadily. While it may not offer the best tools or features, it’s undoubtedly fast and a vast improvement on IE8. Surprisingly, IE10 accounts for 0.01% (included in IE9′s figures above).

IE’s overall drop has slowed for the second month in a row. The browser is still losing market share but at a rapidly decreasing rate. Has Microsoft reached the end of their losing streak?

The same cannot be said for Mozilla. Firefox was the biggest overall loser during September and, although growth is reasonable for versions 4-7, it’s not matched the pace versions 1-3 are falling. That said, Firefox 7 is promising and the latest comparison at Tom’s Hardware indicates that speed and memory usage issues have improved. It’s even replaced Chrome at the top of the best-browser chart. However, the new upgrade process has been painful for some. Firefox’s growth was driven by the technical community; those users are the first to look elsewhere when they lose patience with an application.

Safari had a great month. Maybe Mac sales are up or users are returning to the browser? Opera also showed a modest increase although it tends to fluctuate a little.

The biggest shock is Chrome. While it’s still risen by a healthy 0.48%, the browser had been growing at 1% per month for two years. It’s too early to predict whether growth is starting to plateau, but that has to happen at some point. Chrome is still likely to overtake Firefox in December 2011 unless it’s disruptive influence falls further.

Mobile Browser Usage

Mobile usage dropped from 7.12% to 6.74% of all web activity during September 2011. Seasonal variations are the likely cause — holidays have ended and people have returned to work and school.

The primary browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 22.45% (up 0.84%)
  2. Android — 19.90% (up 0.18%)
  3. iPhone — 16.75 (up 1.84%)
  4. Nokia browser — 16.01% (down 0.98%)
  5. Blackberry — 11.64% (down 1.13%)

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Amazon’s Silk Browser will rise up this chart.

However, I’d strongly recommend you check your own statistics since regional and seasonal variations have a significant effect. In addition, you should check your site/application on a variety of devices. Don’t assume iPhone users account for 95% of mobile users if your site doesn’t work on any other phone!

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  • http://www.synercorp.net Bangkok Lawyer

    As someone who has switched to Chrome within the last month, my experience has shown it noticeably faster at loading certain websites. Some of the features are more convenient than similar offerings on IE, as well. Also, there are some very useful plug-ins that don’t seem to work on IE, the SEO Moz bar leaps immediately to mind. Apparently I’ve been pretty late at arriving to the Chrome party, if it appears that new users may be plateauing already.

  • idrivethelatecar

    I was an early adopter of chrome and was one of it’s loudest evangelists… as time has gone by, google has piled more and more crapware into it and its performance has suffered as well as its stability.
    enough already with the google updater, googel crash thingy, etc etc… all running in the background.

    i’m back to using firefox as my primary and am content.

  • Mike

    I dunno if month to month really is a far comparison as new versions of different products can spike usage stats on a month to month basis. Look at this (http://gs.statcounter.com/#browser-na-monthly-201009-201109) it seems that the title of this blog post should be “Firefox has plateaued” as Chrome has consistency improved year after year, being one of the only browsers to do so. Then again judging from this video most people don’t understand what a browser is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o4MwTvtyrUQ

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

      Actually, Firefox has been losing market share.

      Chrome has grown at 1% per month for around 2 years. Last month, that growth rate halved. As mentioned, it’s too early to tell whether we’re reaching saturation point but that will happen at some point.

  • http://navneetkhare.co.cc Navneet

    I was the early supporter of Chrome due to its effective speed and faster performance, but, that’s NOT the scenario anymore. Google’s “Behind the scene” policy and undercover agent style usage of my computer gets on my nerve. No, I don’t want the crap Google Updater on my machine, again and again, against my wish updating things when I don’t see the process. Google has the habit of starting a new project, profusely advertising about it as if they have discovered another subatomic particle, then they abandon the project, to die in its own fallacies and move on to another like a dog running after bones.

    Look what happened to the Google Friend Connect project. They don’t even update the Copyright “year” at the bottom of the GFC page which still says “2009″. You can see the extent of the problem here! It’s like it doesn’t even exist anymore for them. This is third class and irresponsible behavior.

  • Paul Samper

    I switched from Firefox to Chrome a month ago and I am very happy so far. It is fast, and does not crash yet. I left Firefox after using it for years. However I still use both browsers but I spend more time with Chrome. I don’t believe that Chrome has pateauged. According to recent statistics, the mainstream is: IE is on the downward slop, Chrome is on the upward slope, and Firefox is pateauging. Users have more choice and this is the most important.