Browser Trends, April 2011: Firefox 4.0 Beats IE9 and IE7′s Market Share Drops Below 10%

Contributing Editor

We last looked at the browser market in March 2011. Everyone let out a small cheer as IE6 slipped below 5% and we held our breath for the release of IE9 and Firefox 4.0.

Without further ado, here are the latest StatCounter statistics

Browser February March change relative
IE 9.0 0.48% 0.75% +0.27% +56.30%
IE 8.0 30.30% 30.20% -0.10% -0.30%
IE 7.0 10.09% 9.78% -0.31% -3.10%
IE 6.0 4.63% 4.37% -0.26% -5.60%
Firefox 4.0 0.93% 2.34% +1.41% +151.60%
Firefox 3.5+ 27.89% 26.33% -1.56% -5.60%
Firefox 3.1- 1.51% 1.31% -0.20% -13.20%
Chrome 16.51% 17.37% +0.86% +5.20%
Safari 5.07% 5.02% -0.05% -1.00%
Opera 1.99% 1.98% -0.01% -0.50%
Others 1.08% 1.30% +0.22% +20.40%
IE (all) 45.50% 45.10% -0.40% -0.90%
Firefox (all) 30.33% 29.98% -0.35% -1.20%

The table shows market shares — not absolute usage figures. Internet usage is growing so, in theory, a browser could gain users while losing market share. The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 5.6% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month(yahay!).

For the first time in many months, Google Chrome is not the biggest winner. Despite being released on March 22, Firefox 4.0 made the largest jump and trebled its market share. It’s a little early to jump to conclusions but Mozilla should be pleased.

Microsoft released IE9 on March 15. It’s initial growth has been less impressive but, unlike Firefox 4.0, IE9 is limited to Windows Vista and 7 platforms. At the time of writing, neither browser has been released as an automatic update so early adopters will be power users and developers. Those people have a higher proportion of Macs and Linux PCs than the general population so IE9 has probably achieved as much as anyone could have expected. It could make gains on Firefox if a Windows update appears soon.

However, Microsoft and Mozilla should not be complacent. The total share for all versions of IE and Firefox dropped slightly during March and many users switched to Google Chrome. In a month dominated by marketing hype for other browsers, Chrome gained users at a rate that was three times higher than IE9.

Finally, there’s another minor milestone to celebrate: IE7 usage has dropped below 10% into single figures! The problems with IE7 are overshadowed by IE6 complaints, but I consider it to be a more irritating browser. IE6 has bugs, but they’re well-documented and easy to overcome. IE7 solved some issues but introduced its own nasty problems and tacked on an awful interface. It’s ultimate demise can’t come soon enough!

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  • deathshadow

    “The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 5.6% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month(yahay!).”

    Or the market grew 0.26%… Again, don’t make statements like that — keep that disclaimer from the start of that same paragraph in mind. If the pool grew, it’s entirely possible the people using IE6 are still using it.

    It’s like the chrome numbers — are they taking away IE desktop users, or are people like my mother being counted twice with her IE8 at home and Chrome on her droid phone?

    “Share” is a slippery slope at best.

    • Armen

      i believe Statcounter differentiates mobile and desktop browsers. there are separate mobile stats.

      ps. why dont you install a modern and fast browser for your mother? :)

      • deathshadow

        re: fast/modern for mother

        Because she’s a 62 year old realtor who knows nothing about computers, and refuses to use anything other than IE no matter how many times I tell her using IE is from a security standpoint basically like bending yourself over a table and painting a bullseye on your backside in a mens prison shower.

        Getting her to accept going from IE6 to a newer version was hard enough a sell… and worse, the stupid malfing realty listing system (MLS) doesn’t work with anything BUT IE — and I tested, it’s broken in 9.

        Also she’s 1,400 miles away, so it’s not like I can sit there and hand-hold her on this stuff.

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

      Granted, but the pool doesn’t grow significantly within one month. I think it’s safe to say that the actual number of IE6 users is dropping. Let’s hope so, anyway.

      In addition, people being counted twice shouldn’t matter because it’s browser market share – not people. If your mother’s using Chrome, she won’t be using IE8 at the same time. In other words, if she does the same amount of browsing, her IE8 usage will have dropped accordingly. That will be reflected in the market share statistics.

      • deathshadow

        Wait, what?!? Are you now claiming they are tracking by how much USE there is, and not by the number of users? So they have no redundancy so one person logging into their site fifty times will be counted more than the one person who logs in twice over the same period?

        Doesn’t that COMPLETELY invalidate even BOTHERING with tracking this stuff?

      • Stormrider

        No, why should it? If someone wants to visit the site 50 times, it’s important to know what browser they are using to do so so you can make the site look/work right for them as a higher priority compared to someone who only visits once. It’s right that the figures are higher accordingly.

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

        @deathshadow
        Remember they’re calculating market share by use, i.e. the proportion of browser hits. An individual’s web usage patterns and installed browsers is irrelevant. If you visit the a site 50 times with IE, someone else could be visiting the same site 500 times with Opera. The sample size is bigger, but the result is the same (actually, it’s more accurate because it’s not attempting to identify individuals).

        Even if you could prove, say, that IE users spent more time on the web than Chrome users, it still wouldn’t make the statistics less relevant. Chrome would be used less and have a lower market share accordingly.

      • deathshadow

        That’s not even share then — as it’s no longer even the number of users, but the amount of usage; so it’s ridiculous to say less or more PEOPLE are using said browsers as that

        Share is supposed to be by individuals using it, not by how LONG people use it for. That just results in the die-hard geek who sits here using the web 12 hours a day being counted more than grandma who goes online for 30 minutes to check for new photo’s of the grandkids.

        That’s usage, not users — invalidating most every conclusion made using this ALLEGED “share” and making it even MORE pointless; not only failing to state pool size on each sampling (which with 0.75 to 1% monthly growth in total users worldwide for the better part of six years…) but also not keeping track of it by individual?

        Might as well just pull a number out of one’s backside when drawing conclusions…

        Oh, and something occurred to me — you’re claiming Mozilla should be happy with these results? NO! they may have gained 1.41% for 4, but did so at a loss of 1.56% and 0.20% for 3.5+ and 3… meaning they LOST 0.35% on your chart!!!

        Which is why that entire “relative” column is meaningless drivel.

        Treading into percentages to promote lies again here…

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

        Browsers don’t use themselves! The data does not identify users, but it directly correlates to them…

        If someone visits 1,000 sites using Opera, that will give more weight than someone using IE to visit 10 sites in the same period. But that’s not an issue: we’re calculating the proportion of browser VISITS compared to the total for all visits.

        Therefore, people (like me) who use a variety of browsers during the day are considered. The statistics give us a proportion of actual use — not downloads, not installations, and not physical user numbers.

        But, consider the sample population. The statistics are gathered from millions of users accessing more than 3 million websites. If you take Firefox’s 30%, you could assume that everyone uses Firefox for one third of the time. More realistically, it would suggest that one third of people use Firefox on a regular basis. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter — we simply know that the probability of an individual launching Firefox is 30%.

        As for the Mozilla “being happy”, please go back, look at the last row on the table and read the second to last paragraph.

        Finally, I’d love to know what you think I could possibly gain from lying? All the data is publicly available. Since you now have a some understanding the figures, perhaps you’d like to provide your own analysis?

      • Michaël

        “If someone visits 1,000 sites using Opera, that will give more weight than someone using IE to visit 10 sites in the same period. But that’s not an issue”
        While those numbers may have some usefulness, talking about market share instead of simply usage kind of distorts the figures.
        It’s like saying that of ten people, 9 have a Ford and drive an average of 10 miles/day, while the other has a Ferrari and drives 90 miles/day; therefore, those numbers clearly show that Ferrari has a 50% market share…
        Michaël

      • Michaël

        ” If you take Firefox’s 30%, you could assume that everyone uses Firefox for one third of the time. More realistically, it would suggest that one third of people use Firefox on a regular basis. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter — we simply know that the probability of an individual launching Firefox is 30%”

        Indeed, but IMHO it’s very far from meaning that 30% of people use Firefox. Just as deathshadow said, die-hard geeks likely use internet 12 hours a day vs my grandma’s 30 minutes (probably less). That would skew such numbers big time and they are thus a lot less useful when deciding for which browsers you need to check every little details.

        As always, statistics’ results are whatever you want them to be.

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

        @Michaël
        Let’s stretch your car analogy in two directions. First, assume you sampled one person. They might be the high-mileage Ferrari driver. Would you conclude that everyone’s a Ferrari driver?

        OK, so you sample 10 people and the Ferrari driver is still prominent in the average results. Let’s look at person 11: are they likely to be a Ford or Ferrari driver? What about person 12? Or 100? You’ll find that for every long-distance super-car driver, there are many hundreds of people driving a Ford a few miles a day.

        Now you could be completing your survey in Monaco which has a high proportion of Ferrari owners. That’s fine if you want Monaco-only statistics. If you want worldwide statistics, you must sample users from elsewhere too.

        It’s the same for browser usage. There are 12-hour Opera-using geeks. There are also people using the web 10 minutes a month with IE6. In the middle, there are a great many people using IE8, Firefox or Chrome for an hour or two per day.

        If you ask a group of 10 people, a single geek or grandma could skew the result. But what if you asked a few hundred million people? Would the average become more or less realistic?

        Like the Monaco example, the sites you examine is important. For example, SitePoint is a web developer resource so it has more Firefox users than Amazon.com. SitePoint on its own would skew the results. But what if we examined data from 3 million sites?

        The StatCounter results are averages taken from billions of visits to millions of websites. You can also use statistical tools such as standard deviations, confidence intervals and error margins to ensure the statistical population is large enough to result in robust averages.

        Statistics only become irrelevant when people don’t understand, ignore, or spot inconsequential patterns in the underlying data. Looking at the table, you could conclude that Chrome will have 100% market share within 5 years. You’d be extrapolating one month’s observation to 60 months. That’s ridiculous but it’d make a great attention-grabbing headline for Google.

      • Michaël

        Craig, of course my car analogy is easy to refute, but that was obviously my point…

        The thing is that power users are simply more likely to use a browser other than IE and that most users just checking their e-mails 10 minutes a day are likely not to install (or care, or know about) browsers other than IE. That’s why usage based statistics, though not worthless, are not that useful either unless you operate a site like sitepoint that is mainly dedicated to “geeks”.
        As you said, “The StatCounter results are averages taken from billions of visits to millions of websites”. VISITS, not single users.

        I don’t think that it’s a single geek or grandma skewing the results, but rather a large-scale pattern. Obviously, complete statistics (including user-based, not just usage-based) would be needed in order to confirm or deny that fact.

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

        I’m not refuting your analogy – I’m pointing out that a sample population of 10 may not be adequate.

        So please explain why VISITS is not a reasonable statistical representation of market share? If market share is not about browser usage, what is???

  • Armen

    dont forget that there are also bugs specific to IE8, and we yet to discover true awesomeness of IE9 (i believe nobody had done a comprehensive testing yet) so our pain and misery will likely to continue.

    but if Microsoft doesn’t want to support an absolute majority of it’s customers, who are XP users, there are others who will.
    i believe IE market share will drop to ~30% in next year. say thanks to Google and it’s big marketing possibility.

  • LMK

    Bit of a flaw in logic to say “For the first time in many months, Google Chrome is not the biggest winner”…
    Given that you have separated out versions of Firefox but not Chrome, so the overall Firefox share has probably not changed much.
    duh

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

      If you look at separate browser versions, Firefox 4.0 had a greater leap in market share than Chrome 10 (the predominant version of Chrome). That’s impressive given that v4 final had only been released in the last week of the month.

      However, Fx 3.x and below dropped by a slightly larger margin than Fx4 grew to make an overall loss for Firefox.

  • Middleman

    I use Joomla in Win 7 and since installing IE9 I could not make changes to text in the couple of times I have tried. It works fine when I move to Firefox 4 to make the changes.

  • Eli Mitchell

    I’m sorry to see the best browser, Opera, is losing its market share. Ok, if you can’t say it’s the best, you’ve gotta admit its one of the best. It is because there is no big-name company behind it (like Google, Apple, Microsoft or Mozilla).

    When I use a browser other than Opera, I find myself trying to use features that aren’t there, e.g. web page previews when you hover over tabs, tabs stacks, mouse gestures, and just the sleek, smooth interface in general. I’d really like to see Opera get more publicity.

    • Stormrider

      Sorry, but I hate Opera. It just feels… clunky, and I won’t use it while their CTO is still in charge spouting as much rubbish as he can get away with either – they have themselves a reputation in my eyes now!

      • Eli Mitchell

        Have you tried the most recent versions of it? IMO, every browser except Opera feels clunky. Opera’s UI just “flows”, if you know what I mean. Everything is so smooth, rounded and sleek. There are so many features aimed at making browsing more efficient. Another thing I love about Opera is the how you can easily sync different Opera browsers with a my.opera.com account. Man, Opera’s website has so many features… You can do so much on it. Also, the browser is debatably the fastest (it also has the smallest installation package of any browser). It has the best HTML5 support (at least for HTML5 forms, see here: http://wufoo.com/html5/). It also has been implementing CSS3 faster than almost any other browser (the webkit browsers are giving some competition in that area).

        Also, did you notice the multiple UI elements that Firefox 4 stole from Opera? The top-left dropdown menu, for one. Also, displaying the website’s security info when you click on the favicon (very similar to Opera). Firefox’s new layout is also strikingly similar to Opera’s. They also stole the idea of Opera’s web panels. What I’m annoyed at is that there’s this great little browser out there, and the big-name browsers are taking features from it and getting the credit themselves.

        I can feel myself slipping back into one of my most common rants….

        P.S. Could you link to some sample “rubbish” from Opera’s CTO? ;)

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

        Opera is one of the fastest, most powerful and innovative browsers. Firefox 4 copied several features (stolen is a bit strong), although I think Mozilla improved them.

        Personally, I think Opera deserves a larger market share. It’s been hovering around 2% for years although at least it’s attracting new users at the same rate as general Internet growth.

        That said, Opera can be a little quirky. I’m a frequent user but often find it confusing. Many Opera fans will say that, given time, it’s all logical. That’s the main issue: most people aren’t willing to invest time when other browsers offer an easier experience.

      • Stormrider

        “Also, did you notice the multiple UI elements that Firefox 4 stole from Opera?”

        The menu in the top left is a standard element in modern versions of windows – see office for example, or even ms paint in windows 7. Opera didn’t invent this.

        I’m it does have many great HTML5 and CSS3 features, but not any that I’m likely to use soon. It’s no good if a single browser with a 2% market share uses it, and nothing else.

        It also doesn’t support extensions in the same way Firefox does, including a lot that are essential for development now. Dragonfly is a poor-mans firebug imo (although better than the IE web dev tools).

        Most of the stuff Hakon Wium Lie spouts is a load of rubbish about IE. While I don’t like the browser, Lie just says utter rubbish about it. I once had an argument with him about something he said on a comments thread on The Register… damned if I could find it again though! While there is no doubt he has contributed a lot to the web, he seems to have turned his standards crusade into a misguided Anti MS crusade. MS are making a lot of good decisions with their browser recently, but Lie is trying to undo it all by having a go at them with everything they do, even when it is right.

      • karl

        @Stormrider

        (Disclaimer: I’m working for Opera in the devrel team.)

        All browsers vendors are back working to more cooperation than ever. The features implemented by Opera from HTML5 and CSS3 are also in the process of being implemented by other browsers. The interoperability is improving basically in between each participants. We (browser developers) are not there yet but on a good trail.

        With regards to market share, we have to be careful. The global statistics are misleading because there are hiding the diversity of market shares depending on the countries. For example, in Europe Opera makes 4.31%, not that good indeed. Let’s refine. Would you believe for example that Opera Desktop can reach 30% market share? Right now it is 29.55% in the Russian federation. Indeed, it might not be a market which matters for your own Web site but it might have big impact on revenues if you are targeting international customers.

        For extensions, Opera supports for a long time a specification which is still a draft, the W3C widgets. It is basically HTML+CSS+javascript+images, gzipped. The specification describes the manifest in an XML file: config.xml. Just let’s not rewrite the history ;) Firefox decided to implement something incompatible with the W3C specification, not the other way around. :) I’m pretty sure this will stabilize by either having Opera to follow the JSON Manifest or Mozilla following the w3c specification. The rest being the same.

        Last but not least, in the world for mobile, the stats have a different story globally and locally :)

        My point being that people should be able to use any browsers without thinking about site compatibility. Developers should be able to develop once without having to go through each browsers. It doesn’t serve anybody.

  • 3Easy

    When do we get to combine Chrome and Safari in a WebKit row of its own, displaying an impressive 22.39% share?

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

      Because this is about browsers rather than rendering engines.

      If we did that, we’d also need to include the several dozen skinned IE browsers to get Trident’s market share — which would reduce webkit’s accordingly.

  • Trademark Litigation

    Every new Firefox release is set to go through three main phases before release – mozilla-central (like the Canary channel for Chrome), mozilla-aurora (Dev channel) and mozilla-beta, each one expected to last about six weeks.

    The first and (for now) only exception to this rule is Firefox 5 as it will only be in the central-stage for three weeks and in aurora and beta for 5 weeks. Firefox 5 is now in central mode, with nightly builds already available to developers and enthusiasts, and is set to enter the aurora phase on April 12. If everything goes as planned then we’ll have the first Firefox 5 beta available around May 17 and the final release on (or around) June 21st.