There are lots of reasons for hating HTML Email, but perhaps no#1 on most people’s hit list is having to produce HTML Email to deliver to potentially hundreds of different mail clients and configurations.

Now, clearly it’s completely impractical to test your work on hundreds of mail rigs, but the question is, where do you draw the line? Generic browser usage statistics are reasonably common, but mail clients stats?

  • What is the take up rate of Outlook 2007?
  • Is Gmail challenging Hotmail?
  • Are home users using different clients to business?

In the past you could confidently make up whatever numbers you liked on those question without fear of being caught out. But that may be changing.

Litmus, who produce an excellent web-based browser and email testing suite are now publishing email client usage statistics from their new Fingerprint email analysis system. It makes very interesting reading.

Now, as with generic browser usage statistics, these are broad-based broad-based figures and no doubt smaller userbase usage profiles may vary greatly. Nevertheless, Litmus claim to have pulled these stats from a pool of almost 3 million clients, so if you’ve had nothing but intuition to base your decisions on in the past, this is pretty big news.

Consumer Mail Client Usage StatsSome of the more interesting stories told by the Fingerprint stats include:

  • Consumers seem to be increasingly leaving their desktop mail clients behind, with well over 60% preferring to use web mail clients.
  • Despite Gmail carving itself out a small share of the market, the old stalwarts of web mail Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail still rule the web mail roost, controlling over half the consumer market and just under half of the business market.
  • Business still likes Outlook, but have been reluctant to make the jump to Outlook 2007.
  • Though consumers are less likely to use Outlook, they’re also more likely to use the latest (and crappiest) version.
  • The iPhone makes the top 10 in both categories, carving out a respectable niche of 1.3% (business) and 1% (consumers) respectively.

Apparently Fingerprint collates it’s data from a single line of code embedded within sent mail and they offer a service that allows you to analyze your own mail list’s viewing habits.

I don’t think there’s much doubt that this is really valuable data for email designers, content providers and marketers, so if I can get something organized for the next Design View, I’ll give you the rundown.

Alex manages design and front end development for and is SitePoint's Design and UX editor.

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  • Lucas Chan

    The Gmail result surprises me a lot. I really thought they had a bigger slice of this pie.

    It would be interesting to learn a bit more about their fingerprinting system and knowing exactly how they do mail client detection. Some bed time reading is in order perhaps. :)

  • dtra

    i think hotmail and yahoo have such great market share is also because they own the im market as well with yahoo messenger and msn, i’m just guessing that by the way, i use msn and gtalk, but not yahoo messenger.

  • AlexW

    @dtra – I think you’re right. Funny thing is, you don’t actually need a Hotmail account to use MSN Messenger, but Microsoft are careful to make sure that’s not well known. My MSN IM account is linked to a Gmail address.

    Not sure about Yahoo.

  • dtra

    my msn address isn’t either (the email address doesn’t even exist anymore haha), i think part of the attraction is that people can get email notifications easily with the im client.


  • Anonymous

    How about Lotus Notes?
    I bet many companies out there are using that horrible application. (Mine included)

  • Michel Merlin

    Thunderbird appears for 2.4/2.0%, yet Outlook Express doesn’t appear at all (can’t be included by error in Windows Live Mail 3/2%). So I think OE is in facts the main part of the “Outlook” slice (33/27%).

    This bias, being necessarily deliberate, sheds doubt over the whole report.

    Versailles, Sat 25 Oct 2008 00:44:45 +0200

  • AlexW

    I’m guessing you’re right about MSOE & MSO figures being combined. I don’t see that as a huge issue though as long as they render pretty much the same – the MSO 2007 distinction is the key for me.

  • Michel Merlin

    OL & OE, similar names and interfaces, yet quite different programs

    OL (Outlook) and OE (Outlook Express), under very similar names and interfaces, are 2 completely different programs, by 2 different teams, with quite different mindsets, data structures, ways each function is done. OE is (IMO) much better for email, and each is the only one to handle some things, like newsgroups (OE) or syncing contacts with PDAs (OL).

    When you compose a same email message using OL or OE, you may have similar renderings (since the contents to show is the same), yet the underlying HTML source is very different; the options the writer or reader has are quite different. Messages created in OL have more useless bloat in their code; you can always write the same contents in OE identical yet prettier and cleaner or even richer, with smaller and more elegant source. Also, OE settings include the ones necessary to not fail complying with netiquette (e.g. automatically reply in the sender’s format), or to make message correctly encoded and resilient to eventual encoding mistakes in further messages; OL does not. And OE lets you more finely compose HTML documents exactly your personal way, more rich, pretty and resilient. Now OL is made with more rough power, and (probably) more powerful when integrating in an enterprise mail system.

    In addition MS, while apparently calling users to switch from OE to OL, is in facts deterring them by providing quite incompetent migrating tools: messages are unintelligently copied, not merged; so if you migrate all your 3-year message storage one way, then use OL for a month, then migrate all back to OE, you end up having all your 3-year messages doubled! After being trapped in 1998 (I was unable to imagine Microsoft doing so dumb migrating tools) I decided to never try again OL for messaging.

    In the OL or OE email I receive, OL is mainly used by low level staff in big companies, or by inexperienced individual users; others tend to use OE.

    Versailles, Sat 25 Oct 2008 03:00:00 +0200

  • joejac

    I need my customers’ emails classified, safeguarded and well backed up, for me Thunderbird was a savior all these years. Unfortunately the presentation of HTML emails is not consistent with Outlook Express results or viceversa :)

  • Black Max

    Anyone use Eudora any more? :)

  • lukemeister

    yeah I’m kinda surprised about the gmail slice too… most people I know that use online free web mail use gmail. I suppose Yahoo and Hotmail are some pretty big mainstays though.

  • AMAmanda

    I personaly use Hotmail, But I see more and more people switching to outlook

  • AlexW

    I personaly use Hotmail, But I see more and more people switching to outlook

    Are they home users or business, AMAmanda? It’s unusual to hear people moving away from webmail at the moment.

  • pavan_patil

    Yahoo is bit slow as compare to Gmail – I am not sure but I think Gmail is still in beta version may be this pie will rise when we will see beta tag removed from Gmail !

  • iPhoneLiveUser

    I think iPhone was probably putting some dent into the Hotmail user base.

    Basically there was no good solution for Hotmail on your iPhone. I expect that many had the motivation they needed to transition to another mail solution. I wonder if will help to curb that attrition?

  • zeus

    Outlook is still not end-user friendly. People are always tired of doing such outlook protocol but business loves it since it prevents spamming of non-covertible to profit inquiries. yahoo still remains user friendly.

  • Jay

    I think the fingerprint pie chart in this blog and the pie chart % breakdown by Finger Print seem to be different.

    For e.g. The largest Blue Slice 36% in Fingerprint pie chart is for Outlook (not for Yahoo) Yahoo is the orange slice…

    Take a look at the FIngerprint website and let me know if I interpreted it wrong.


  • somecallmejosh

    We’ve switched from Outlook to Google Apps. Couldn’t be happier.

  • platoon

    We are using both Google apps and outlook for our internal mails.we are web designing company, Even for our clients we setup Google Apps.So far no complaints from clients side.

  • glenngould

    I think the fingerprint pie chart in this blog and the pie chart % breakdown by Finger Print seem to be different.

    For e.g. The largest Blue Slice 36% in Fingerprint pie chart is for Outlook (not for Yahoo) Yahoo is the orange slice…

    Take a look at the FIngerprint website and let me know if I interpreted it wrong.


    You are looking at the business recipients chart in Fingerprint’s website. Sitepoint uses the consumer recipients piechart in this page.

  • Mark

    Gmail is very low in users? How come? I think gmail is much better then hotmail :)

  • AlexW

    Gmail is very low in users? How come? I think gmail is much better then hotmail :)

    Agreed. Gmail is widely used by techies and more web-savvy users but the average Joe-sixpack user doesn’t change webmail applications very often, so they’re all still using the YahooMail and HotMail accounts they created 5+ years ago.

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