Browser Trends April 2013: is Chrome Unstoppable?

By Craig Buckler
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March ended one week ago but, just as you think the browser market is stabilizing, Google puts another spring in its step. Here are the latest figures according to StatCounter

Worldwide Browser Statistics February 2013 to March 2013

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

Browser February March change relative
IE (all) 29.82% 29.29% -0.53% -1.80%
IE 9.0+ 18.08% 18.07% -0.01% -0.10%
IE 8.0 10.76% 10.29% -0.47% -4.40%
IE 7.0 0.68% 0.64% -0.04% -5.90%
IE 6.0 0.30% 0.29% -0.01% -3.30%
Firefox 21.34% 20.85% -0.49% -2.30%
Chrome 37.11% 38.13% +1.02% +2.70%
Safari 8.58% 8.48% -0.10% -1.20%
Opera 1.23% 1.16% -0.07% -5.70%
Others 1.92% 2.09% +0.17% +8.90%

Worldwide Browser Statistics March 2012 to March 2013

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:

Browser March 2012 March 2013 change relative
IE (all) 34.81% 29.29% -5.52% -15.90%
IE 9.0+ 14.56% 18.07% +3.51% +24.10%
IE 8.0 16.00% 10.29% -5.71% -35.70%
IE 7.0 2.91% 0.64% -2.27% -78.00%
IE 6.0 1.34% 0.29% -1.05% -78.40%
Firefox 24.99% 20.85% -4.14% -16.60%
Chrome 30.92% 38.13% +7.21% +23.30%
Safari 6.71% 8.48% +1.77% +26.40%
Opera 1.76% 1.16% -0.60% -34.10%
Others 0.81% 2.09% +1.28% +158.00%

The tables show market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column is the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. another 5.9% of IE7 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

Just as I think Google cannot possibly increase their share further, Chrome takes another 1% bite of the browser market. The last time this occurred was July 2012. To put it into context, that’s the equivalent of every Opera user or all combined IE6 and IE7 users abandoning their browser in a single month.

Chrome was the only mainstream browser with positive growth last month and it’s clear other vendors are struggling to compete. Does Google have an unfair commercial advantage? Few users pass a day without using the search engine, GMail, Analytics, Reader or another vital service which politely suggests they switch to Chrome. Google also has the cash reserves to promote their browser on prime-time television, at the movies, in newspapers and magazines. And let’s not forget Google controls the world’s most-used smartphone platform and Chrome OS.

That said, advertising would be worthless without a good application. Developers like Chrome. Users like Chrome. Even the most ardent IE, Firefox, Safari and Opera fanboys have little bad to say about the browser. It may no longer enjoy significant technical advantages but other vendors must either produce more competitive software or hope Google becomes complacent.

IE9 has been hovering around 18% for six months but IE10 has begun to cannibalize its share following the recent Windows 7 update. At the end of March, IE9 had 15.81% and IE10 2.26%. IE8 dropped more than any other browser and looks likely to fall below 10% this month. IE6 and IE7 barely changed but they’ve become mostly insignificant.

Firefox fell another 0.5% and it’s starting to look like a monthly trend. The browser works well on Windows and is more than a match for Chrome but I suspect it’s lost most ground on Mac, Linux and mobile platforms. Unless Mozilla can convince users to stay, Firefox could drop below 20% by the end of May 2013.

Safari had a better month than most but almost 6% of Opera users abandoned the desktop browser. That could be a statistical anomaly or perhaps users are unimpressed with the company’s switch to Webkit? Let’s see how they fare on mobile devices…

Mobile Browser Usage

Mobile usage increased a fraction to 14.44% of all web activity during March 2013.

The primary mobile browsing applications:

  1. Android — 30.78% (down 0.76%)
  2. iPhone — 24.44% (up 0.08%)
  3. Opera Mini/Mobile – 15.54% (up 0.14%)
  4. UC Browser — 8.27% (down 0.07%)
  5. Nokia browser — 6.96% (up 0.05%)

It’s difficult to spot trends because the mobile market is erratic and influenced by local factors. For example, the iPhone is massively popular in western countries, but less so in Asia, Africa and South America where Android and Opera compete for the top spot.

There’s been a slightly unusual fall for Android but I wouldn’t read too much into that. The Chrome mobile browser has a 2.02% market share and is starting to increase as rapidly as its desktop cousin. Google is everywhere.

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  • I don’t know if it’s Google promoting Chrome more than it is the other browsers shooting themselves in the foot.

    IE may have lost a lot of ground due to the fact that most of the newer HTML and CSS tech could not be used in IE8 and you needed to buy an new OS to use IE9+. Meanwhile, you could download Chrome onto Windows XP and use all the latest and greatest. Bonus for Chrome.

    Opera, which I felt was a very fast and efficient browser, conceded to the dominance of Chrome by announcing a switch to Webkit. Regardless of the reasons of rationalizations, many saw this as a “might-as-well-use-Chrome” announcement. Bonus for Chrome.

    Firefox may have enjoyed a brief moment of popularity amongst niched groups (mostly because of peer conformity and hatred towards IE), but the realization of Firefox’s security holes, breaking of pages, and slower than normal loading gave way to the other, then renegade, browser: Chrome. Bonus for Chrome.

    As you stated, having your own search, social network, and other popular services does not hurt marketing Chrome, but I truly feel that the other browsers development and marketing strategy contributed to at least 50% of Chrome’s success.

    Having said all that, Chrome is a very good browser in its own right.

    • Thanks H.E.A.T. You make some good points (although I suspect Opera conceded more to Apple/iOS so they could implement their browser on the iPhone and iPad).

      The OS plays a major part too:
      Safari: Mac OS (~10% of PCs) and iOS (large number of devices, but currently small compared to PC market)
      IE10: Windows 8 only until recently (~3% of PCs). Win7 now (~50% of PCs), but has lost ground to other browsers.

      I think you may be a little unfair on Firefox: it has experienced issues, but most are fixed very quickly. It seems on-par with Chrome on Windows but, unfortunately for Mozilla, much of its tech community has switched to Mac.

      • Christian

        Craig, people go for Chrome because they feel like they have to support Google. They forgive Chrome its errors yet hold Firefox’s errors against it eternally, no matter how quickly they are fixed.

      • I agree there’s some animosity toward Firefox owing to v4+ issues which made people switch. While those problems may have been fixed, few people change browsers on a whim and enticing people back from Chrome will be a problem for Mozilla.

  • Stevie D

    While there may be an element of Opera users deciding “What’s the point?” after the decision to abandon Presto for Webkit, I doubt that it accounts for any significant aspect of the change. The reasons that Opera-users use Opera is because they like the fact that it is far and away the most fully-featured browser out there. As long as the rendering engine works pretty accurately, I’m not bothered which one it uses. I do think that Opera dropped the ball by not stressing that while they have changed to the Webkit rendering engine, it will continue to offer the same high-power experience.

    • Fair enough, but Opera’s market share has tumbled in the past year. It’s a great browser so why do you think it’s happened?

    • Mathias

      Apart from developers (who would test on different rendering engines) who would have used opera because of presto – doesn’t seem very likely.

      They switch to chrome because it’s a better experience.

  • Bob Ramsey

    I have used most of the browsers and continue to do so for testing purposes. I like Chrome because it is clean and quickly responsive.period.

  • I think Google is looking rather dangerous.

    • Absolutely. And I still haven’t forgiven them for scrapping Reader!

  • I am always pulling for FF as I nedd FF for my development needs. LOL

    But when I am not coding, I stick with chrome. Chrome’s V8 engine is just so fast. I can’t help it.

    IE10 isn’t bad either. Other than not supporting 3d perspective, I am ok with IE10.