By Craig Buckler

Browser Trends December 2011: Chrome Becomes the World’s Second Favorite Browser

By Craig Buckler

Google has done it. Despite being half the age Mozilla’s browser, Chrome has overtaken Firefox to become the world’s second favorite (or most-used) browser. Chrome may only have a 0.5% advantage but it’s enough — and my prediction in September was spot-on! Let’s look at the latest worldwide StatCounter statistics:

Browser October November change relative
IE 9.0+ 9.59% 10.14% +0.55% +5.70%
IE 8.0 23.83% 24.00% +0.17% +0.70%
IE 7.0 4.29% 4.26% -0.03% -0.70%
IE 6.0 2.47% 2.23% -0.24% -9.70%
Firefox 4.0+ 18.87% 18.62% -0.25% -1.30%
Firefox 3.7- 7.52% 6.62% -0.90% -12.00%
Chrome 25.05% 25.74% +0.69% +2.80%
Safari 5.93% 5.90% -0.03% -0.50%
Opera 1.80% 1.84% +0.04% +2.20%
Others 0.65% 0.65% +0.00% +0.00%
IE (all) 40.18% 40.63% +0.45% +1.10%
Firefox (all) 26.39% 25.24% -1.15% -4.40%

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 9.7% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

I don’t want to spoil Google’s party but Chrome’s market share increased by less than 0.7% in the past month. While other vendors would be ecstatic with that result, it’s lower than the usual 1% growth. Chrome’s figures are starting to fluctuate so I suspect it will reach saturation point soon.

There’s also good news for Microsoft. IE9’s market share increased by 0.55% and, bizarrely, IE8 also saw a small gain. Overall, IE usage grew by 0.45% — I don’t recall the last time that occurred.

Opera, Safari and the lesser-used browsers barely changed during November. That leaves just one major loser. As expected, Firefox 3.x and below decreased by 0.9% but the total for versions 4 to 8 also dropped by 0.25%. Firefox’s performance is improving rapidly and it remains the preferred browser for 1 in 4 web users, but it’s clearly not enough.

Three factors have contributed to Chrome’s lead over Firefox:

  1. Google has spent millions advertising their browser online and offline.
  2. Chrome is simple — something most users appreciate — and upgrades are painless (if not completely unnoticeable). I install Chrome for novice users because, once it’s done, I need not worry about it again.
  3. You never experience add-on issues — partly because Chrome’s extensions offer minimal browser integration and few users install them. That’s not the case for Firefox; add-ons have been integral to the success of the browser and Mozilla did not fully appreciate the compatibility problems. The situation has improved but I suspect many users lost patience and looked elsewhere.

Whatever the reasons, Google deserve their success. Chrome’s next target: Internet Explorer.

Mobile Browser Usage

Mobile usage accounted for 6.95% of all web activity during November 2011.

The primary mobile browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 22.49% (up 0.97%)
  2. Android — 20.41% (down 0.47%)
  3. iPhone — 19.53% (up 0.75%)
  4. Nokia browser — 11.94% (down 0.46%)
  5. Blackberry — 8.20% (down 1.06%)

The market is erratic and affected by regional and seasonal variations. That rarely matters if you’re building native applications but mobile apps are becoming viable alternatives now that:

  • devices are increasingly sophisticated and offer support for HTML5 APIs
  • it’s often impractical to create native applications for all mainstream platforms: iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Phone, Symbian, etc.

The mobile market is growing rapidly. You should consider it; your competitors certainly will.

  • Salman Abbas

    Woohoo :)

  • I’m not surprised, I use both Chrome & Firefox, but I’m increasingly using Chrome more because the later versions of FF have just been so slow, laggy and CPU hungry.

    • Try the “load tabs only when selected” option. 80 tabs, starts in a second, uses 200mb.

      Depends on how you surf as to how useful it will be to you.

  • Thanks for the stats. Very interesting.

    Could you include the market share of IE5.5 in future trends please?

    • I could, but it’s zero so there wouldn’t be much point. That’s not to say there are no IE5.5 users, but their numbers are dwarfed by other browsers.

      If you are concerned about IE5.5, you should check your own statistics. I suspect some large companies and government agencies are still using it.

  • Looking at the Europe v. US stats, Chrome’s growth remains impressive in Europe, but it seems that the resurgence of IE8 in the US dented the overall trend. There’s a similar reversal of XP’s downward drift in the US, too – maybe Thanksgiving/seasonal sales pulling less-regular web users online? Will be interesting to see how long that lasts.

    • Sabine

      Wasn’t there also a push to get your parents on Chrome during thanksgiving? Maybe the surge in old browsers were just a session start to download chrome :)

  • Mike M

    One reason for Chrome’s perceived market share increase may be that it’s piggy-backed on virtually every downloaded piece of shareware or freeware available on the Internet.

    Merry Christmas!

  • Interesting, Chrome is a great browser, no question. I just can’t wait until someone topples IE, oh it will be a grand day.

  • Alf

    Hope this trend continues. It would be great to someday only worry about developing sites for FF and Chrome.

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