Browser Trends of December 2011

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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.

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.

Browser Trendsfirefoxgoogle chromeHTML5 Dev Centerieoperasafari
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