Browser Trends December 2012: Chrome Grabs Legacy IE Users

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The browser chart has been relatively stable for a while and I suggested we were entering a period of equilibrium. I should have known better — my predictions are rarely correct! Let’s analyze the latest browser market statistics according to StatCounter

Worldwide Browser Statistics October 2012 to November 2012

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

Browser October November change relative
IE (all) 32.08% 31.22% -0.86% -2.70%
IE 9.0+ 17.95% 17.94% -0.01% -0.10%
IE 8.0 12.66% 12.00% -0.66% -5.20%
IE 7.0 0.98% 0.87% -0.11% -11.20%
IE 6.0 0.49% 0.41% -0.08% -16.30%
Firefox 22.32% 22.36% +0.04% +0.20%
Chrome 34.83% 35.78% +0.95% +2.70%
Safari 7.81% 7.84% +0.03% +0.40%
Opera 1.63% 1.40% -0.23% -14.10%
Others 1.33% 1.40% +0.07% +5.30%

Worldwide Browser Statistics November 2011 to November 2012

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

Browser November 2011 November 2012 change relative
IE (all) 40.63% 31.22% -9.41% -23.20%
IE 9.0+ 10.14% 17.94% +7.80% +76.90%
IE 8.0 24.00% 12.00% -12.00% -50.00%
IE 7.0 4.26% 0.87% -3.39% -79.60%
IE 6.0 2.23% 0.41% -1.82% -81.60%
Firefox 25.24% 22.36% -2.88% -11.40%
Chrome 25.74% 35.78% +10.04% +39.00%
Safari 5.90% 7.84% +1.94% +32.90%
Opera 1.84% 1.40% -0.44% -23.90%
Others 0.65% 1.40% +0.75% +115.40%

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 16.3% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

Every time I think Chrome has reached saturation point, several million users prove me wrong. While it’s not achieving 1% growth every month, I can’t quibble about a 0.95% increase. Impressive.

However, what’s unusual is that most of the market is remaining stable. IE9, Firefox, Safari and Opera have barely changed during the past three months (admittedly, Opera dropped a little this month, but I suspect that’s a statistical blip exaggerated by its smaller user base).

Browser usage patterns are complex but Chrome’s current growth is predominantly user migration from Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8. Is that surprising given XP users account for 26% of the OS market and have no other choice? Vista has 7% and those users are stuck on IE9. Windows 7 is beginning to plateau at 53% but IE10 remains a beta browser. Windows 8 is yet to make an impact on the OS figures.

Microsoft’s decision to abandon legacy OS users has adversely affected IE’s user base. That policy was mostly business-driven but few will upgrade their OS because their browser is outdated. Perhaps it would have worked a decade ago but, today, IE users have plenty of alternatives.

Knowledge has also improved and more people understand what a browser is. Ironically, Microsoft’s IE9 advertising is partially responsible. In addition, Google continues to promote Chrome — IE users see an “install” link whenever they access the search engine.

Finally, the current economic climate has an effect. Assume you operated a business with several hundred Windows XP/Vista users who were struggling with IE6/7/8 speed or compatibility. Would you spend thousands of dollars upgrading PCs and training staff? Or would you permit employees to adopt another browser of their choice?

IE10’s a great browser but no one’s using it. One month after the Windows 8 launch, it has a tiny 0.29% market share and most of those users migrated from IE9. As time progresses, people will upgrade Windows and have the option to switch back to IE. But how many will bother if they’ve been happy using Chrome, Firefox or Opera for a couple of years?

Unless IE becomes significantly better than its competitors, Microsoft’s policy will backfire.

Mobile Browser Usage

Surprisingly, mobile usage increased by 1% to 13.08% of all web activity during November. That’s unusual given the northern hemisphere is cold and everyone prefers to stay indoors.

The primary mobile browsing applications:

  1. Android — 27.15% (up 1.31%)
  2. iPhone — 20.98% (up 0.11%)
  3. Opera Mini/Mobile – 17.99% (down 0.93%)
  4. Nokia browser — 9.34% (down 0.86%)
  5. UC Browser — 9.08% (up 1.43%)

It’s been a great month for Android and UC Browser. I thought the mobile version of Safari may increase following Apple’s iPhone 5 launch, but I guess many users upgraded from previous versions of the device. Nokia feature phones took a sizable hit although they remain popular in Africa, Asia and South America.

Chrome and Firefox Mobile hold a minuscule 0.59% and 0.57% respectively. It seems most people are happy with their default browser.

Coming next month: the browser review of 2012!

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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