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Browser Trends December 2014: Safari Survival?

By Craig Buckler

In last month’s browser trends report, Internet Explorer slipped below 20% for the first time since the mid 1990s. Let’s see if there’s any drama in the latest figures from StatCounter

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, October to November 2014

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

Browser October November change relative
IE (all) 19.29% 19.60% +0.31% +1.60%
IE11 9.52% 10.79% +1.27% +13.30%
IE10 2.62% 2.38% -0.24% -9.20%
IE9 2.76% 2.80% +0.04% +1.40%
IE6/7/8 4.39% 3.63% -0.76% -17.30%
Chrome 47.71% 48.15% +0.44% +0.90%
Firefox 17.04% 16.76% -0.28% -1.60%
Safari 4.64% 4.45% -0.19% -4.10%
iPad Safari 6.35% 6.13% -0.22% -3.50%
Opera 1.29% 1.39% +0.10% +7.80%
Others 3.68% 3.52% -0.16% -4.30%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, November 2013 to November 2014

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

Browser November 2013 November 2014 change relative
IE (all) 27.29% 19.60% -7.69% -28.20%
IE11 1.47% 10.79% +9.32% +634.00%
IE10 11.10% 2.38% -8.72% -78.60%
IE9 5.29% 2.80% -2.49% -47.10%
IE6/7/8 9.43% 3.63% -5.80% -61.50%
Chrome 41.95% 48.15% +6.20% +14.80%
Firefox 18.13% 16.76% -1.37% -7.60%
Safari 8.48% 10.58% +2.10% +24.80%
Opera 1.14% 1.39% +0.25% +21.90%
Others 3.01% 3.52% +0.51% +16.90%

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. 17.3% of IE6/7/8 users switched browsers last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

It’s business as usual. Chrome jumped almost half a percentage point which is nothing special for the browser but a leap other vendors can only dream about.

Internet Explorer gained a little market share thanks to a rise of almost 1.3% for IE11. Unfortunately, the simultaneous drop for earlier versions dragged that market increase back by 1%. Bizarrely, IE9 now has more users than IE10. There’s not much in it, but I suspect there are a reasonable proportion of Windows Vista users who cannot upgrade further.

IE6/7/8 usage is dropping faster than ever which is great news for developers. Personally, I rarely worry about the ancient browsers but there are still projects where support is essential. Online stores and sites serving large organisations or government departments are prime examples.

Opera was the only other browser to rise but it’s been fluctuating around 1% to 1.5% for many years. The browser is still gaining users but only at the rate of general web user growth. I can’t see that situation changing but Opera continues to survive.

Both Firefox and Safari suffered accordingly. Firefox’s market share remains reasonably healthy but how viable is the desktop edition of Safari? The browser is undoubtedly popular on the iPhone and iPad (well, it’s arguably the only real option on those devices), but the desktop version has fallen below 4.5% and lost more than 4% of its user base last month.

The browser building business has high operating costs with little guarantee of profit. Vendors can make money with associated sales and affiliate advertising but a large number of users are required before a vendor can pay the bills. Technically, Safari is falling behind the competition especially since Google forked Webkit to Blink. New versions arrive with device and OS releases but is that schedule fast enough? It seems users aren’t convinced.

Apple has to provide Safari for their mobile devices so building a desktop edition isn’t significant additional work. The company must provide something with Mac OS but Safari has become increasingly irrelevant.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, October to November 2014

Mobile usage in November 2014 increased by almost 0.8% to reach 33.66% of all web activity. It may be later than predicted, but the mobile revolution has arrived — ignore it at your peril!

The top mobile browsing applications:

Mobile Browser October November change relative
Chrome 27.73% 29.55% +1.82% +6.60%
iPhone 24.33% 21.48% -2.85% -11.70%
Android 20.93% 20.47% -0.46% -2.20%
UC Browser 8.74% 9.94% +1.20% +13.70%
Opera Mini/Mobile 8.72% 8.96% +0.24% +2.80%
Nokia Browser 2.87% 2.93% +0.06% +2.10%
IEMobile 2.29% 2.39% +0.10% +4.40%
Others 4.39% 4.28% -0.11% -2.50%

Chrome has grabbed another large chunk of the mobile market. Only UC Browser came close to that growth but it’s possibly a statistical blip.

The biggest loser? Safari again. It dropped almost 3% and while that doesn’t indicate a long-term trend, it’s hovered around the low 20% mark for many months. Admittedly, that’s stunning figures for a single vendor and iPhone users remain passionate about the devices and platforms. However, Apple no longer enjoys a technical advantage and there are many other options — especially for the more price-conscious consumer.

While Safari’s success on iOS is more assured than the desktop edition, Apple cannot afford to lose too much market share. Users will notice software dropping behind the competition regardless of how good the hardware becomes.

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