Browser Trends December 2015: the Fight for Firefox’s Future

By Craig Buckler
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It’s the same news and Chrome is continuing its meteoric rise. How do the other browsers fare in December’s StatCounter statistics? …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, October to November 2015

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

Browser October November change relative
IE (all) 15.28% 15.45% +0.17% +1.10%
IE11 10.00% 10.40% +0.40% +4.00%
IE10 1.53% 1.44% -0.09% -5.90%
IE9 1.61% 1.48% -0.13% -8.10%
IE6/7/8 2.14% 2.13% -0.01% -0.50%
Edge 1.10% 1.21% +0.11% +10.00%
Chrome 53.78% 54.27% +0.49% +0.90%
Firefox 15.52% 14.70% -0.82% -5.30%
Safari 4.10% 4.29% +0.19% +4.60%
iPad Safari 5.02% 5.05% +0.03% +0.60%
Opera 1.78% 1.77% -0.01% -0.60%
Others 3.42% 3.26% -0.16% -4.70%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, November 2014 to November 2015

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

Browser November 2014 November 2015 change relative
IE (all) 19.60% 15.45% -4.15% -21.20%
IE11 10.79% 10.40% -0.39% -3.60%
IE10 2.38% 1.44% -0.94% -39.50%
IE9 2.80% 1.48% -1.32% -47.10%
IE6/7/8 3.63% 2.13% -1.50% -41.30%
Chrome 48.15% 54.27% +6.12% +12.70%
Firefox 16.76% 14.70% -2.06% -12.30%
Safari 10.58% 9.34% -1.24% -11.70%
Opera 1.39% 1.77% +0.38% +27.30%
Others 3.52% 4.47% +0.95% +27.00%

(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. 8.1% of IE9 users switched browsers last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Yes, Chrome rose again. 0.5% may be nothing special, but month-on-month, Chrome has increased its user base by 12.7% in the past year. IE/Edge, Safari and Opera barely changed, which leaves us with a single loser.

Firefox suffered one of the biggest drops in its history, and one in twenty users migrated elsewhere. I’m not convinced there was any particular reason?

Firefox remains the only mainstream open source browser which isn’t tied to a commercial entity. There are no directors or shareholders, so the application can take whatever direction is best for the Web. Mozilla has built a great browser and, while some question Mac OS performance, Firefox provides strong competition and generally uses fewer resources than Chrome. The built-in developer tools are more than a match for those found elsewhere, and thousands of useful extensions offer deep browser integration.

So why are users abandoning Firefox?

IE/Edge is the default browser on Windows. Safari is the default on Mac OS and enforced on iOS. Chrome is used in Chrome OS and is advertised every time someone accesses a Google service. By comparison, Firefox is available in relatively low-use Linux distros and Firefox OS.

Installing Firefox is a conscious decision made by developers and power users who want the configurable experience it offers. Unfortunately, they have no hesitation in switching if another browser offers a better or more stable environment. Many developers migrated to Chrome when the developer tools became interesting — and they have little reason to return.

Firefox is rarely a consideration for non-technical Web users. This was less evident in the early days when the userbase actively promoted and installed Firefox because the only other option was the aging IE6. Today, we don’t care what people use. The latest browsers are all good applications.

Can Mozilla stem the flow?

Firefox isn’t going anywhere. Despite being a non-profit organization, Mozilla has plenty of cash — owing to associated advertising and partnership revenues. Having fewer users results in less money, but the browser retains a huge fan base.

Marketing campaigns could help, but the budget would be insignificant compared to what Google can throw at Chrome. Mozilla could simplify Firefox to attract more less-technical users, but there are already plenty of simple browsers to choose from.

Overall, Mozilla should stick with Firefox and remember it’s the primary reason for the organization’s success. Firefox OS, MatchStick and Webmaker etc. are all interesting projects but they’re not revolutionary, and there are many commercial alternatives.

Whatever you think of Firefox, without it you’d have no Mozilla Developer Network. W3Schools would dominate again.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, October to November 2015

November’s mobile usage slipped by 1.5% and now stands at 39.67% of all Web activity. A cold weather blip? I suspect it’ll rise strongly as we approach the gift-giving season.

The top mobile browsing applications:

Mobile Browser October November change relative
Chrome 35.85% 37.42% +1.57% +4.40%
iPhone 16.38% 17.94% +1.56% +9.50%
UC Browser 17.42% 16.94% -0.48% -2.80%
Android 13.06% 11.73% -1.33% -10.20%
Opera Mini/Mobile 12.54% 11.37% -1.17% -9.30%
IEMobile 2.07% 2.04% -0.03% -1.40%
Others 2.68% 2.56% -0.12% -4.50%

Again, Chrome experienced huge growth, but it’s offset by a drop in Android browser usage. The biggest riser is therefore Safari on the iPhone, which has retaken the #2 spot after a couple of months behind UC Browser. Firefox has 0.1% of the mobile market, despite having Android and iOS (skinned Safari) editions.

The worldwide chart has split. Chrome and Safari dominate in the US, Europe and Australia. UC Browser and Opera are phenomenally successful in Asia and Africa.

See you next month for a preliminary discussion of the most popular devices of late December.

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  • Ralph Mason

    I’m glad you’re confident Firefox will survive, Craig. It’s a great browser, with (mostly) great values, and I feel a little ashamed at having abandoned it. Unfortunately, I just find Chrome to be a little nicer to use.

    • Craig Buckler

      It’s great we have a selection of quality browsers to choose from. I still like Chrome but it’s become a resource hog – Opera offers a faster experience. I’m keeping an eye on Vivaldi but, for now, I’m following the Fox!

  • cris levin

    Firefox survived when IE had 96% of the market share, so I don’t see it going away anytime soon.

    MS, APPLE and GOOGLE are all flexing their muscles and can get a lot of users by being the default option. Only firefix actually cares about users’ privacy.

    It doesn’t matter if users uses firefox right now, the web always need an excellent alternative to rely on. Some day the users will need firefox and it will always be there.

    • I am waiting for Mozilla Servo alpha release. I have lot of expectations from this project :)

    • nBmnp

      But in the meantime, Firefox got a new management which is more about politics than technology.

      They will drive Firefox to the ground.

  • I gave up on Firefox a few years ago when it was plagued with memory leak problems (either the browser itself or, more probably, the extensions I used at that time). I was hooked there with the sharing of info between my main computer and my Android devices and I stayed with Chrome ever since.

    The main problem for Mozilla is that it doesn’t have a propagation vector for its browser. Windows comes with Internet Explorer as default. Apple machines come with Safari pre-installed. Every time you go to Google you are invited to install Chrome.

    I applaud their initiative of having a “developer edition” for Firefox. I installed it and I played a little bit around. However I still do all my front end development in Chrome while I use all the other browsers for testing. As the mainstream browser in the world I have to give it the most attention.

    I also agree with the comment @crislevin:disqus made earlier. We need an independent alternative to the mainstream browsers. As a non-profit, Mozilla doesn’t have to meet quotas. They could afford to stay true to their mandate making Firefox the reminder to the other vendors that if they step wrong, there is always a place for users to go.

    • Craig Buckler

      Thanks Adrian.

      You may want to check Firefox memory usage again – especially if you’re using Windows. Mozilla tackled the criticism and it generally uses fewer resources than Chrome, Opera or Edge.

      I mentioned last month that Chrome offers seamless integration across devices. Firefox sync will do the same but you’d require the browser on your mobile and it struggles against Chrome and Safari.

      All that said, Firefox remains my default desktop browser and I’m happy with it. Perhaps that’s partly out of familiarity and loyalty but like the stability and configurability it offers.

      • I’m happy enough at the moment with Chrome. The fact that the authentication goes through the Google account instead of yet another account is a plus in my book. Those being said, I am open minded enough to change should the situation require it.

      • Firefox is definitely using less resources than Chrome on my systems. I’m running Ubuntu on an old 2008 iMac and Chrome was just turning it into molasses.

        Firefox was a big performance improvement and the default browser I used on it – until Vivaldi which seems to be better again. I like Chrome, but it’s getting out of hand.

    • Problem is Mozilla does the opposite. Running behind Google, doing what they do, trying to lure users over to Firefox, for this reason cutting down features and options and choices.

      Mozilla in the past was awesome, today they are just a copy company which has no own ideas anymore.

  • PVgr

    Firefox is not going away anytime soon, I hope, I can’t develop without Firebug, Web Developer and Valence add-ons. Thanks Craig for the stats and insight!

    • Craig Buckler

      Is Firebug still worth installing? It heavily influenced the built-in developer tools (in Firefox and other browsers) so I don’t find myself needing it.

    • What functionality does Firebug provide that the native Firefox Developer tools don’t? (or Chrome’s for that matter)

      • PVgr

        Nothing, I believe. It’s just a matter of preference.

      • Actually chrome’s dev tools will not help you in case of many js I am finding myself always switching back to firefox from chrome to just do some debugging

        • I’ve never had an issue. What sort of errors are you referring to?

      • Bogdan Pascanu

        I found one! You can’t alter or delete cookies in the storage tab. But even so, I made the switch to Developer Tools and abandoned firebug.

        • I use a Chrome Extension for that called EditThisCookie that works really well. But you can do it with Chrome, just not very easily (I don’t think), so you’re right. The only GUI way I know is from the setting’s page.

    • Deekshith Allamaneni

      Firefox is trying to port all favorite Firebug features into native DevTools.

  • ehanneken

    What’s the math behind “one in twenty [Firefox] users migrated elsewhere?” The chart shows that more than one in ten users left in 2015.

    • Craig Buckler

      The ‘relative’ column shows a 5.3% drop during November alone – or one in twenty. Over the past year it’s more than one in ten.

      Take it with a pinch of cycnicism, though. The numbers can’t account for general increases in the web population. It’s possible for a browser to increase its user base but lose market share because it’s grown at a slower rate than overall web adoption.

  • Switched over to Vivaldi, as Mozilla has decided that the battle with Google for their users is more of value than supporting power users. Mozilla did exactly like Opera, abandoning their origin target group in the hope that with enough simplicity and minimalism the simple users abandoning Chrome and switch over. Which of course did not happen.

    • Yep, I’m enjoying Vivaldi after a week of running it as my main browser.

      It seems to have some bugs with adding javascript to a currently loaded page – like it doesn’t recognise window.self or something. Bookmarklets and extensions like GetPocket haven’t worked well.

      But, it’s fast and I like the way it looks, picking up the BG color for the current site and bringing it into the Vivaldi UI is a interesting idea.

  • Craig Buckler

    The desktop and tablet figures are combined into a single table. It’ll also include devices such as game consoles. The mobile table should just be smartphones but it can be difficult to distinguish between those and a tablet.

    Chrome is the default on Android and Chrome OS so it has a big impact there. Chrome’s desktop growth can be attributed to:

    1. Being a good browser which people like and recommend. It’s adopted by power users and non-technical users which is fairly unusual.

    2. Multi-media marketing in newspapers, TV, cinema, etc.

    3. Promotion across Google services – especially when you’re using another browser.

    Google’s stance has changed from “we don’t mind what browser you use but please consider dropping oldIE” to “use Chrome everywhere, buddy”.

    I doubt regulators will get involved. Microsoft did indulge in a few anti-Netscape activities but it wasn’t fair to fine them for including a browser in their OS – everyone does that. Chrome desktop normally needs to be installed so Google is safe presuming the advertising remains legal.

    The story is slightly different on mobile but no one has an overall monopoly. That said, I surprised Apple hasn’t been hit for banning alternative browsers on iOS.

  • ayespy

    Vivaldi is the future of browsing for me. I never got over losing the configurability of old Opera 12 and earlier versions, when Opera ASA decided to chuck it when they changed web engines to the ubiquitous Chromium /Blink. My browser is my “office” where I do all my work all day, and the old Opera version had offered the ability to configure it to my work flow. Now, even without installing any extensions, Vivaldi does this and promises to do it even moreso in the future. It is young, but has been showing and continues to show a blistering development pace, over and above the fact that first crack out of the box it offered the ability, without add-ons, to enable or disable every tool bar, and to set tool bars and tabs on any edge of the browser. This physical flexibility was what I had been missing the the loss of the old Opera format. I pretty much see me using Vivaldi from here on out.

    • Oh yeah bro, i do so much agree with you! While other browser developers like copycat Opera and Mozilla have betrayed power users, Vivaldi makers will not betray us for sure.

      Vivaldi is awesome!

      • ayespy

        Thanks for the vote of confidence. I’ve been waiting forever, it seems, for a true heir to the old-style Opera.

  • Bazar6

    The stock Android browser dropped most probably because Lollipop (5.0), which is extremely popular currently, dropped it for Chrome on Google-approved devices (and how many Android devices aren’t Google-approved?). And Marshmallow is gaining popularity too, which continues the trend of Chrome as the standard browser in the OS.

  • Christian Z.

    I kinda wish people would support non-profit foundations before for-profit ones. There’s nothing so horrible about Firefox that it’s unusable. Besides, with this crowd what’s wrong with having at least Firefox and Chrome open?

  • Ralph Mason

    What are some examples of that? It would be interesting to test.