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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