Browser Trends December 2016: Mobile Overtakes Desktop

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Mobile overtakes desktop, November 2016

In November, we looked at the underdog browsers adopted by one in thirty web users. The StatCounter browser statistics for December 2016 records a more exciting and momentous event in the web’s history …

Mobile overtakes desktop, November 2016

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, October to November 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.
iPad Safari5.42%5.68%+0.26%+4.80%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, November 2015 to November 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:
BrowserNovember 2015November 2016changerelative
(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. 6.7% of oldIE users migrated elsewhere last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.) Chrome experienced an uncharacteristic fall. I’m secretly pleased; I predicted Google’s browser wouldn’t reach 60% before the end of 2016
! That said, -0.17% is hardly a major setback, and my predictions are notoriously awful. No doubt everyone will switch to Chrome during the next month just to prove me wrong! A fall for Chrome generally means good news for other applications. Firefox, Edge and even IE11 all rose but the changes are hardly dramatic. Let’s move on; there’s far more interesting news on mobile …

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, November 2016

Mobile browser use increased by an impressive 1.78% during November. It smashed through the parity barrier and now accounts for 50.62% of all web activity. Mobile exceeds desktop usage for the first time since the web began. (Some sites were reporting this event last month and mobile usage did overtake desktop on certain days. However, the overall percentage for October 2016’s mobile use remained below 50%.) We’ve been waiting some time. The “mobiles-will-overtake-desktop” prediction was raised at least a decade ago, but took longer than most expected. Possible reasons include:
  • It is difficult to do real work on a mobile device. That said, devices have grown exponentially in Asia and Africa in places where the PC revolution never occurred. Millions of people now work and trade on smartphones in ways which are troublesome in the western world. We still struggle with micro-payments and simple transactions regardless of age or financial status.
  • Network bandwidth is slow, unreliable and costly in the majority of countries. There are only so many hours you can surf and a mobile connection will impede progress. There are exciting possibilities for future technologies, but fast, always-on and inexpensive networks remain a dream.
  • The web has evolved from a predominantly desktop-based starting point. The situation has improved with Responsive Web Design and Progressive Web Apps, but many legacy sites are inoperable or impractical on a mobile device.
Does the mobile explosion change our development lives? Probably not if you’ve been reading SitePoint and watching industry trends: you’re already mobile aware. Fortunately, it will be a wake-up call for any client or boss who doubted the growth of the mobile platform or didn’t think it would affect their business. Be prepared for several “how can we make our digital experience better on a smartphone” conversations very soon. From a technical perspective, I recommend a mobile-first approach:
  1. Design your site/application to work on smaller, narrow screens.
  2. Use media queries to progressively enhance your layout as the screen size increases.
  3. Take a simple, pragmatic approach. If you’re removing a feature because it doesn’t fit on a mobile screen, consider whether it’s necessary to offer it on the desktop.
The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:
Mobile BrowserOctoberNovemberchangerelative
UC Browser17.90%16.73%-1.17%-6.50%
Opera Mini/Mobile8.64%8.38%-0.26%-3.00%
Samsung Internet6.52%6.39%-0.13%-2.00%
Chrome continues its meteoric rise at the expense of all others (especially Android Mobile, which it supersedes). While I don’t use Chrome as my default desktop browser, I have no hesitation in recommending it on mobile. I’m yet to find an alternative which offers a better experience. The iPhone edition of Safari and UC Browser continue to dance round each other. Following a month at the coveted #2 spot, UC Browser has been knocked back once again. However, the dominance of mobile usage will encourage people to look for better smartphone applications. Take note, Apple: your lacklustre attitude to Safari and the web could hit profitability sooner than you think. The biggest faller was the “others” group. More than 40% of those users migrated to a mainstream browser. Perhaps it’s a statistical blip, or my underdog browser article from last month didn’t help their cause?! See you next month for a round-up of the major browser events of 2016.

What factors contribute to the shift in browser usage trends?

The shift in browser usage trends is influenced by several factors. Firstly, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has led to an increase in mobile browsing. This is because these devices are portable and allow users to access the internet from anywhere. Secondly, the performance and features offered by different browsers also play a significant role. Browsers that load pages faster, offer better security, and support more web standards tend to be more popular among users. Lastly, the operating system of a device can also influence browser usage. For instance, Safari is the default browser on Apple devices, while Google Chrome is commonly used on Android devices.

How does the market share of different browsers affect web development?

The market share of different browsers significantly impacts web development. Developers need to ensure that their websites or web applications are compatible with the most popular browsers to reach a larger audience. This often involves testing the website or application on different browsers and making necessary adjustments to ensure optimal performance. Additionally, some browsers support certain web technologies better than others, which can influence the development process.

Why has mobile browsing overtaken desktop browsing?

The primary reason for the surge in mobile browsing is the widespread availability and use of smartphones and tablets. These devices allow users to access the internet on the go, making it more convenient than desktop browsing. Moreover, improvements in mobile technology have led to faster internet speeds and better mobile websites, enhancing the overall browsing experience on mobile devices.

How does browser usage vary across different regions?

Browser usage can vary significantly across different regions due to factors such as internet accessibility, device availability, and user preferences. For instance, in regions with high smartphone penetration, mobile browsers might be more popular. Similarly, in regions where a particular operating system is dominant, the default browser for that system might have a higher usage.

What are the implications of browser trends for businesses?

Understanding browser trends is crucial for businesses, especially those with an online presence. It helps them optimize their websites for the most popular browsers to ensure a seamless user experience. Additionally, businesses can leverage these insights to target their digital marketing efforts more effectively.

How often do browser usage trends change?

Browser usage trends can change relatively frequently due to factors such as technological advancements, changes in user preferences, and market competition. Therefore, it’s important for businesses and developers to stay updated with the latest trends to ensure their websites remain accessible and user-friendly.

What is the significance of browser compatibility in web development?

Browser compatibility is a crucial aspect of web development. It ensures that a website or web application functions correctly across different browsers. This is important because users may use different browsers, and a website that doesn’t work well on a particular browser can lead to a poor user experience.

How can I track browser usage trends?

There are several tools and resources available to track browser usage trends. Websites like StatCounter and CanIUse provide updated statistics on browser market share and support for web technologies. Additionally, Google Analytics also provides insights into the browsers used by visitors to your website.

How does the rise of mobile browsing impact web design?

The rise of mobile browsing has led to a shift in web design practices. Designers now prioritize mobile-friendly designs, often adopting a mobile-first approach. This involves designing for smaller screens first and then scaling up for larger desktop screens. Techniques like responsive design are used to ensure websites look and function well on both mobile and desktop browsers.

What are the future trends in browser usage?

Future trends in browser usage are likely to be influenced by advancements in technology and changes in user behavior. The continued growth of mobile browsing, the rise of voice search, and the increasing importance of privacy and security are some trends that could shape browser usage in the future.

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.

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