Browser Trends January 2012

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If you expected December to be a quiet month in the browser market the results below will surprise you. Every vendor made a gain — except one. Let’s look at the latest worldwide StatCounter statistics:

Browser November December change relative
IE 9.0+ 10.14% 10.75% +0.61% +6.00%
IE 8.0 24.00% 22.12% -1.88% -7.80%
IE 7.0 4.26% 4.00% -0.26% -6.10%
IE 6.0 2.23% 1.78% -0.45% -20.20%
Firefox 4.0+ 18.62% 19.81% +1.19% +6.40%
Firefox 3.7- 6.62% 5.46% -1.16% -17.50%
Chrome 25.74% 27.33% +1.59% +6.20%
Safari 5.90% 6.09% +0.19% +3.20%
Opera 1.84% 1.99% +0.15% +8.20%
Others 0.65% 0.67% +0.02% +3.10%
IE (all) 40.63% 38.65% -1.98% -4.90%
Firefox (all) 25.24% 25.27% +0.03% +0.10%

The table shows market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. another 20.2% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. Happy days! There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

Last month’s main story was Chrome overtaking Firefox to become the world’s second favorite browser. Several technical sites also reported that, if you examine individual browser versions, Chrome 15 had overtaken IE8. That victory was short-lived. Google released Chrome 16 on December 13 2011 which split the user base. IE8 retains the browser crown with 22.12% followed by Firefox 8 (15.35%), Chrome 15 (13.34%) and Chrome 16 (11.73%). Analyzing Chrome and Firefox by version number has become futile; a new release appears every six weeks.

Chrome rose by 0.69% in November — impressive, but less than it’s usual 1% increase. December’s overall gain was 1.59% which more than made up for the shortfall. Rumors of Chrome reaching growth saturation point appear premature.

December 2011 was also kind to Mozilla, Apple and Opera who all experienced modest gains. Safari edged above 6%, Opera is poised to break its 2% barrier and Firefox 4+ is gaining users at a healthy rate following a slightly wobbly period.

But not every vendor can be a winner. Microsoft lost almost 2% in December with IE6, 7 and 8 taking a large hit. However, remember that December is an unusual month; a large proportion of the world is on vacation so the ratio of home to business usage rises. In addition, many people will have received new PCs, laptops and tablets as gifts which could cause minor fluctuations. It’s back to business in January and business is Microsoft’s domain.

Mobile Browser Usage

December’s impact on the mobile market was also evident and usage accounted for 8.04% of all web activity during the month. That’s a rise of almost 1% but, again, vacations and gifts are likely to have a short-term effect.

The primary mobile browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 24.22% (up 1.73%)
  2. Android — 20.22% (down 0.19%)
  3. iPhone — 18.41% (down 1.12%)
  4. Nokia browser — 12.92% (up 0.98%)
  5. Blackberry — 7.53% (down 0.67%)

Perhaps it’s not surprising to see the iPhone and Blackberry drop; they’re popular devices for business users. That said, I’ve given up trying to understand the mobile browser market; it’s far too erratic.

Happy New Year!

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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