Browser Trends 2012: the Demise of IE6 and Meteoric Rise of Chrome

By Craig Buckler
We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now

The browser market seemed relatively sedate during 2012. There were no big releases, major updates or disruptive surprises (sorry Microsoft — IE10’s a fine browser, but it’s hardly revolutionary). Fortunately, it rarely matters whether a user chooses Chrome, Safari, Firefox, Opera or IE9+ — they’re all capable applications which support most HTML5 features and run at a fast pace. So let’s look at the latest browser market statistics according to StatCounter

Worldwide Browser Statistics November 2012 to December 2012

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

Browser November December change relative
IE (all) 31.22% 30.78% -0.44% -1.40%
IE 9.0+ 17.94% 18.13% +0.19% +1.10%
IE 8.0 12.00% 11.48% -0.52% -4.30%
IE 7.0 0.87% 0.79% -0.08% -9.20%
IE 6.0 0.41% 0.38% -0.03% -7.30%
Firefox 22.36% 21.89% -0.47% -2.10%
Chrome 35.78% 36.46% +0.68% +1.90%
Safari 7.84% 7.92% +0.08% +1.00%
Opera 1.40% 1.24% -0.16% -11.40%
Others 1.40% 1.71% +0.31% +22.10%

Worldwide Browser Statistics December 2011 to December 2012

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

Browser December 2011 December 2012 change relative
IE (all) 40.63% 30.78% -9.85% -24.20%
IE 9.0+ 10.14% 18.13% +7.99% +78.80%
IE 8.0 24.00% 11.48% -12.52% -52.20%
IE 7.0 4.26% 0.79% -3.47% -81.50%
IE 6.0 2.23% 0.38% -1.85% -83.00%
Firefox 25.24% 21.89% -3.35% -13.30%
Chrome 25.74% 36.46% +10.72% +41.60%
Safari 5.90% 7.92% +2.02% +34.20%
Opera 1.84% 1.24% -0.60% -32.60%
Others 0.65% 1.71% +1.06% +163.10%

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. another 7.3% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

December is a slightly unusual month owing to the holiday seasons and hangover-induced work avoidance. Internet Explorer tends to fare a little worse since the ratio of home to business usage increases. That said, it’s surprising to look back at the market twelve months ago when…

  • IE was the world’s most-used browser
  • IE6 and 7 accounted for more than 6 in every 100 users
  • Chrome and Firefox were neck and neck with a quarter of the market each.

At the beginning of 2013, Chrome had switched places with IE and enticed a number of Firefox users too. While I expected Chrome to overtake Microsoft’s browser, I didn’t expect the rapid pace of growth to continue. To put it into context, Chrome grows by a volume equivalent to Opera’s total user base every two months.

Speaking of which, Opera has had a poor couple of months. Perhaps it’s a statistical blip, but Opera appears to have lost a few passionate followers. It’s still a great browser but the competition has caught and overtaken in some respects.

Firefox fared almost as badly as IE8 during December 2013. It remains my preferred application but I’m a Windows user and it’s had more problems on other platforms. I also suspect it’s lost ground because it’s rarely supplied as a default browser; even Linux distros are replacing it with Chromium.

However, the good news story of 2012 is the demise of IE6 and IE7. The browsers are still used and I can’t promise you’ll never need to support them, but the days of frustrated HTML and CSS hacking are coming to an end (especially when you can use responsive techniques instead). But never forget their legacy. Anyone who longs for a single browser engine should be ridiculed and have their web development license revoked!

Mobile Browser Usage

Mobile usage increased by 1.5% to 14.55% of all web activity during December. I’m a little surprised by that figure — perhaps everyone was tweeting festive messages?

The primary mobile browsing applications:

  1. Android — 28.28% (up 1.13%)
  2. iPhone — 20.64% (down 0.34%)
  3. Opera Mini/Mobile – 16.94% (down 1.05%)
  4. UC Browser — 10.20% (up 1.12%)
  5. Nokia browser — 9.08% (down 0.26%)

While it’s a little early to assess mobile device gift-giving figures, Android continues to do well. UC Browser has also overtaken Nokia to grab the #4 spot.

Opera Mini/Mobile is also in decline. It remains one of the best feature phone browsers but has stronger competition in the smart phone market. I also suspect most people stick with their phone’s supplied browser, although the strong adoption of UC contradicts that assumption?

Whatever browser you’re using, I hope you have a Happy New Year!

We teamed up with SiteGround
To bring you the latest from the web and tried-and-true hosting, recommended for designers and developers. SitePoint Readers Get Up To 65% OFF Now
  • Helen Natasha Moore

    Every time I see a tiny figure for IE6 usage, I recall someone once saying that it’s probably just web developers testing IE6. …

    • Mmm possibly, but IE6/7 are still used by large corporations and government departments. However, I suspect the drop from 29% to 6% in China over the past year which has had the biggest impact. Does anyone know what’s caused that?

    • Zymara

      HAHAHA that’s awesome!

      Hopefully that will the case with IE7 soon, as well.

  • Even Microsoft wants IE6 gone.
    IE6 is over ten years old and its still used. you can call it a record of sorts. But i think its high time that it is retired everywhere.

    Chrome is the best.

  • With Adobe Flash no longer supporting Linux (other than through security updates), the only alternative for Linux users appears to be Chrome in order to both watch and stream “the new” video, etc…any thoughts?

  • I love using Chrome. But to me it seems to be a MASSIVE resources hog! Whenever it opens, with just ONE tab open, there are about 10 instances of it “running”. :(

  • My stats look more like the December 2011 to December 2012 stats! With the exception that I get slightly more FF users than Chrome users and probably more than 2.5% IE6 users (varies from site to site quite a bit).