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Browser Trends January 2016: 12 Month Review

By Craig Buckler

As we move into a new year, it’s time to check the latest StatCounter statistics and discover how the most popular browsers in the market fared during 2015…

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, November to December 2015

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

Browser November December change relative
IE (all) 15.45% 15.16% -0.29% -1.90%
IE11 10.40% 10.26% -0.14% -1.30%
IE10 1.44% 1.37% -0.07% -4.90%
IE9 1.48% 1.44% -0.04% -2.70%
IE6/7/8 2.13% 2.09% -0.04% -1.90%
Edge 1.21% 1.46% +0.25% +20.70%
Chrome 54.27% 53.71% -0.56% -1.00%
Firefox 14.70% 14.29% -0.41% -2.80%
Safari 4.29% 4.85% +0.56% +13.10%
iPad Safari 5.05% 5.08% +0.03% +0.60%
Opera 1.77% 2.07% +0.30% +16.90%
Others 3.26% 3.38% +0.12% +3.70%

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

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

Browser December 2014 December 2015 change relative
IE (all) 22.28% 15.16% -7.12% -32.00%
IE11 11.31% 10.26% -1.05% -9.30%
IE10 2.23% 1.37% -0.86% -38.60%
IE9 2.89% 1.44% -1.45% -50.20%
IE6/7/8 5.85% 2.09% -3.76% -64.30%
Chrome 46.22% 53.71% +7.49% +16.20%
Firefox 16.34% 14.29% -2.05% -12.50%
Safari 10.29% 9.93% -0.36% -3.50%
Opera 1.38% 2.07% +0.69% +50.00%
Others 3.49% 4.84% +1.35% +38.70%

(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. Edge’s user base grew 20.7% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

December can be an unusual month for the browser market:

  • it’s gift-giving season — many people are trying their new PCs, tablets and smartphones
  • much of the Western world is on vacation so business access is reduced accordingly, and
  • various celebrations and more extreme weather can affect usage patterns.

Bizarrely, all the top browsers dropped. Chrome and Firefox suffered, although IE’s fall was fairly small compared to some months in 2015. The winners were:

  • Safari on Mac OS — up 0.56%. Perhaps a larger proportion of people use Macs at home but the hike seems strange given the iOS versions of Safari barely changed?
  • Edge on Windows 10 — up 0.25%. This had the largest relative increase of more than 20%. This could be explained by people receiving new PCs or deciding to upgrade Windows 7/8 while business was quieter.
  • Opera — up 0.3%. Opera’s market share now exceeds 2% for the first time since March 2011. Opera is popular in Africa and Asia, so those regions possibly have a bigger influence when the US, Europe and Australia are less web-active.

There are no simple explanations, and all these movements could be temporary end-of-year blips.

Overall, 2015 was a relatively stable year for the browser market. IE’s demise continued, although the revitalized Edge offset some of the losses. Firefox and Safari stumbled while Opera continued to hover under 2% for most of the year. Chrome continues as the undisputed champion with a 6.12% jump. The browser is great, but I am concerned we’re unconsciously heading toward another monoculture era.

Web developers should always install as many browsers as possible. Don’t be afraid to try alternatives and switch applications on a whim — they’re all good. My usage became increasingly erratic during 2015. Firefox remains my default but I use Chrome on my phone, regularly open Opera for development (it starts noticeably faster than Chrome despite having the same rendering engine), and switch to Edge for testing and PDF viewing. (Who needs the frustratingly slow and bloated Adobe Reader?)

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, November to December 2015

December’s mobile usage regained 1% to reach 40.65% of all web activity. The month can be a little unusual, but I expect mobile growth to continue its upward trend into 2016.

The top mobile browsing applications:

Mobile Browser November December change relative
Chrome 37.42% 36.94% -0.48% -1.30%
UC Browser 16.94% 18.57% +1.63% +9.60%
iPhone 17.94% 17.90% -0.04% -0.20%
Opera Mini/Mobile 11.37% 11.17% -0.20% -1.80%
Android 11.73% 10.87% -0.86% -7.30%
IEMobile 2.04% 2.04% +0.00% +0.00%
Others 2.56% 2.51% -0.05% -2.00%

It’s all change in the chart. UC Browser overtook the iPhone to retake the #2 spot, while Opera moved to #4 at the expense of the aging Android browser. Again, this could owe much to users in Africa and Asia having greater impact during December. That said, it’s surprising to see both Chrome and Safari dropping at a time when many are receiving Android and iPhone smartphones as gifts? Perhaps few people asked for a new phone this year?

Have a great 2016, no matter what browsers you’re using!

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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