Browser Trends January 2016: 12 Month Review

By Craig Buckler
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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!

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  • Mozilla… They really should stop mimic Chrome in look and feel or they will lose with their planned changes even more users.

    • Knight Yoshi

      Firefox was losing market shares long before they changed their interface. They’re also going to make Firefox a mult-thread processing, project Electrolysis, like Chrome. Do you know why? Because it’s faster. Should they not separate processes?

      While you’re at it you might as well say they should not implement the WebExtensions API that will make porting an add-on between Chrome and Firefox significantly easier. Nobody wants bloated slow to open applications anymore, not that they wanted them in the first place, but less now in the world where everything happens much faster.

      • But after that and after Servo Firefox will be almost simple and minimalist like Chrome with no advanced customization anymore. That is a clear no-go in my opinion.

        The problem with Firefox is simply that Gecko is slow. Blink instead can handle both speed and features. Take a look at Vivaldi browser. If Mozilla would have a similar advanced engine, they could feature too speed and features the same time.

        And another reason for Mozilla for removing features is that they are jealous towards Chrome. They want the same big user base. Opera too got greedy. But both companies do not understand that most of their users exactly have chosen those 2 browsers exactly for the feature rich experience.

        • Knight Yoshi

          Base Firefox will be minimalist, which is what most people want. From there Firefox does not restrict what add-ons can do to the chrome interface. I believe the Chrome browser is more restrictive in it’s API and prevents modifying the chrome window; though I may be wrong, I’m not sure.

          Vivaldi says it builds things for the users, what the users want instead of making something simple that can be extended by browser extensions. That it “allows users to customize the browser for what they want”, or something like that.

          I don’t feel that’s the right way to go. That’s what Firefox initially did and it added a lot of browser bloat. By using browser extensions each user is able to extend the base functionality of the browser if they wish.

          • Wrong again. The majority of Firefox users wanted Firefox to be customizable. That was Mozilla’s goal too.

            Then Google entered the screen with Chrome. After that moment, Mozilla made a full U-turn in their goals as they saw Chrome picking up market share like crazy. But until Firefox 22 the majority of users wanted customization built inside the browser. Granted, that has changed by now, where most power users have left since Australis has entered, but until that point it was the opposite the case.

            Mozilla did in the end betray their core user base of power users just to gain a larger market share. Even worse, for each customization ability they removed they added instead features simple users do love and at the same time are also attracting Chrome’s user base.Which has not worked out well. User numbers are tons smaller than compared with Firefox 22 times.

            Anyway, your comment is the the typical way of arguing as a minimalist and simple user. That only your features belong into the browsers core. Unlike power users, which have nothing against simple users features, as long as their features stay too inside the core.

            The magic word is learning, if people would try to understand how technical stuff works, then they could make use of it and would act in a less way antagonizing against it.

            And for your information, with WebExtensions only a fracture of the customization features like it can be done with XUL extensions is possible. Servo and WebExtensions make out of Firefox another Chrome, only with another engine, but the same limitations, you will most likely be able to move buttons around in the UI, but nothing more complex.

          • dragonviewer

            This is the difference between Vivaldi and other browsers. Vivaldi packs in (or at least attempts to) all that I want, while on other browsers, I need to adapt to what “most users want”. For example, Chrome displays a blindingly white page whenever there is a dns error for example. Why can’t this page be displayed in black? As Vivaldi uses the same underlying engine this problem affects Vivaldi too, but then it’s not Vivaldi’s fault. Even after 7 years, there are no extensions that can do this, because it’s simply not allowed due to ‘security issues’.

            The question of whether extensions would do the job is a bit tricky. For example, why not have an extension to have multi-tabbed functionality instead of having that feature built in? Some functionality need to be in the form of extensions, but it makes sense to have a large set of built-in features that don’t result in bloat and this is what Vivalidi is doing. How much does it take to have ‘show/hide images’ button? There are quite a number of such features that many if not most people want. This ability to have a high level of control was what Opera used to provide for a number of years before it merged with mainstream browsers.

            Extensions are a security risk and it’s best to reduce their count which might not be possible when you install one for every trivial functionality that could have been built into the barebones browser easily.

          • Knight Yoshi

            However, what you want built-in may not be what I want built-in or what many other people want built-in. As a power user I’d rather add what I want myself than have a bunch of things I don’t need and then still add browser extensions on top of that.

            Browser extensions can be a security risk. If it’s installed from a third-party source. However, Chrome for a few years now has only allowed extensions to be installed from it’s repository. Firefox has take a similar, but different approach. All extensions must be signed by them, that means it goes through their review process which is pretty in-depth.

          • dragonviewer

            Opera 5 to 12 used to have features that most “modern browsers” still don’t have even with extensions, and the size of the installation package was always low. Opera 5 for example was 2.19 MB. That is not what I call a bloat.

            Where is the extension for Chrome to display a page with a black background when there is a DNS error? It doesn’t exist.

            Firefox was not able to do the simplest of things called ‘most recently used’ tab-cycling natively (instead of circular tab cycling) when I last checked. (Yes I went to the configuration page to do this – it didn’t work)

            Dolphin browser actually makes ‘spoofing the user-agent’ feature as an extension, yes an extension, which by the way didn’t work.

            The fact of the matter is that there is in fact a large set of features that can be added without bloating that a large number of users want. If that was not the case, Opera would have never taken off. As Jon S. von Tetzchner, CEO of Vivaldi and ex-founder of Opera said “1% of Internet users is actually 35-38 million”.

            The idea that extensions will give everything that power users want is a bit theoretical, as evidenced by history. There are also very subtle things that have never been addressed by extensions, like a ‘child’ page inheriting the settings of the parent page (like ‘show/hide’ images and the like). Opera used to have a settings drag n’ drop to toolbar making it possible to change several settings relevant to a page on the fly. How could a single browser maker think of several of the features I wanted in a single package? But yes it happened, this is actually a niche market that at the moment only Vivaldi is addressing. It is in fact good that the browser developer themselves have the mindset that me, the power user is looking for, instead of leaving that job to extensions.

            Why am I even commenting about Vivaldi, if the features I want all are already provided by extensions on other browsers?

            On the security of extensions: yes it’s true that extensions go through a review process, however, their security is still low compared to the browser itself. Otherwise, why wouldn’t chrome allow extensions to change ‘chrome://’ pages? There is also a question of whether extensions are just checked for maliciousness of the author, or for security issues within the extensions. True they might be checked for both, however checking the latter on an extension is way more difficult than checking that on the browser itself whose code is something that developers might be mulling over and over in their heads as opposed to that one in a thousand extension.

  • Diego Pelaez

    When I see this statistics I always ask to myself if the data from IE 9 and older users is from developers that are testing their sites on this browsers and they are not really end users?

    • Erroid

      lol xD I don’t think there is so many devs but indeed it is hard to explain those irrational numbers, I guess these are just users that don’t give a shit about upgrade/update and security stuff and use their PC as long as they continue to work.

      • Craig Buckler

        Which numbers do you consider irrational?

        Sure there are people out there using IE6 or even Netscape 4 but they’re probably using an old OS and hardware and don’t see any benefit in upgrading. Then there are the large corporations with centralized IT departments halfway through a 10-year+ plan who retain a known browser version.

    • Craig Buckler

      Only a small proportion will be developers since these are live websites – not testing or development versions.

      IE9 was the last edition to run on Vista. Around 1.25% of web users still have that OS and I suspect many are in large organizations where the desktop is locked-down.

      In addition, relatively few users know or care what a browser is. IE9 has many missing features but few of them are noticeable on the general web.

      • Diego Pelaez

        Yes u r right. In my case as a developer I tend to check other live sites on old browser to see how they perform or if the website do support the browsers and I know that im not the only one doing it.

  • Helldriver Phoenix

    I can not stress enough how much better Opera for Windows have become.
    MUCH MUCH better than the heavy on Ram Chrome.
    My new default browser :-D

    • Craig Buckler

      Agreed. It’s taken a few versions, but Opera has all the benefits of Chrome without the bloat. The built-in VPN and ad-blocker are also a bonus.

      However, it’s still based on Chromium which leads to an even bigger Google dominance.

      • Nateowami

        How can Opera avoid the bloat while still using Blink? I always assumed most of the bloat was caused by the browser engine.

        • Craig Buckler

          Not necessarily. Chrome contains many features to support Google services and logins – the engine is rarely at fault because it’s designed to be fast and efficient (more so these days because they must also work on mobile).

          An extreme example was the Mozilla (and Netscape) suites from the early 2000’s. Both we’re slow and bloated with features few people wanted. Success only came when Firefox placed a lightweight shell around the Gecko engine.

          • Nateowami

            Thanks. Then that would be a good reason to consider Vivaldi.

  • Craig Buckler

    It’s (mostly) impossible to tell but the number will be small and the error rate may even itself out, e.g. 10 people set BrowserA to mimic B, but another 10 people set B to mimic A.