Browser Trends July 2015: Stalled Safari?

By Craig Buckler
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In last month’s browser chart, Chrome was inching toward the 50% milestone. What do June’s StatCounter statistics reveal?…

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, May to June 2015

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

Browser May June change relative
IE (all) 18.28% 18.49% +0.21% +1.10%
IE11 10.83% 11.33% +0.50% +4.60%
IE10 1.87% 1.83% -0.04% -2.10%
IE9 2.18% 2.20% +0.02% +0.90%
IE6/7/8 3.40% 3.13% -0.27% -7.90%
Chrome 49.36% 49.77% +0.41% +0.80%
Firefox 16.39% 16.09% -0.30% -1.80%
Safari 5.76% 5.41% -0.35% -6.10%
iPad Safari 5.06% 5.14% +0.08% +1.60%
Opera 1.62% 1.62% +0.00% +0.00%
Others 3.53% 3.48% -0.05% -1.40%

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

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

Browser June 2014 June 2015 change relative
IE (all) 20.98% 18.49% -2.49% -11.90%
IE11 8.69% 11.33% +2.64% +30.40%
IE10 3.21% 1.83% -1.38% -43.00%
IE9 3.17% 2.20% -0.97% -30.60%
IE6/7/8 5.91% 3.13% -2.78% -47.00%
Chrome 45.54% 49.77% +4.23% +9.30%
Firefox 17.94% 16.09% -1.85% -10.30%
Safari 10.29% 10.55% +0.26% +2.50%
Opera 1.32% 1.62% +0.30% +22.70%
Others 3.93% 3.48% -0.45% -11.50%

(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. 1.8% of Firefox users switched browsers last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Chrome is achingly close to one in two users but still hasn’t managed to jump the 50% hurdle. Growth has slowed with the browser increasing by just 4% during the past year. While it remains incredibly popular, there are murmurings throughout the community about excessive memory use, poor performance, failures to address ancient bugs and the usual “Google’s watching you” fears.

There was little news elsewhere; IE was up, Firefox was down and Opera refuses to budge from 1.62%. So let’s turn our attention to Safari …

Is Safari the New IE?

Nolan Lawson’s recent article “Safari is the new IE” had a contentious title but raises several interesting points. Apple hasn’t abandoned Safari but could be accused of willful neglect:

  • Safari development is lagging behind other browsers. A glance at illustrates the number of missing web APIs or those languishing behind prefixes.
  • The browser has a sluggish release schedule which normally coincides with OS updates. New features and bug fixes are increasingly rare.
  • Apple has a strong influence over standards adoption yet their W3C participation has been less than enthusiastic. The company is happy to implement its own iOS-specific “standards” while refusing to add those invented elsewhere, e.g. pointer events.
  • Apple rarely makes an appearance at web conferences or online development communities.
  • The company gets away with this behavior partly because we avoid criticizing them.

Commercially, it makes sense. A 30% commission on app sales is significantly greater than 0% received for web applications. It’s reminiscent Microsoft’s 2001 announcement that browsers had reached an apogee and web-connected native smart clients (apps) were the future. The main difference now? Apple never made an announcement.

Safari’s evolution wouldn’t matter if Apple wasn’t so powerful or permitted alternative browsers on iOS. (Chrome and others are Safari skins. Only Opera uses its own engine but it renders pages server-side and doesn’t implement client-side JavaScript.) Fewer than half of OSX users opt for Safari but those using an iPhone or iPad have no choice.

Translating this into real figures, more than 10% of the web is forced to use Safari. Complaining about Safari’s deficiencies or persuading people to give up their iOS devices won’t work. Developers have two options:

  1. Avoid APIs which aren’t supported in Safari and stick with 2010 development techniques.
  2. Use progressive enhancement and offer a better experience when the browser supports specific APIs. Apple would act if many web applications were superior in Chrome.

I hope you choose the second option. Unfortunately, option one wins when you and your clients all have iPhones.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, May to June 2015

Mobile usage grew another 1.5% last month to reach 36.27% of all web activity. Don’t presume this is a Northern hemisphere summer anomaly; mobile usage rarely drops.

The top mobile browsing applications:

Mobile Browser May June change relative
Chrome 33.17% 32.97% -0.20% -0.60%
iPhone 18.87% 18.84% -0.03% -0.20%
Android 17.17% 15.71% -1.46% -8.50%
UC Browser 14.53% 14.91% +0.38% +2.60%
Opera Mini/Mobile 9.92% 11.93% +2.01% +20.30%
IEMobile 2.15% 2.06% -0.09% -4.20%
Others 4.19% 3.58% -0.61% -14.60%

Chrome and the iPhone version of Safari had uncharacteristic slips last month. The Android browser fell 1.5% as users migrate to newer editions of Android with Chrome pre-installed.

The biggest winners: UC Browser and Opera. UC Browser is the second most popular browser in Asia, with a 25% market share. In Africa, Opera has an impressive 50% share. The web is global; don’t presume everyone is using the latest iPhone or Galaxy device just because you have one.

Finally, it’s farewell to the Nokia Browser which dropped below Blackberry to 0.75%. I can’t say I’ll miss it — the browser was clunky when it was released. It worked on low-end hardware, but Opera was always a better option.

See you next month for the final release of Microsoft’s new Edge browser.

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  • gskema

    I only read these to see when the IE will finally die…