Browser Trends March 2016: Operating System Surprises

By Craig Buckler
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Have we reached equilibrium point in the browser market? The latest StatCounter statistics indicates little movement …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, January to February 2016

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

Browser January February change relative
IE (all) 14.62% 13.38% -1.24% -8.50%
IE11 10.19% 9.78% -0.41% -4.00%
IE10 1.29% 1.02% -0.27% -20.90%
IE9 1.29% 1.03% -0.26% -20.20%
IE6/7/8 1.85% 1.55% -0.30% -16.20%
Edge 1.69% 1.83% +0.14% +8.30%
Chrome 54.33% 55.47% +1.14% +2.10%
Firefox 14.58% 14.66% +0.08% +0.50%
Safari 4.17% 4.20% +0.03% +0.70%
iPad Safari 5.27% 5.24% -0.03% -0.60%
Opera 1.92% 1.97% +0.05% +2.60%
Others 3.42% 3.25% -0.17% -5.00%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, February 2015 to February 2016

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

Browser February 2015 February 2016 change relative
IE (all) 18.89% 13.38% -5.51% -29.20%
IE11 10.53% 9.78% -0.75% -7.10%
IE10 1.90% 1.02% -0.88% -46.30%
IE9 2.39% 1.03% -1.36% -56.90%
IE6/7/8 4.07% 1.55% -2.52% -61.90%
Chrome 48.83% 55.47% +6.64% +13.60%
Firefox 16.53% 14.66% -1.87% -11.30%
Safari 10.21% 9.44% -0.77% -7.50%
Opera 1.60% 1.97% +0.37% +23.10%
Others 3.94% 5.08% +1.14% +28.90%

(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 8.3% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Chrome made another standard leap of 1.14%, mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer. IE now accounts for just 13.38% of the market, with 73% of those users on version 11. Edge is growing at a sedate pace. It’s a good browser, but is only available for Windows 10, and few people other than IE users have switched from their preferred application.

Operating System Statistics

There’s little movement in the browser market, so let’s examine Operating Systems:

Operating System Market share
Windows 47.31%
Android 27.51%
iOS 11.04%
OS X 5.20%
Other mobile 3.87%
Unknown 3.61%
Linux 1.00%
Chrome OS 0.30%
Playstation 0.09%
Xbox 0.03%
Other 0.04%

The statistics are collated from OS fingerprints gathered when a person browses to one of StatCounter’s three million monitored websites. They highlight web activity on those platforms rather than installations. Key observations:

  • The second, third and fifth places are held by mobile Operating Systems.
  • If you remove smartphone devices, Windows holds 75% of the market. Windows 7 accounts for 54.3% of installations, followed by Windows 10 (17.5%), Windows 8.x (17.1%) and Windows XP (still at 9.0% despite Microsoft ceasing support two years ago). One in every thousand of those visitors had Windows 98!
  • Linux seems a little low, although there is a large number of ‘unknowns’ which could include some distros. The majority of the world’s web servers run Linux, but those devices are rarely used for web browsing (except by a handful of Lynx masochists!).
  • Chrome OS is surprisingly small given Google’s promotional clout. That said, Chrome OS devices often cost as much as more powerful Windows, Mac and Linux PCs.
  • Sales figures indicate the Playstation 4 is selling twice as fast as the Xbox One, but web browsing on a Playstation is three times more prevalent.

Operating Systems have become increasingly diverse. The reason: mobile devices

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, January to February 2016

February’s mobile usage barely changed and now stands at 41.11% of all web activity.

The top mobile browsing applications for February 2016 were:

Mobile Browser January February change relative
Chrome 37.69% 35.92% -1.77% -4.70%
UC Browser 18.63% 20.10% +1.47% +7.90%
iPhone 18.31% 18.21% -0.10% -0.50%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.91% 10.74% -0.17% -1.60%
Android 10.24% 9.49% -0.75% -7.30%
IEMobile 1.90% 1.83% -0.07% -3.70%
Others 2.32% 3.71% +1.39% +59.90%

There was an uncharacteristic drop for Chrome. This may be partly explained by the appearance of the Samsung Internet for Android browser at #7 with a 1.41% market share. The application is provided for Samsung Galaxy mobiles, tablets and smart TVs. It’s lightweight, features advert blocking and provides device-specific capabilities such as fingerprint scanning for ID/password authentication. As far as I’m aware, the current version recently moved from WebKit to the Blink rendering engine, although Servo is a future option.

Mobile web browsing can be painful and costly, owing to increased page weight and overcrowded networks. Vendors have responded with advert-blocking options which can drastically reduce download times and improve responsiveness:

Unsurprisingly, Google is yet to implement similar blocking technologies, since it is one of the web’s biggest advertisers. However, the path is clear. If you neglect to address heavy or intrusive advertising, browsers will do the job for you.

I’ll discuss advert blocking implications and options in greater depth next month.

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  • Chrome trending on both, PC and mobile.

  • Oscar Blank

    I think it’s important to remember that these are only stats related to web browsing, and if web browsing was the only thing that people did, then it would be fair to say that these stats were accurate in regards to OS usage. They’re not.

    Let me give you an example. I’m a Linux user, but 95% of my computer time is spent in an IDE, not enjoying the internet on a web browser. The average end user who is actually using the programs and websites we Linux users make spends most if not all of their spare time online. So I use the internet for 1 hour a day, but they’re using it for 15 hours a day. See how the stats cannot be trusted? I cannot possibly generate as many page loads in a day, yet the stats have compared me with my lazy couch slouch of a neighbor. Linux to other OS page loads ratio is 1:15 for this example, yet our OS usage ratio is 1:1.

    I’d go so far as to say that Linux users are Linux users because they do more than most people. We are the ones that make things that people use. How does that factor into the stats?

    • Malachi

      I agree with Oscar here; Android (Chrome) laptops are build for the purpose of using the internet for everything.. so yes, they will be ranking high. And not everyone with a windows or linux machine will be online…

      • Craig Buckler

        Except they’re not ranking particularly highly?

    • Craig Buckler

      Absolutely – and I mention that as a caveat.

      However, it’s not a simple matter of saying Linux users are working while users of other OSes are lazy web surfers. I doubt you spend 95% of your time in an IDE … unless you’re not reading documentation, researching solutions or using online tools. All that is web related and your usage will typically be higher than the average person using YouTube or Facebook (which I doubt StatCounter monitor).

      I don’t think the results are too wide of the mark. The vast majority of people use whatever OS (and browser) their device came with: that’s Windows, Android, Mac OS or iOS. Linux users are usually more technical since they must consciously install their distro. Installing Linux isn’t difficult but few PC users even know what OS they’re using – they don’t know or care that other options exist. Does that matter? No – PCs, tablets and smartphones are consumer devices. Only a small percentage of people will ever produce content or software.

      Ultimately, these statistics are gathered from billions of visits to millions of websites. Any usage anomalies are smoothed out.