Browser Trends March 2016: Operating System Surprises

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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.

Craig BucklerCraig Buckler
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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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