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Browser Trends May 2012: IE9 Strikes Back

By Craig Buckler

Microsoft Tech

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It’s been one month since we last looked at the browser market. Since then, Firefox 12 and Chrome 18 were released and Microsoft has embarked on an aggressive television, movie and online marketing campaign for IE9. Has any of this affected usage patterns in the worldwide StatCounter statistics?…

Browser March April change relative
IE 9.0+ 14.56% 15.67% +1.11% +7.60%
IE 8.0 16.00% 14.69% -1.31% -8.20%
IE 7.0 2.91% 2.54% -0.37% -12.70%
IE 6.0 1.34% 1.17% -0.17% -12.70%
Firefox 4.0+ 21.11% 21.38% +0.27% +1.30%
Firefox 3.7- 3.88% 3.48% -0.40% -10.30%
Chrome 30.92% 31.29% +0.37% +1.20%
Safari 6.71% 7.14% +0.43% +6.40%
Opera 1.76% 1.70% -0.06% -3.40%
Others 0.81% 0.94% +0.13% +16.00%
IE (all) 34.81% 34.07% -0.74% -2.10%
Firefox (all) 24.99% 24.86% -0.13% -0.50%

The table shows market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. another 12.7% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

Chrome’s monthly growth has fallen below 1% for the first time since October 2011. Other vendors dream about a market share increase of 0.37% but it’s unusually low for Chrome. I’m not convinced adoption rates have begun to plateau and it could be a statistical blip. That said, the advantages Chrome holds over the competition are more marginal than they’ve ever been.

This month’s biggest winner is IE9 and it’s risen 3.6% since the start of March. Three factors have contributed to it’s success:

  1. Automated browser updates.
  2. Microsoft’s glossy marketing campaign.
  3. Businesses migrating to Windows Vista/7.

However, Microsoft cannot be complacent. IE8 is falling faster than IE9’s gains and total IE usage dropped by 0.74%. Chrome is still poised to overtake during the summer of 2012.

Safari had another good month and the browser is slowly creeping toward double-digit usage figures. The iPad accounts for 2.12% of the 7.14% total which means it now has more users than IE6.

Firefox and Opera’s market share barely changed. Perhaps this isn’t surprising; there are few major differences between the top five browsers and we could be entering a period of stability with little significant movement in browser market.

Mobile Browser Usage

April’s mobile usage increased to 9.58% of all web activity. This is partly owing to better weather in the northern hemisphere — although the UK had its wettest April for 100 years.

The primary mobile browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 21.52% (down 1.34%)
  2. Android — 21.31% (up 0.15%)
  3. iPhone — 20.04% (down 0.06%)
  4. Nokia browser — 11.42% (down 0.44%)
  5. UC Browser — 7.77% (up 1.42%)

There’s little change within the top five although UC Browser has helped itself to another slice of Blackberry.

While it’s great to see healthy competition in the mobile market, it remains frustratingly difficult to test web sites and applications on a range of popular devices. Do you bother?

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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