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By Craig Buckler

Browser Trends November 2011: Chrome Prepares to Overtake Firefox

By Craig Buckler

October 2011 was a relatively quiet month for browser vendors. Chrome 15 appeared but, other than the improved new tab page, you probably didn’t notice. A minor update was issued by Opera but little was heard from Microsoft, Mozilla and Apple. I suspect they’re plotting behind the scenes. If they’re not, they should be…

Chrome’s growth halved to less than 0.5% during September. I was uncertain whether that was a statistical blip or the start of a long-term plateau. So let’s analyze the latest StatCounter statistics:

Browser September October change relative
IE 9.0 8.94% 9.59% +0.65% +7.30%
IE 8.0 25.08% 23.83% -1.25% -5.00%
IE 7.0 4.79% 4.29% -0.50% -10.40%
IE 6.0 2.85% 2.47% -0.38% -13.30%
Firefox 4.0+ 18.52% 18.87% +0.35% +1.90%
Firefox 3.7- 8.27% 7.52% -0.75% -9.10%
Chrome 23.65% 25.05% +1.40% +5.90%
Safari 5.60% 5.93% +0.33% +5.90%
Opera 1.70% 1.80% +0.10% +5.90%
Others 0.60% 0.65% +0.05% +8.30%
IE (all) 41.66% 40.18% -1.48% -3.60%
Firefox (all) 26.79% 26.39% -0.40% -1.50%

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 13.3% 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 lower growth during September seems to have been a one-off. The browser gained 1.4% in October — more than enough to offset last month’s figures. Google released Chrome just three years ago so it’s incredible that it’s become one of the world’s most popular browsers in such a short period. Despite Google claims that they’re not interested in market share, it hasn’t prevented them spending limitless funds promoting the browser!

Of course, good news for one vendor means bad news for another. By the end of 2011, Chrome is almost certain to overtake Firefox. Mozilla has fixed many of the installation, performance and add-on compatibility issues but Firefox’s market share is being eroded.

If we look at browsers by version, IE8 remains the world’s most-used application but 1 in 20 users discarded it last month. Some of that loss can be explained by users upgrading from XP to Windows 7 and IE9 but, if the trend continues, Chrome 15 is likely to overtake Microsoft’s browser and reach the #1 spot. The release of Chrome 16 will disrupt the figures but Google’s automated upgrades will soon rectify the situation.

The other winners last month were IE9, Safari and Opera. All showed modest gains, but they were gains nonetheless. IE6 and IE7 dropped further and, while you cannot ignore them completely, the most painful years of IE development are behind us.

Mobile Browser Usage

Mobile usage dropped from 6.74% to 6.55% of all web activity during October 2011. Again, seasonal variations are the likely cause — the densely-populated northern hemisphere has shorter daylight hours and summer holidays are a distant memory.

The primary mobile browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 21.52% (down 0.93%)
  2. Android — 20.88% (up 0.98%)
  3. iPhone — 18.78% (up 2.03%)
  4. Nokia browser — 12.40% (down 3.61%)
  5. Blackberry — 9.26% (down 2.38%)

Movements within the mobile market tend to be more erratic but October was especially chaotic. Blackberry’s network problems undoubtedly had a negative effect but Nokia is also losing ground. Perhaps their new Windows 7 Phones will help them take on the newer Android and Apple devices.

While all these statistics are useful, remember to check your own figures for regional and seasonal variations.

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