Browser Trends October 2011: Has Chrome Plateaued?

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September was a busy month for browser vendors. Mozilla released Firefox 7, Google released Chrome 14, and Microsoft are pushing the IE10 platform preview.

Despite this, September 2011 user activity was as quiet as August. Users appear to be relatively happy with their choice of browser and few bother to change. This isn’t surprising. All the top five browsers are excellent applications and there are few fundamental differences between them.

So let’s look at the latest StatCounter statistics

Browser August September change relative
IE 9.0 8.05% 8.94% +0.89% +11.10%
IE 8.0 25.68% 25.08% -0.60% -2.30%
IE 7.0 5.07% 4.79% -0.28% -5.50%
IE 6.0 3.09% 2.85% -0.24% -7.80%
Firefox 4.0+ 18.10% 18.52% +0.42% +2.30%
Firefox 3.6- 9.39% 8.27% -1.12% -11.90%
Chrome 23.17% 23.65% +0.48% +2.10%
Safari 5.18% 5.60% +0.42% +8.10%
Opera 1.67% 1.70% +0.03% +1.80%
Others 0.60% 0.60% +0.00% +0.00%
IE (all) 41.89% 41.66% -0.23% -0.50%
Firefox (all) 27.49% 26.79% -0.70% -2.50%

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 7.8% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

IE9 was the best performing browser during September. It’s been available for six months and has been growing steadily. While it may not offer the best tools or features, it’s undoubtedly fast and a vast improvement on IE8. Surprisingly, IE10 accounts for 0.01% (included in IE9’s figures above).

IE’s overall drop has slowed for the second month in a row. The browser is still losing market share but at a rapidly decreasing rate. Has Microsoft reached the end of their losing streak?

The same cannot be said for Mozilla. Firefox was the biggest overall loser during September and, although growth is reasonable for versions 4-7, it’s not matched the pace versions 1-3 are falling. That said, Firefox 7 is promising and the latest comparison at Tom’s Hardware indicates that speed and memory usage issues have improved. It’s even replaced Chrome at the top of the best-browser chart. However, the new upgrade process has been painful for some. Firefox’s growth was driven by the technical community; those users are the first to look elsewhere when they lose patience with an application.

Safari had a great month. Maybe Mac sales are up or users are returning to the browser? Opera also showed a modest increase although it tends to fluctuate a little.

The biggest shock is Chrome. While it’s still risen by a healthy 0.48%, the browser had been growing at 1% per month for two years. It’s too early to predict whether growth is starting to plateau, but that has to happen at some point. Chrome is still likely to overtake Firefox in December 2011 unless it’s disruptive influence falls further.

Mobile Browser Usage

Mobile usage dropped from 7.12% to 6.74% of all web activity during September 2011. Seasonal variations are the likely cause — holidays have ended and people have returned to work and school.

The primary browsing applications are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 22.45% (up 0.84%)
  2. Android — 19.90% (up 0.18%)
  3. iPhone — 16.75 (up 1.84%)
  4. Nokia browser — 16.01% (down 0.98%)
  5. Blackberry — 11.64% (down 1.13%)

It’ll be interesting to see how quickly Amazon’s Silk Browser will rise up this chart.

However, I’d strongly recommend you check your own statistics since regional and seasonal variations have a significant effect. In addition, you should check your site/application on a variety of devices. Don’t assume iPhone users account for 95% of mobile users if your site doesn’t work on any other phone!

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.

Browser Trendsfirefoxgoogle chromeieoperasafari
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