It’s been one month since Microsoft launched their “Browser Choice” update. All European Windows XP, Vista and 7 users who use automatic updates should have received a small application which allows them to try any number of new browsers.
The original plan was to send the Browser Choice update to users who had IE set as their default browser. However, it appears to have been sent to everyone regardless. I can understand why — it would have been more of a technical challenge to single out users and, by sending it to everyone, Microsoft has a chance of luring users back to IE.
The following browsers are offered:
- Microsoft IE8 (Trident rendering engine)
- Mozilla Firefox (Gecko)
- Google Chrome (Webkit)
- Apple Safari (Webkit)
- Opera (Presto)
- Avant (Trident)
- Flock (Gecko)
- GreenBrowser (Trident)
- K-meleon (Gecko)
- Maxthon (Trident)
- Sleipnir (switchable between Trident and Gecko)
- Slim (Trident)
But has the choice screen made any difference to the browser market within the first month? I’ve analyzed the data from StatCounter for March 2010 and, although no statistics are perfect, it gives us a reasonable impression of current trends.
|Browser Statistics February to March 2010|
The change column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The relative column shows that change in relation to its February 2010 share, e.g. 6.4% of IE6 users abandoned the browser in the past month.
I made some predictions last month, so let’s see how well I did…
- IE usage will drop a few percent within Europe, but it won’t have a huge impact on worldwide figures.
IE’s net loss is smaller than I expected — just 0.15% in Europe and 0.05% worldwide.
- There will be a noticeable shift from IE7 to IE8.
That happened, but would it have occurred anyway?
- IE6 usage will not decrease [significantly].
IE6 is on the decline, but the European decrease is quite small.
- Firefox will increase its share to match or slightly overtake IE.
Firefox made the biggest net loss and reduced by 0.75% in Europe and 0.56% worldwide.
- Chrome will increase by a percentage point or two.
Chrome is the biggest winner but, again, it did not increase quite as much as I expected.
- Opera and Safari will not change significantly.
Yay — spot on!
- ‘Other’ browsers will increase slightly.
They actually decreased, but by a tiny margin.
Never take gambling tips from me!
Some of the figures aren’t surprising. For example, newer browsers are always likely to increase at the expense of older versions. Once you take those trends into account, the browser choice screen appears to have had an imperceivable effect on the market.
Perhaps it’s too early and the situation could change over a few more months. However, I’m not convinced it will. Anyone with reasonable web knowledge has already made their browser choice. The screen may help novices but, in my experience, most of those users don’t actually want a choice! They do a little surfing and rarely use advanced features such as bookmarks or tabs. You can’t expect them to investigate and install alternative browsers when they’re only using a fraction of IE’s facilities.
Incidentally, I visited a few novice users during the past month — all had the Browser Choice icon on their desktop and all had ignored it since day 1.
I’m slightly disappointed by the results, but that’s because I’m interested in browsers and want the best technologies to succeed. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Internet users couldn’t care less.
Has the Browser Choice screen made a difference to you or anyone you know? Will it be a success over the longer term? Or has Microsoft won another EU war despite losing the battles?
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.