Programming - - By Craig Buckler

Browser Market Shares and Trends, March 2011: IE6 Usage Drops Below 5%

I last looked at market trends at the beginning of December 2010. At that time, Chrome had just overtaken IE7 to become the third most-used browser. There’s some more good news for developers today: IE6 worldwide usage has fallen below 5%. There are still a great many people using the browser but it’s now behind Safari and, with luck, could be almost insignificant by the end of 2011.

We’re on the cusp of several interesting developments in the browser world — in particular, the release of IE9 and Firefox 4.0 — so it’s a good time to analyze the current state of the market. Let’s take a look at the latest StatCounter statistics

Browser November February change relative
IE 9.0 beta 0.32% 0.48% +0.16% +50.00%
IE 8.0 29.49% 30.30% +0.81% +2.70%
IE 7.0 11.90% 10.09% -1.81% -15.20%
IE 6.0 6.45% 4.63% -1.82% -28.20%
Firefox 4.0 beta 0.41% 0.93% +0.52% +126.80%
Firefox 3.5+ 28.50% 27.89% -0.61% -2.10%
Firefox 3.1- 2.26% 1.51% -0.75% -33.20%
Chrome 13.32% 16.51% +3.19% +23.90%
Safari 4.70% 5.07% +0.37% +7.90%
Opera 2.02% 1.99% -0.03% -1.50%
Others 0.95% 1.08% +0.13% +13.70%
IE (all) 48.16% 45.50% -2.66% -5.50%
Firefox (all) 31.17% 30.33% -0.84% -2.70%

This table shows market shares — not absolute usage figures. Internet usage is growing, especially in Africa and Asia, so it’s possible for a browser to gain more users while losing market share.

The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 15.2% of IE7 users migrated to other browsers during the past two months.

As usual, the biggest overall winner is Google Chrome. Although usage patterns are complex, Chrome has effectively gained users at the expense of Internet Explorer and, to a lesser extent, Mozilla Firefox. Although IE8 usage has increased a little, IE’s overall market share now stands at 45% — less than half the proportion of users it enjoyed in its heyday.

Apple Safari has shown another modest increase. I suspect the continued popularity of Macs, iPhones and iPads is primarily responsible … especially when many of those users are prevented from using other browsers.

Opera’s market share remains mostly static at around 2% so it’s keeping up with general Internet growth. Opera 11 matches Chrome for speed and HTML5 features so it’s a shame it hasn’t been able to smash through that barrier. Nokia’s adoption of Windows Phone OS probably won’t help either.

Unsurprisingly, the IE9 and Firefox 4 betas have increased their share as we approach the release dates. Here are my predictions for the next few months:

  1. Firefox 4.0 and IE9 will be released within days of each other at the beginning of Q2 2011.
  2. Microsoft will attempt to out-promote Mozilla and vice versa. It’ll all get a little silly and few users will care.
  3. Firefox 4.0 will be adopted quickly. Mozilla’s automatic updates and the browser’s more technical user base will outstrip early gains made by IE9.
  4. IE9’s market share will catch Firefox 4.0, perhaps overtaking it, when Microsoft push it out as an automatic update for Windows 7 and Vista users.
  5. Chrome’s growth will begin to plateau as it’s current speed advantage over competing browsers reduces.
  6. By the end of the year, both IE9 and the latest Firefox will have around 20% of the market each. However:
    • Mozilla has stated they will implement Chrome-like release schedules and Firefox 7 could be out before 2012. Usage patterns will become a little complex unless those updates are fully automated.
    • IE9 is only available on Windows 7/Vista. 50% of Windows users remain on XP so IE9 adoption can only increase at the same rate as OS upgrades. IE8 will therefore remain popular although IE’s overall market share will reduce as XP users become more willing to migrate elsewhere.

What are your thoughts?