Browser Trends November 2016: Rise of the Underdog

browser trends rise of underdog

In October, we discussed reasons why Edge has struggled to gain momentum. Are November’s StatCounter browser statistics better for Microsoft’s flagship browser? …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, September to October 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

Browser September October change relative
Chrome 58.89% 59.39% +0.50% +0.80%
Firefox 13.66% 13.28% -0.38% -2.80%
IE11 7.68% 6.95% -0.73% -9.50%
oldIE 2.13% 1.94% -0.19% -8.90%
Edge 2.78% 2.82% +0.04% +1.40%
Safari 4.30% 4.79% +0.49% +11.40%
iPad Safari 5.30% 5.42% +0.12% +2.30%
Opera 1.72% 1.91% +0.19% +11.00%
Others 3.54% 3.50% -0.04% -1.10%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, October 2015 to October 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:

Browser October 2015 October 2016 change relative
Chrome 53.78% 59.39% +5.61% +10.40%
Firefox 15.52% 13.28% -2.24% -14.40%
IE11 10.00% 6.95% -3.05% -30.50%
oldIE 5.28% 1.94% -3.34% -63.30%
Edge 1.10% 2.82% +1.72% +156.40%
Safari 9.12% 10.21% +1.09% +12.00%
Opera 1.78% 1.91% +0.13% +7.30%
Others 3.42% 3.50% +0.08% +2.30%

(The tables show market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column is the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 9.5% of oldIE users migrated elsewhere last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Chrome continued upward at the expense of Firefox and IE, but it was also a good month for underdog browsers:

  • Edge increased. Not by much, admittedly, but at least it was the right direction.
  • Opera experienced its highest jump for several years. The browser is increasingly impressive and fast when compared with Chrome, despite using the same Blink rendering engine.
  • Safari had the best month of all, despite continued venom from the development community about Apple’s lackluster attitude to the web. It’s possible this was achieved following new OS and device releases, but the mobile chart did not record similar gains?

While it’s tempting to think there are only five main browsers, the situation is considerably more diverse. More than one in thirty web users surf with one of the ‘others’. Alternative applications have been rising steadily since early 2014 and can have a strong impact in specific countries or markets. Here is a shortlist of new and existing options you may want to consider.

Ghost

Ghost logo Ghost is a new Blink-based browser which has a unique selling point: multi-session browsing. The application allows you to set up colored tab groups which have their own set of private cookies. This allows you to log into a single website with more than one account in the same browser window. The option could be especially useful for developers.

Ghost is still in beta, but you can register for an invite.

Min

If you think browsers provide too much cruft, Min strips the web back to absolute basics. Features include tab management, ad-blocking and little else. Currently available for MacOS and Ubuntu, Min is an Electron application developed in HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Project Maelstrom

Modestly titled “the future of the web is here”, Project Maelstrom renders standard HTTP-served pages as well as those packaged as torrents. Files can then be downloaded from multiple peers rather than a single server, which increases network bandwidth and reliability. The beta Blink-based browser can be downloaded today.

UC Browser

UC Browser logoUC Browser has overtaken the iPhone to reach second place in the mobile chart, but is available for a range of desktop, tablet, smartphone and feature phone devices. The application is owned by the Chinese Alibaba Group (a cross between Amazon and eBay but considerably bigger than both). It uses its own U3 rendering engine.

Other popular Chinese applications include Qihoo 360 Secure, Sogou Explorer and QQ Browser.

Maxthon

Maxthon browserPerhaps the only Chinese browser to achieve western appeal, Maxthon offers both the Trident (IE) and WebKit rendering engine. This was useful in the early years of the century when many sites were “best viewed in IE”.

Lunascape

Lunascape browserIf two rendering engines isn’t enough, Lunascape provides three in a single browser: Trident, Gecko and WebKit. Developers can view the same page in a three-way cascade view to ensure pixel-perfect alignment. The application is available for Windows and Android, with Mac OS coming soon. There is also an iOS edition, but it’s a Safari clone owing to Apple’s restrictions.

Pale Moon Browser

Pale Moon browserPale Moon is open-source browser fork of Firefox which uses its own Goanna rendering engine. It is available for Windows, Linux and Android (MacOS in development). The browser will continue to support XUL and XPCOM add-ons despite Mozilla’s future intentions for the technologies.

Yandex

Yandex browserYandex is the first alternative browser to appear in the StatCounter figures. The free desktop, tablet and smartphone Blink-based browser is provided by Russian web search corporation Yandex. The application currently holds 9% of the Russian market, despite strong competition from Google.

Coc Coc

Coc Coc browserAnother Blink-based option, Coc Coc is aimed at the Vietnamese market but also provides an English translation. The browser is the second most popular browser in Vietnam with a 24% market share.

Would you prefer something a little more mainstream? Why not consider the Blisk development browser or see How Do Chrome’s Rivals Stack Up?

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, October 2016

Mobile browser use increased by a significant 1.66% during October. It now accounts for 48.84% of all web activity. The long-promised mobile/desktop parity could be upon us shortly.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser September October change relative
Chrome 39.09% 40.64% +1.55% +4.00%
UC Browser 17.04% 17.90% +0.86% +5.00%
iPhone 17.90% 16.69% -1.21% -6.80%
Opera Mini/Mobile 9.77% 8.64% -1.13% -11.60%
Samsung Internet 6.86% 6.52% -0.34% -5.00%
Android 6.33% 5.83% -0.50% -7.90%
IEMobile 1.26% 1.13% -0.13% -10.30%
Others 1.75% 2.65% +0.90% +51.40%

Chrome continues to grow rapidly, but the main news is that UC Browser knocked the iPhone from the #2 spot. UC has been in that position before, but its five-month stint ended in May 2016. Strangely, the iPhone dropped considerably compared to the increases for Safari on the iPad and Mac OS? Perhaps the situation will settle next month.

Browser Trends November 2016: Rise of the Underdog

browser trends rise of underdog

In October, we discussed reasons why Edge has struggled to gain momentum. Are November’s StatCounter browser statistics better for Microsoft’s flagship browser? …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, September to October 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

Browser September October change relative
Chrome 58.89% 59.39% +0.50% +0.80%
Firefox 13.66% 13.28% -0.38% -2.80%
IE11 7.68% 6.95% -0.73% -9.50%
oldIE 2.13% 1.94% -0.19% -8.90%
Edge 2.78% 2.82% +0.04% +1.40%
Safari 4.30% 4.79% +0.49% +11.40%
iPad Safari 5.30% 5.42% +0.12% +2.30%
Opera 1.72% 1.91% +0.19% +11.00%
Others 3.54% 3.50% -0.04% -1.10%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, October 2015 to October 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:

Browser October 2015 October 2016 change relative
Chrome 53.78% 59.39% +5.61% +10.40%
Firefox 15.52% 13.28% -2.24% -14.40%
IE11 10.00% 6.95% -3.05% -30.50%
oldIE 5.28% 1.94% -3.34% -63.30%
Edge 1.10% 2.82% +1.72% +156.40%
Safari 9.12% 10.21% +1.09% +12.00%
Opera 1.78% 1.91% +0.13% +7.30%
Others 3.42% 3.50% +0.08% +2.30%

(The tables show market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column is the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 9.5% of oldIE users migrated elsewhere last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Chrome continued upward at the expense of Firefox and IE, but it was also a good month for underdog browsers:

  • Edge increased. Not by much, admittedly, but at least it was the right direction.
  • Opera experienced its highest jump for several years. The browser is increasingly impressive and fast when compared with Chrome, despite using the same Blink rendering engine.
  • Safari had the best month of all, despite continued venom from the development community about Apple’s lackluster attitude to the web. It’s possible this was achieved following new OS and device releases, but the mobile chart did not record similar gains?

While it’s tempting to think there are only five main browsers, the situation is considerably more diverse. More than one in thirty web users surf with one of the ‘others’. Alternative applications have been rising steadily since early 2014 and can have a strong impact in specific countries or markets. Here is a shortlist of new and existing options you may want to consider.

Ghost

Ghost logo Ghost is a new Blink-based browser which has a unique selling point: multi-session browsing. The application allows you to set up colored tab groups which have their own set of private cookies. This allows you to log into a single website with more than one account in the same browser window. The option could be especially useful for developers.

Ghost is still in beta, but you can register for an invite.

Min

If you think browsers provide too much cruft, Min strips the web back to absolute basics. Features include tab management, ad-blocking and little else. Currently available for MacOS and Ubuntu, Min is an Electron application developed in HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Project Maelstrom

Modestly titled “the future of the web is here”, Project Maelstrom renders standard HTTP-served pages as well as those packaged as torrents. Files can then be downloaded from multiple peers rather than a single server, which increases network bandwidth and reliability. The beta Blink-based browser can be downloaded today.

UC Browser

UC Browser logoUC Browser has overtaken the iPhone to reach second place in the mobile chart, but is available for a range of desktop, tablet, smartphone and feature phone devices. The application is owned by the Chinese Alibaba Group (a cross between Amazon and eBay but considerably bigger than both). It uses its own U3 rendering engine.

Other popular Chinese applications include Qihoo 360 Secure, Sogou Explorer and QQ Browser.

Maxthon

Maxthon browserPerhaps the only Chinese browser to achieve western appeal, Maxthon offers both the Trident (IE) and WebKit rendering engine. This was useful in the early years of the century when many sites were “best viewed in IE”.

Lunascape

Lunascape browserIf two rendering engines isn’t enough, Lunascape provides three in a single browser: Trident, Gecko and WebKit. Developers can view the same page in a three-way cascade view to ensure pixel-perfect alignment. The application is available for Windows and Android, with Mac OS coming soon. There is also an iOS edition, but it’s a Safari clone owing to Apple’s restrictions.

Pale Moon Browser

Pale Moon browserPale Moon is open-source browser fork of Firefox which uses its own Goanna rendering engine. It is available for Windows, Linux and Android (MacOS in development). The browser will continue to support XUL and XPCOM add-ons despite Mozilla’s future intentions for the technologies.

Yandex

Yandex browserYandex is the first alternative browser to appear in the StatCounter figures. The free desktop, tablet and smartphone Blink-based browser is provided by Russian web search corporation Yandex. The application currently holds 9% of the Russian market, despite strong competition from Google.

Coc Coc

Coc Coc browserAnother Blink-based option, Coc Coc is aimed at the Vietnamese market but also provides an English translation. The browser is the second most popular browser in Vietnam with a 24% market share.

Would you prefer something a little more mainstream? Why not consider the Blisk development browser or see How Do Chrome’s Rivals Stack Up?

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, October 2016

Mobile browser use increased by a significant 1.66% during October. It now accounts for 48.84% of all web activity. The long-promised mobile/desktop parity could be upon us shortly.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser September October change relative
Chrome 39.09% 40.64% +1.55% +4.00%
UC Browser 17.04% 17.90% +0.86% +5.00%
iPhone 17.90% 16.69% -1.21% -6.80%
Opera Mini/Mobile 9.77% 8.64% -1.13% -11.60%
Samsung Internet 6.86% 6.52% -0.34% -5.00%
Android 6.33% 5.83% -0.50% -7.90%
IEMobile 1.26% 1.13% -0.13% -10.30%
Others 1.75% 2.65% +0.90% +51.40%

Chrome continues to grow rapidly, but the main news is that UC Browser knocked the iPhone from the #2 spot. UC has been in that position before, but its five-month stint ended in May 2016. Strangely, the iPhone dropped considerably compared to the increases for Safari on the iPad and Mac OS? Perhaps the situation will settle next month.

Browser Trends October 2016: Microsoft Edges Downward

Microsoft Edge

In September, we discussed whether the browser wars are over. October’s StatCounter browser statistics provide further evidence for a slow-down …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, August to September 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

Browser August September change relative
Chrome 58.44% 58.89% +0.45% +0.80%
Firefox 13.96% 13.66% -0.30% -2.10%
IE11 7.52% 7.68% +0.16% +2.10%
oldIE 2.30% 2.13% -0.17% -7.40%
Edge 2.88% 2.78% -0.10% -3.50%
Safari 4.23% 4.30% +0.07% +1.70%
iPad Safari 5.38% 5.30% -0.08% -1.50%
Opera 1.76% 1.72% -0.04% -2.30%
Others 3.53% 3.54% +0.01% +0.30%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, September 2015 to September 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:

Browser September 2015 September 2016 change relative
Chrome 53.24% 58.89% +5.65% +10.60%
Firefox 15.87% 13.66% -2.21% -13.90%
IE11 9.88% 7.68% -2.20% -22.30%
oldIE 5.83% 2.13% -3.70% -63.50%
Edge 0.96% 2.78% +1.82% +189.60%
Safari 9.14% 9.60% +0.46% +5.00%
Opera 1.76% 1.72% -0.04% -2.30%
Others 3.32% 3.54% +0.22% +6.60%

(The tables show market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column is the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 7.4% of oldIE users migrated elsewhere last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

It’s another month of minimal movement in the charts. Most browsers fluctuated in their normal direction, i.e. Chrome grew at the expense of others. There was a small increase for IE11, but I suspect a statistical blip rather than a resurgence.

Microsoft Edge logoThe most surprising fall was Microsoft Edge. “Fall” is a little over-dramatic — “wobble” may be more appropriate — but it’s the first time the browser has dropped. Currently, usage is similar to oldIE, and around a third of IE11’s.

Edge has been with us for more than a year, but is yet to make a significant impact on the chart. The browser evolved from IE, but the Trident engine was radically overhauled. The result has been positive:

  • the interface is simple and attractive
  • Edge starts and runs as fast — if not faster — than competing browsers
  • the browser integrates well with Windows 10
  • it offers some novel features, such as Web Notes, to annotate and share pages
  • the Developer Tools are similar to those available elsewhere
  • HTML5 support is good. Edge has fewer cutting-edge features, but you’re unlikely to miss many.
  • extensions were added in the Windows 10 Anniversary update. These are mostly advertising blockers, shopping and service assistants, but more will come.

Windows still accounts for at least 80% of the desktop OS market and has a higher percentage in the business world. So why has Edge’s adoption remained comparatively low?

Legacy OS Support

Edge is only available on Windows 10. The launch was reasonably successful and, after a year, almost 25% of desktop users run the OS. However, Windows 7 still accounts for almost 40% of the market and is likely to remain high for several years. Microsoft will not release Edge for older editions of the OS, but they will eventually be upgraded or disappear as hardware breaks down.

Other vendors have no problem supporting older versions of Windows. Chrome could be installed on the 15-year-old Windows XP until April 2016. Admittedly, Microsoft has a more complex task since they must ensure backward compatibility across their whole product range. For example, they could have difficulty updating a web component which was required in Office or Visual Studio. The legacy OS problem will continue unless Microsoft can separate Windows and browser development.

Mobile Support

Users work on multiple devices: they expect tabs and bookmarks to be synchronized across their desktops, phones and tablets. Chrome is the obvious choice for Android users, and Safari is the only real browser on iOS. Third-party mobile browsers such as Firefox retain a niche appeal.

Microsoft abandoned the mobile market and never produced a browser for Android. There are rumors of a Surface smartphone, but Edge will continue to struggle against cross-platform options.

That Blue ‘e’ Icon

When Edge was announced, I thought that keeping the blue ‘e’ icon was a good idea, since existing IE users would recognize it. There’s a downside: many users think IE is awful. The browser radically improved from version 9, but mud sticks, and developers continued to berate the application. Users who have never heard of Edge think the blue ‘e’ icon is IE.

Perhaps it’s time to have a completely clean break from IE’s past?

Users are Increasingly Browser-Aware

Few users knew what a browser was a decade ago. Most retained their OS default, and this helped IE’s usage figures remain high (even some EU intervention had a negligible impact).

Google’s Chrome marketing push helped change perceptions. Users still may not know or care about differences between applications, but they’re regularly advised to switch to Chrome while browsing the web.

IE6 usage also remained artificially while businesses relied on legacy web/intranet applications which targeted the browser. They were written in the early 2000s when few other competitors existed. Those systems have been retired or upgraded, leaving IT departments free to impose whichever browser they choose.

Microsoft can no longer rely on Windows to push browser adoption. Stronger marketing could help, especially if users can be persuaded that Edge:

  • is a modern browser unshackled from IE
  • does not collate or retain your browsing activities
  • is as fast and uses fewer resources than competitors.

Perhaps Microsoft is not concerned about Edge’s adoption? We demanded a better browser, Windows needed one and Edge is more than capable. It’s just a shame few people will use Edge for anything more than downloading Chrome.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, August to September 2016

Mobile browser use regained August’s drop and increased by 0.87% during September. It now accounts for 47.18% of all web activity. The historical chart illustrates how agonizingly close desktop and mobile usage has become over the past few years.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser August September change relative
Chrome 39.02% 39.09% +0.07% +0.20%
iPhone 18.77% 17.90% -0.87% -4.60%
UC Browser 14.28% 17.04% +2.76% +19.30%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.91% 9.77% -1.14% -10.40%
Samsung Internet 6.95% 6.86% -0.09% -1.30%
Android 6.81% 6.33% -0.48% -7.00%
IEMobile 1.38% 1.26% -0.12% -8.70%
Others 1.88% 1.75% -0.13% -6.90%

Like the desktop chart, there’s no significant change other than a 20% increase in UC Browser users. StatCounter adjusted the browser’s figures recently, owing to pre-rendering and other caching activities, so I suspect this is a similar anomaly.

See you next month.

Browser Trends October 2016: Microsoft Edges Downward

Microsoft Edge

In September, we discussed whether the browser wars are over. October’s StatCounter browser statistics provide further evidence for a slow-down …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, August to September 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

Browser August September change relative
Chrome 58.44% 58.89% +0.45% +0.80%
Firefox 13.96% 13.66% -0.30% -2.10%
IE11 7.52% 7.68% +0.16% +2.10%
oldIE 2.30% 2.13% -0.17% -7.40%
Edge 2.88% 2.78% -0.10% -3.50%
Safari 4.23% 4.30% +0.07% +1.70%
iPad Safari 5.38% 5.30% -0.08% -1.50%
Opera 1.76% 1.72% -0.04% -2.30%
Others 3.53% 3.54% +0.01% +0.30%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, September 2015 to September 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:

Browser September 2015 September 2016 change relative
Chrome 53.24% 58.89% +5.65% +10.60%
Firefox 15.87% 13.66% -2.21% -13.90%
IE11 9.88% 7.68% -2.20% -22.30%
oldIE 5.83% 2.13% -3.70% -63.50%
Edge 0.96% 2.78% +1.82% +189.60%
Safari 9.14% 9.60% +0.46% +5.00%
Opera 1.76% 1.72% -0.04% -2.30%
Others 3.32% 3.54% +0.22% +6.60%

(The tables show market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column is the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. 7.4% of oldIE users migrated elsewhere last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

It’s another month of minimal movement in the charts. Most browsers fluctuated in their normal direction, i.e. Chrome grew at the expense of others. There was a small increase for IE11, but I suspect a statistical blip rather than a resurgence.

Microsoft Edge logoThe most surprising fall was Microsoft Edge. “Fall” is a little over-dramatic — “wobble” may be more appropriate — but it’s the first time the browser has dropped. Currently, usage is similar to oldIE, and around a third of IE11’s.

Edge has been with us for more than a year, but is yet to make a significant impact on the chart. The browser evolved from IE, but the Trident engine was radically overhauled. The result has been positive:

  • the interface is simple and attractive
  • Edge starts and runs as fast — if not faster — than competing browsers
  • the browser integrates well with Windows 10
  • it offers some novel features, such as Web Notes, to annotate and share pages
  • the Developer Tools are similar to those available elsewhere
  • HTML5 support is good. Edge has fewer cutting-edge features, but you’re unlikely to miss many.
  • extensions were added in the Windows 10 Anniversary update. These are mostly advertising blockers, shopping and service assistants, but more will come.

Windows still accounts for at least 80% of the desktop OS market and has a higher percentage in the business world. So why has Edge’s adoption remained comparatively low?

Legacy OS Support

Edge is only available on Windows 10. The launch was reasonably successful and, after a year, almost 25% of desktop users run the OS. However, Windows 7 still accounts for almost 40% of the market and is likely to remain high for several years. Microsoft will not release Edge for older editions of the OS, but they will eventually be upgraded or disappear as hardware breaks down.

Other vendors have no problem supporting older versions of Windows. Chrome could be installed on the 15-year-old Windows XP until April 2016. Admittedly, Microsoft has a more complex task since they must ensure backward compatibility across their whole product range. For example, they could have difficulty updating a web component which was required in Office or Visual Studio. The legacy OS problem will continue unless Microsoft can separate Windows and browser development.

Mobile Support

Users work on multiple devices: they expect tabs and bookmarks to be synchronized across their desktops, phones and tablets. Chrome is the obvious choice for Android users, and Safari is the only real browser on iOS. Third-party mobile browsers such as Firefox retain a niche appeal.

Microsoft abandoned the mobile market and never produced a browser for Android. There are rumors of a Surface smartphone, but Edge will continue to struggle against cross-platform options.

That Blue ‘e’ Icon

When Edge was announced, I thought that keeping the blue ‘e’ icon was a good idea, since existing IE users would recognize it. There’s a downside: many users think IE is awful. The browser radically improved from version 9, but mud sticks, and developers continued to berate the application. Users who have never heard of Edge think the blue ‘e’ icon is IE.

Perhaps it’s time to have a completely clean break from IE’s past?

Users are Increasingly Browser-Aware

Few users knew what a browser was a decade ago. Most retained their OS default, and this helped IE’s usage figures remain high (even some EU intervention had a negligible impact).

Google’s Chrome marketing push helped change perceptions. Users still may not know or care about differences between applications, but they’re regularly advised to switch to Chrome while browsing the web.

IE6 usage also remained artificially while businesses relied on legacy web/intranet applications which targeted the browser. They were written in the early 2000s when few other competitors existed. Those systems have been retired or upgraded, leaving IT departments free to impose whichever browser they choose.

Microsoft can no longer rely on Windows to push browser adoption. Stronger marketing could help, especially if users can be persuaded that Edge:

  • is a modern browser unshackled from IE
  • does not collate or retain your browsing activities
  • is as fast and uses fewer resources than competitors.

Perhaps Microsoft is not concerned about Edge’s adoption? We demanded a better browser, Windows needed one and Edge is more than capable. It’s just a shame few people will use Edge for anything more than downloading Chrome.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, August to September 2016

Mobile browser use regained August’s drop and increased by 0.87% during September. It now accounts for 47.18% of all web activity. The historical chart illustrates how agonizingly close desktop and mobile usage has become over the past few years.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser August September change relative
Chrome 39.02% 39.09% +0.07% +0.20%
iPhone 18.77% 17.90% -0.87% -4.60%
UC Browser 14.28% 17.04% +2.76% +19.30%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.91% 9.77% -1.14% -10.40%
Samsung Internet 6.95% 6.86% -0.09% -1.30%
Android 6.81% 6.33% -0.48% -7.00%
IEMobile 1.38% 1.26% -0.12% -8.70%
Others 1.88% 1.75% -0.13% -6.90%

Like the desktop chart, there’s no significant change other than a 20% increase in UC Browser users. StatCounter adjusted the browser’s figures recently, owing to pre-rendering and other caching activities, so I suspect this is a similar anomaly.

See you next month.

Browser Trends September 2016: Are the Browser Wars Over?

Are the browser wars over?

In August we discussed a few of Chrome’s rivals. Did it encourage you to try another browser? The latest StatCounter browser statistics provide the facts …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, July to August 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past month.

Browser July August change relative
Chrome 58.40% 58.44% +0.04% +0.10%
Firefox 13.96% 13.96% +0.00% +0.00%
IE11 7.38% 7.52% +0.14% +1.90%
oldIE 2.38% 2.30% -0.08% -3.40%
Edge 2.79% 2.88% +0.09% +3.20%
Safari 4.15% 4.23% +0.08% +1.90%
iPad Safari 5.60% 5.38% -0.22% -3.90%
Opera 1.75% 1.76% +0.01% +0.60%
Others 3.59% 3.53% -0.06% -1.70%

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, August 2015 to August 2016

The following table shows browser usage movements during the past twelve months:

Browser August 2015 August 2016 change relative
Chrome 52.97% 58.44% +5.47% +10.30%
Firefox 15.60% 13.96% -1.64% -10.50%
IE11 9.94% 7.52% -2.42% -24.30%
oldIE 6.05% 2.30% -3.75% -62.00%
Edge 0.74% 2.88% +2.14% +289.20%
Safari 9.30% 9.61% +0.31% +3.30%
Opera 1.79% 1.76% -0.03% -1.70%
Others 3.61% 3.53% -0.08% -2.20%

(The tables show market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column is the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. Edge’s user base grew 3.2% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

The middle of the year rarely provides big browser news given vacations and the lack of big OS and software releases. However, I do not recall a month when less happened! There was barely any movement in the charts.

Even the twelve-month figures have begun to stabilize. Chrome gained almost 5.5% and Edge usage has grown since its release this time last year. Unsurprisingly, oldIE usage has more than halved but the other browsers are mostly static.

Have the browser wars ended?

Browser War I

The first and most bloody browser war raged between Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator between 1996 and 2001. The web was new and the applications evolved rapidly from one month to the next. CSS and JavaScript arrived and the browsers competed on innovative features.

Microsoft was fined for questionable business practices, but IE eventually won because it was better. By 2001, IE6 had a seemingly unassailable 95% market share.

Browser War II

Microsoft had a few competitors:

  • Opera. The browser had a passionate following, but few people were willing to pay a $50 license fee when IE and other options were free.
  • The Mozilla Suite. The Gecko rendering engine was a ground-up rewrite of the old Netscape HTML parser, but it was stuck in a slow and bloated set of browser, email, newsgroups, editor, IRC client and address book applications.

An experimental Mozilla browser which adopted Gecko was launched as “Phoenix” in September 2002. The application became an immediate hit with developers who had become frustrated with Microsoft’s complacency. Trademark disputes led to the name being changed to “Firebird” and ultimately “Firefox” in February 2004.

Another skirmish ensued and Microsoft was forced back into the browser market. Firefox eventually gained around one third of the market in 2010 but IE held the dominant top spot.

Browser War III

Google released Chrome in 2008. The name was adopted because Google wanted to minimize the chrome (outer interface) of the browser so users could concentrate on page content. Google stated they were reluctant to create their own application, but it quickly became evident their online commercial clout could beat Microsoft — especially when IE had become an in-joke for all that was wrong in the industry.

Chrome overtook IE in June 2012 and has been there ever since. The other vendors took note and, rather than competing on features, began to simplify and streamline their applications. (Only the recently released Vivaldi is attempting to buck the trend).

In 2016, few people would notice the differences between Chrome, Firefox, Edge, Safari and Opera. They’re all excellent applications with capable rendering engines. The market has matured and stabilized. New features are more infrequent, but users are happy regardless of their choice.

Like any product, the diminished browser differentiation was inevitable. An application can only survive if it appeals to the masses, so the most successful traits are duplicated while lesser-used features are dropped. Life may be less colorful, but we finally have what we’ve been demanding for twenty years: good cross-browser compatibility.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, July to August 2016

Mobile browser use has been edging closer to 50%, but dropped 0.88% in August, and now accounts for 46.31% of all web activity. The long-term trend is clear and mobile should overtake desktop usage at some point in the next twelve months.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser July August change relative
Chrome 38.56% 39.02% +0.46% +1.20%
iPhone 18.53% 18.77% +0.24% +1.30%
UC Browser 14.39% 14.28% -0.11% -0.80%
Opera Mini/Mobile 11.22% 10.91% -0.31% -2.80%
Samsung Internet 6.55% 6.95% +0.40% +6.10%
Android 7.29% 6.81% -0.48% -6.60%
IEMobile 1.47% 1.38% -0.09% -6.10%
Others 1.99% 1.88% -0.11% -5.50%

There’s little change other than the stock Android browser falling behind the Samsung Internet browser. Activity often fluctuates more than the desktop market:

  1. The mobile market is younger and innovations continue to occur. Features such as Progressive Web Applications are blurring the line between native and web apps.
  2. Smart-phone vendors can have a significant impact. Users often stick with the default browser, so successful phones rapidly push applications up the chart.

That said, mobile OSs have converged to just Android and iOS. Alternatives such Windows Mobile, Blackberry, webOS, Firefox OS, Symbian and others have all but disappeared. There’s less choice, but the market has streamlined as people rejected the less-popular options.

Perhaps it’s a shame, but I doubt we’ll encounter another significant browser war until the web itself changes dramatically.