Browser Trends August 2016: How Do Chrome’s Rivals Stack Up?

In July, we discussed the positive — but mostly negative — effects of a Chrome monoculture. Did web users take notice and try another application? The latest StatCounter browser statistics prove otherwise …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, June to July 2016

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

Browser June July change relative
Chrome 57.99% 58.40% +0.41% +0.70%
Firefox 14.14% 13.96% -0.18% -1.30%
IE11 8.18% 7.38% -0.80% -9.80%
oldIE 2.59% 2.38% -0.21% -8.10%
Edge 2.55% 2.79% +0.24% +9.40%
Safari 4.28% 4.15% -0.13% -3.00%
iPad Safari 5.33% 5.60% +0.27% +5.10%
Opera 1.68% 1.75% +0.07% +4.20%
Others 3.26% 3.59% +0.33% +10.10%

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

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

Browser July 2015 July 2016 change relative
Chrome 51.89% 58.40% +6.51% +12.50%
Firefox 15.68% 13.96% -1.72% -11.00%
IE11 10.84% 7.38% -3.46% -31.90%
oldIE 6.34% 2.38% -3.96% -62.50%
Safari 9.74% 9.75% +0.01% +0.10%
Opera 1.81% 1.75% -0.06% -3.30%
Others 3.70% 6.38% +2.68% +72.40%

(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 9.4% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

For the past year, it’s been much the same story: Chrome grows at the same rate Internet Explorer falls. The proportion of Firefox, Safari and Opera users has remained fairly static. No other browser has managed to make an impact on the market.

It’s evident that users like Chrome — but are there alternatives you should consider? Firefox and Safari are the obvious options, but don’t discount other competitors.

Opera Browser for Developers logoFew users were pleased when Opera dropped Presto, adopted Chromium’s Blink engine and released Opera 15 in May 2013. Its numerous features were radically stripped back to become Chrome-lite.

Much has happened during the past two years. The browser now supports:

  • a built-in ad blocker
  • the old turbo mode, which minimizes bandwidth and speeds up browsing by compressing page assets via a proxy server before they reach you
  • a Virtual Private Network for secure browsing (currently available in the beta and developer editions)
  • improved memory management, which more than halves Chrome’s bloated requirements
  • a new video pop-out feature, which allows you to move videos out of the browser to your desktop while you do other work (in Opera 38 with further enhancements in v39).

Opera is a fine choice if you want a browser which is similar to Chrome but starts faster, runs quicker, feels slicker and respects privacy. But …

Opera’s browser business has been sold to a Chinese consortium led by Qihoo 360 for $600 million. The deal is yet to be approved by regulators, and there’s unlikely to be any immediate changes, but the browser’s future direction is less certain.

Microsoft Edge browser logoDespite the ridicule received by Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge is a fine browser:

  • Edge looks great, launches faster and runs quicker than most competitors
  • it offers some novel features, such as the reading list and web note which lets you annotate and share pages
  • extensions will be available in the August 2, 2016 update
  • it integrates well with Windows, including Cortana’s speech-based assistant and the Start menu.

The downsides? Edge is only available in Windows 10 and some developer tools are a little less polished than others.

I use Edge frequently and it’s become my default PDF viewer! Try it.

Vivaldi browser logoWe’ve discussed Vivaldi several times. In summary, Vivaldi also uses the Blink engine and offers a highly-customizable browsing experience which is ideal for power users. It’s probably what Opera 15 should have been.

Vivaldi is growing steadily with a 0.02% market share — or one in every 5,000 web users. The browser will shortly offer a built-in news reader and email client.

Brave is another Blink-based browser. Development is overseen by Brendan Eich — the father of JavaScript. (Read SitePoint’s interview with Brendan about Brave.) Brave’s purpose is to block harmful advertising and tracking while still supporting website publishers. I’m yet to be convinced this noble aim will be effective, but we’ll know more when the final release arrives.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, June to July 2016

Desktop vs mobile has been swinging wildly and, following June’s 2% drop, mobile usage jumped 3.3% and now accounts for 47.19% of all web activity. If that happens again, mobile will overtake desktop in September 2016.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser June July change relative
Chrome 38.23% 38.56% +0.33% +0.90%
iPhone 18.95% 18.53% -0.42% -2.20%
UC Browser 14.24% 14.39% +0.15% +1.10%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.77% 11.22% +0.45% +4.20%
Android 7.83% 7.29% -0.54% -6.90%
Samsung Internet 6.30% 6.55% +0.25% +4.00%
IEMobile 1.61% 1.47% -0.14% -8.70%
Others 2.07% 1.99% -0.08% -3.90%

The largest increase was for Opera Mobile (Android) and the old feature-phone edition of Opera Mini (although you can also get it on Android and iOS). I doubt there’s any significant reason — unless billions of Chinese suddenly discovered a good reason to switch?


If you’d like to get to know Craig a little better, and learn some of the background to this Browser Trends series, listen to the interview with Craig on SitePoint’s Versioning Show podcast.

Browser Trends August 2016: How Do Chrome’s Rivals Stack Up?

In July, we discussed the positive — but mostly negative — effects of a Chrome monoculture. Did web users take notice and try another application? The latest StatCounter browser statistics prove otherwise …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, June to July 2016

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

Browser June July change relative
Chrome 57.99% 58.40% +0.41% +0.70%
Firefox 14.14% 13.96% -0.18% -1.30%
IE11 8.18% 7.38% -0.80% -9.80%
oldIE 2.59% 2.38% -0.21% -8.10%
Edge 2.55% 2.79% +0.24% +9.40%
Safari 4.28% 4.15% -0.13% -3.00%
iPad Safari 5.33% 5.60% +0.27% +5.10%
Opera 1.68% 1.75% +0.07% +4.20%
Others 3.26% 3.59% +0.33% +10.10%

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

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

Browser July 2015 July 2016 change relative
Chrome 51.89% 58.40% +6.51% +12.50%
Firefox 15.68% 13.96% -1.72% -11.00%
IE11 10.84% 7.38% -3.46% -31.90%
oldIE 6.34% 2.38% -3.96% -62.50%
Safari 9.74% 9.75% +0.01% +0.10%
Opera 1.81% 1.75% -0.06% -3.30%
Others 3.70% 6.38% +2.68% +72.40%

(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 9.4% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

For the past year, it’s been much the same story: Chrome grows at the same rate Internet Explorer falls. The proportion of Firefox, Safari and Opera users has remained fairly static. No other browser has managed to make an impact on the market.

It’s evident that users like Chrome — but are there alternatives you should consider? Firefox and Safari are the obvious options, but don’t discount other competitors.

Opera Browser for Developers logoFew users were pleased when Opera dropped Presto, adopted Chromium’s Blink engine and released Opera 15 in May 2013. Its numerous features were radically stripped back to become Chrome-lite.

Much has happened during the past two years. The browser now supports:

  • a built-in ad blocker
  • the old turbo mode, which minimizes bandwidth and speeds up browsing by compressing page assets via a proxy server before they reach you
  • a Virtual Private Network for secure browsing (currently available in the beta and developer editions)
  • improved memory management, which more than halves Chrome’s bloated requirements
  • a new video pop-out feature, which allows you to move videos out of the browser to your desktop while you do other work (in Opera 38 with further enhancements in v39).

Opera is a fine choice if you want a browser which is similar to Chrome but starts faster, runs quicker, feels slicker and respects privacy. But …

Opera’s browser business has been sold to a Chinese consortium led by Qihoo 360 for $600 million. The deal is yet to be approved by regulators, and there’s unlikely to be any immediate changes, but the browser’s future direction is less certain.

Microsoft Edge browser logoDespite the ridicule received by Internet Explorer, Microsoft Edge is a fine browser:

  • Edge looks great, launches faster and runs quicker than most competitors
  • it offers some novel features, such as the reading list and web note which lets you annotate and share pages
  • extensions will be available in the August 2, 2016 update
  • it integrates well with Windows, including Cortana’s speech-based assistant and the Start menu.

The downsides? Edge is only available in Windows 10 and some developer tools are a little less polished than others.

I use Edge frequently and it’s become my default PDF viewer! Try it.

Vivaldi browser logoWe’ve discussed Vivaldi several times. In summary, Vivaldi also uses the Blink engine and offers a highly-customizable browsing experience which is ideal for power users. It’s probably what Opera 15 should have been.

Vivaldi is growing steadily with a 0.02% market share — or one in every 5,000 web users. The browser will shortly offer a built-in news reader and email client.

Brave is another Blink-based browser. Development is overseen by Brendan Eich — the father of JavaScript. (Read SitePoint’s interview with Brendan about Brave.) Brave’s purpose is to block harmful advertising and tracking while still supporting website publishers. I’m yet to be convinced this noble aim will be effective, but we’ll know more when the final release arrives.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, June to July 2016

Desktop vs mobile has been swinging wildly and, following June’s 2% drop, mobile usage jumped 3.3% and now accounts for 47.19% of all web activity. If that happens again, mobile will overtake desktop in September 2016.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser June July change relative
Chrome 38.23% 38.56% +0.33% +0.90%
iPhone 18.95% 18.53% -0.42% -2.20%
UC Browser 14.24% 14.39% +0.15% +1.10%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.77% 11.22% +0.45% +4.20%
Android 7.83% 7.29% -0.54% -6.90%
Samsung Internet 6.30% 6.55% +0.25% +4.00%
IEMobile 1.61% 1.47% -0.14% -8.70%
Others 2.07% 1.99% -0.08% -3.90%

The largest increase was for Opera Mobile (Android) and the old feature-phone edition of Opera Mini (although you can also get it on Android and iOS). I doubt there’s any significant reason — unless billions of Chinese suddenly discovered a good reason to switch?


If you’d like to get to know Craig a little better, and learn some of the background to this Browser Trends series, listen to the interview with Craig on SitePoint’s Versioning Show podcast.

Browser Trends July 2016: Is a Chrome Monoculture Harmless?

May’s Microsoft Misfortune saw IE and Edge plunge further behind the competition. Does June provide a more optimistic outlook in the latest StatCounter browser statistics? Er, no…

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, May to June 2016

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

Browser May June change relative
Chrome 57.07% 57.99% +0.92% +1.60%
Firefox 14.50% 14.14% -0.36% -2.50%
IE11 8.65% 8.18% -0.47% -5.40%
oldIE 2.73% 2.59% -0.14% -5.10%
Edge 2.29% 2.55% +0.26% +11.40%
Safari 4.32% 4.28% -0.04% -0.90%
iPad Safari 5.35% 5.33% -0.02% -0.40%
Opera 1.80% 1.68% -0.12% -6.70%
Others 3.29% 3.26% -0.03% -0.90%

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

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

Browser June 2015 June 2016 change relative
Chrome 49.77% 57.99% +8.22% +16.50%
Firefox 16.09% 14.14% -1.95% -12.10%
IE11 11.33% 8.18% -3.15% -27.80%
oldIE 7.16% 2.59% -4.57% -63.80%
Safari 10.55% 9.61% -0.94% -8.90%
Opera 1.62% 1.68% +0.06% +3.70%
Others 3.48% 5.81% +2.33% +67.00%

(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 11.4% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Other than Edge edging up, Chrome was the only browser to make gains during June 2016. The 12-month chart illustrates the chasm which has formed between Chrome and its competitors:

June 2016 browser trends chart

You should also note Opera, Vivaldi, Brave and a range of lesser-used browsers are based on the same Blink rendering engine which is developed for Chrome and Chromium. Are we heading uncontrollably toward another monoculture?

I’ve been an outspoken critic of browser monocultures (note this article refers to WebKit since it was written prior to Google’s fork of the engine into Blink.) Like others who developed web sites and applications during the dark days of IE6 domination, I remain concerned about the rise of any browser monopoly:

  1. The monopolistic vendor has less incentive to innovate.
  2. The vendor becomes too powerful and can dictate web standards. Their refusal or lethargy for implementation can kill a technology.
  3. A monoculture makes it harder for others to compete. Those vendors may abandon their own efforts or go out of business.

However, the IE6 days were different.

The early web threatened Microsoft’s shrink-wrapped software model, especially since Netscape claimed to be building a web-based OS (the reality was more than a decade away). Microsoft entered the browser war and killed competition with a free browser which was significantly better than others available. The result: IE6 gained a 95% market share. Microsoft halted further development and retreated to web-enabled Windows and Office software.

Today, Google’s primary revenue stream is web-based services. The company has no reason to abandon browser development, because they depend on the web. A better browser permits better web applications, which compete better against Apple and Microsoft products. Google has an incentive to work with other vendors and support standards, because it allows their services to work everywhere regardless of browser or device. Web developers then benefit from increased cross-browser compatibility.

So is the Chrome monoculture harmless? I’m yet to be convinced. Competition is good, and Google’s influence could be considered too powerful. Fortunately, there is a wide range of browsers available, and newer vendors have not been dissuaded from entering the market.

That said, I urge you to look beyond Chrome and consider alternatives. All the mainstream browsers are excellent. Don’t believe Chrome is always ahead or accept the monoculture, because it makes your life a little easier.

So, wondering what you could switch to? Perhaps Blisk is your next web development browser? Or perhaps Vivaldi?

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, May to June 2016

After a huge 2.25% jump in mobile traffic last month, usage dropped 1.95% in June and now accounts for 43.86% of all web activity.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser May June change relative
Chrome 34.44% 38.23% +3.79% +11.00%
iPhone 17.36% 18.95% +1.59% +9.20%
UC Browser 20.49% 14.24% -6.25% -30.50%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.98% 10.77% -0.21% -1.90%
Android 7.68% 7.83% +0.15% +2.00%
Samsung Internet 5.46% 6.30% +0.84% +15.40%
IEMobile 1.52% 1.61% +0.09% +5.90%
Others 2.07% 2.07% +0.00% +0.00%

UC Browser appears to have dropped by an unprecedented 6.25%. There is an explanation: some versions of the browser were incorrectly sending an additional page view for every valid request. StatCounter has adjusted for the double-counting, which explains why Chrome and the iPhone increased while the mobile/desktop ratio decreased. That’s the sort of nonsense you need to deal with when collating browser statistics!

The rest of the chart saw few dramatic changes although Samsung Internet continues to make good gains. See you next month.

Browser Trends July 2016: Is a Chrome Monoculture Harmless?

May’s Microsoft Misfortune saw IE and Edge plunge further behind the competition. Does June provide a more optimistic outlook in the latest StatCounter browser statistics? Er, no…

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, May to June 2016

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

Browser May June change relative
Chrome 57.07% 57.99% +0.92% +1.60%
Firefox 14.50% 14.14% -0.36% -2.50%
IE11 8.65% 8.18% -0.47% -5.40%
oldIE 2.73% 2.59% -0.14% -5.10%
Edge 2.29% 2.55% +0.26% +11.40%
Safari 4.32% 4.28% -0.04% -0.90%
iPad Safari 5.35% 5.33% -0.02% -0.40%
Opera 1.80% 1.68% -0.12% -6.70%
Others 3.29% 3.26% -0.03% -0.90%

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

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

Browser June 2015 June 2016 change relative
Chrome 49.77% 57.99% +8.22% +16.50%
Firefox 16.09% 14.14% -1.95% -12.10%
IE11 11.33% 8.18% -3.15% -27.80%
oldIE 7.16% 2.59% -4.57% -63.80%
Safari 10.55% 9.61% -0.94% -8.90%
Opera 1.62% 1.68% +0.06% +3.70%
Others 3.48% 5.81% +2.33% +67.00%

(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 11.4% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Other than Edge edging up, Chrome was the only browser to make gains during June 2016. The 12-month chart illustrates the chasm which has formed between Chrome and its competitors:

June 2016 browser trends chart

You should also note Opera, Vivaldi, Brave and a range of lesser-used browsers are based on the same Blink rendering engine which is developed for Chrome and Chromium. Are we heading uncontrollably toward another monoculture?

I’ve been an outspoken critic of browser monocultures (note this article refers to WebKit since it was written prior to Google’s fork of the engine into Blink.) Like others who developed web sites and applications during the dark days of IE6 domination, I remain concerned about the rise of any browser monopoly:

  1. The monopolistic vendor has less incentive to innovate.
  2. The vendor becomes too powerful and can dictate web standards. Their refusal or lethargy for implementation can kill a technology.
  3. A monoculture makes it harder for others to compete. Those vendors may abandon their own efforts or go out of business.

However, the IE6 days were different.

The early web threatened Microsoft’s shrink-wrapped software model, especially since Netscape claimed to be building a web-based OS (the reality was more than a decade away). Microsoft entered the browser war and killed competition with a free browser which was significantly better than others available. The result: IE6 gained a 95% market share. Microsoft halted further development and retreated to web-enabled Windows and Office software.

Today, Google’s primary revenue stream is web-based services. The company has no reason to abandon browser development, because they depend on the web. A better browser permits better web applications, which compete better against Apple and Microsoft products. Google has an incentive to work with other vendors and support standards, because it allows their services to work everywhere regardless of browser or device. Web developers then benefit from increased cross-browser compatibility.

So is the Chrome monoculture harmless? I’m yet to be convinced. Competition is good, and Google’s influence could be considered too powerful. Fortunately, there is a wide range of browsers available, and newer vendors have not been dissuaded from entering the market.

That said, I urge you to look beyond Chrome and consider alternatives. All the mainstream browsers are excellent. Don’t believe Chrome is always ahead or accept the monoculture, because it makes your life a little easier.

So, wondering what you could switch to? Perhaps Blisk is your next web development browser? Or perhaps Vivaldi?

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, May to June 2016

After a huge 2.25% jump in mobile traffic last month, usage dropped 1.95% in June and now accounts for 43.86% of all web activity.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser May June change relative
Chrome 34.44% 38.23% +3.79% +11.00%
iPhone 17.36% 18.95% +1.59% +9.20%
UC Browser 20.49% 14.24% -6.25% -30.50%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.98% 10.77% -0.21% -1.90%
Android 7.68% 7.83% +0.15% +2.00%
Samsung Internet 5.46% 6.30% +0.84% +15.40%
IEMobile 1.52% 1.61% +0.09% +5.90%
Others 2.07% 2.07% +0.00% +0.00%

UC Browser appears to have dropped by an unprecedented 6.25%. There is an explanation: some versions of the browser were incorrectly sending an additional page view for every valid request. StatCounter has adjusted for the double-counting, which explains why Chrome and the iPhone increased while the mobile/desktop ratio decreased. That’s the sort of nonsense you need to deal with when collating browser statistics!

The rest of the chart saw few dramatic changes although Samsung Internet continues to make good gains. See you next month.

Mozilla will finally add multi-process support to Firefox 48

Almost seven years ago, Mozilla announced that it would begin implementing a new multiprocess-capable version of its popular browser. Now, it’s finally ready to start rolling that capability out to its users, though only slowly at first. As of this writing, Firefox’s multi-process implementation (dubbed Electrolysis, aka e10s), will roll out to a select group of beta users testing Firefox 48. If the initial testers find no problems, the feature will be enabled on more and more systems, until it debuts in Firefox 48 in roughly six weeks.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its own feature implementation.

Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too…

This is a huge change for Firefox, the largest we’ve ever shipped… As noted earlier, this is just the first phase. Next up we’ll be working to get E10S to the cohorts not eligible in Firefox 48. We want 100% of our release users to benefit from this massive improvement. After that, we’ll be working on support for multiple content processes. With that foundation in place, the next projects are sandboxing for security, and isolating extensions into their own processes.

Adding multi-processing

Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Edge have all used multi-process sandboxing for tabs for years. In this model, each browser tab is independent from the other. The upside to this approach is that a single slow-running tab can’t lock up the entire system, and it allows each tab to be independently sandboxed from the others. One of the downsides is that this requires more memory on a per-tab basis, which is why Chrome has sometimes been criticized for being a RAM hog.

Multiple Firefox processes

Firefox multi-processor implementation (artist’s depiction)

Unfortunately, Firefox wasn’t designed to implement each tab as its own independent process, and adding this capability required the team to rearchitect significant chunks of the browser to be compatible with this new approach. Electrolysis won’t implement multi-process support in a single leap — instead, all pages will exist in one thread, while the UI is spun off to a different thread. This should still alleviate some of the stutters and slowdowns you see from FF when the browser has many tabs open. Whether or not it completely alleviates the problem is still an open question; I regularly see Firefox’s RAM usage balloon up to 2-4GB, only to collapse back down to 1/10 that size when I open and close the browser. (Turning off all add-ons and running in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the issue.)

The long-term goal of Electrolysis is still to create a browser with per-tab isolation, but it’s not clear when Mozilla will hit that target. Development on Electrolysis stopped for several years, while the company attacked other low-hanging fruit to improve responsiveness and performance, but the need to rebuild the browser from the ground up has also delayed the rollout.

Electrolysis should be faster and more responsive once FF48 debuts, but whether it’ll help stem Mozilla’s market share decline is another question altogether.

StatCounter1

Data from Statcounter shows that Firefox’s market share has been trending downwards, as has IE/Edge. While the decline looks modest over just the last few months, Firefox has been slowly bleeding market share for years — according to Statcounter, its June 2014 market share was 19.6%, compared with just 15.6% this April. IE and Edge have also been dropping off, despite Microsoft’s efforts to push users towards Windows 10.

If you want more information on Electrolysis and the rationale behind the program, these links should be of use.

Mozilla will finally add multi-process support to Firefox 48

Almost seven years ago, Mozilla announced that it would begin implementing a new multiprocess-capable version of its popular browser. Now, it’s finally ready to start rolling that capability out to its users, though only slowly at first. As of this writing, Firefox’s multi-process implementation (dubbed Electrolysis, aka e10s), will roll out to a select group of beta users testing Firefox 48. If the initial testers find no problems, the feature will be enabled on more and more systems, until it debuts in Firefox 48 in roughly six weeks.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its own feature implementation.

Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too…

This is a huge change for Firefox, the largest we’ve ever shipped… As noted earlier, this is just the first phase. Next up we’ll be working to get E10S to the cohorts not eligible in Firefox 48. We want 100% of our release users to benefit from this massive improvement. After that, we’ll be working on support for multiple content processes. With that foundation in place, the next projects are sandboxing for security, and isolating extensions into their own processes.

Adding multi-processing

Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Edge have all used multi-process sandboxing for tabs for years. In this model, each browser tab is independent from the other. The upside to this approach is that a single slow-running tab can’t lock up the entire system, and it allows each tab to be independently sandboxed from the others. One of the downsides is that this requires more memory on a per-tab basis, which is why Chrome has sometimes been criticized for being a RAM hog.

Multiple Firefox processes

Firefox multi-processor implementation (artist’s depiction)

Unfortunately, Firefox wasn’t designed to implement each tab as its own independent process, and adding this capability required the team to rearchitect significant chunks of the browser to be compatible with this new approach. Electrolysis won’t implement multi-process support in a single leap — instead, all pages will exist in one thread, while the UI is spun off to a different thread. This should still alleviate some of the stutters and slowdowns you see from FF when the browser has many tabs open. Whether or not it completely alleviates the problem is still an open question; I regularly see Firefox’s RAM usage balloon up to 2-4GB, only to collapse back down to 1/10 that size when I open and close the browser. (Turning off all add-ons and running in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the issue.)

The long-term goal of Electrolysis is still to create a browser with per-tab isolation, but it’s not clear when Mozilla will hit that target. Development on Electrolysis stopped for several years, while the company attacked other low-hanging fruit to improve responsiveness and performance, but the need to rebuild the browser from the ground up has also delayed the rollout.

Electrolysis should be faster and more responsive once FF48 debuts, but whether it’ll help stem Mozilla’s market share decline is another question altogether.

StatCounter1

Data from Statcounter shows that Firefox’s market share has been trending downwards, as has IE/Edge. While the decline looks modest over just the last few months, Firefox has been slowly bleeding market share for years — according to Statcounter, its June 2014 market share was 19.6%, compared with just 15.6% this April. IE and Edge have also been dropping off, despite Microsoft’s efforts to push users towards Windows 10.

If you want more information on Electrolysis and the rationale behind the program, these links should be of use.

Mozilla will finally add multi-process support to Firefox 48

Almost seven years ago, Mozilla announced that it would begin implementing a new multiprocess-capable version of its popular browser. Now, it’s finally ready to start rolling that capability out to its users, though only slowly at first. As of this writing, Firefox’s multi-process implementation (dubbed Electrolysis, aka e10s), will roll out to a select group of beta users testing Firefox 48. If the initial testers find no problems, the feature will be enabled on more and more systems, until it debuts in Firefox 48 in roughly six weeks.

Here’s how Mozilla describes its own feature implementation.

Similar to how chemists can use the technique called electrolysis to split water into hydrogen and oxygen, we’re using project Electrolysis to split Firefox into a UI process and a content process. Splitting UI from content means that when a web page is devouring your computer’s processor, your tabs and buttons and menus won’t lock up too…

This is a huge change for Firefox, the largest we’ve ever shipped… As noted earlier, this is just the first phase. Next up we’ll be working to get E10S to the cohorts not eligible in Firefox 48. We want 100% of our release users to benefit from this massive improvement. After that, we’ll be working on support for multiple content processes. With that foundation in place, the next projects are sandboxing for security, and isolating extensions into their own processes.

Adding multi-processing

Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Edge have all used multi-process sandboxing for tabs for years. In this model, each browser tab is independent from the other. The upside to this approach is that a single slow-running tab can’t lock up the entire system, and it allows each tab to be independently sandboxed from the others. One of the downsides is that this requires more memory on a per-tab basis, which is why Chrome has sometimes been criticized for being a RAM hog.

Multiple Firefox processes

Firefox multi-processor implementation (artist’s depiction)

Unfortunately, Firefox wasn’t designed to implement each tab as its own independent process, and adding this capability required the team to rearchitect significant chunks of the browser to be compatible with this new approach. Electrolysis won’t implement multi-process support in a single leap — instead, all pages will exist in one thread, while the UI is spun off to a different thread. This should still alleviate some of the stutters and slowdowns you see from FF when the browser has many tabs open. Whether or not it completely alleviates the problem is still an open question; I regularly see Firefox’s RAM usage balloon up to 2-4GB, only to collapse back down to 1/10 that size when I open and close the browser. (Turning off all add-ons and running in Safe Mode doesn’t fix the issue.)

The long-term goal of Electrolysis is still to create a browser with per-tab isolation, but it’s not clear when Mozilla will hit that target. Development on Electrolysis stopped for several years, while the company attacked other low-hanging fruit to improve responsiveness and performance, but the need to rebuild the browser from the ground up has also delayed the rollout.

Electrolysis should be faster and more responsive once FF48 debuts, but whether it’ll help stem Mozilla’s market share decline is another question altogether.

StatCounter1

Data from Statcounter shows that Firefox’s market share has been trending downwards, as has IE/Edge. While the decline looks modest over just the last few months, Firefox has been slowly bleeding market share for years — according to Statcounter, its June 2014 market share was 19.6%, compared with just 15.6% this April. IE and Edge have also been dropping off, despite Microsoft’s efforts to push users towards Windows 10.

If you want more information on Electrolysis and the rationale behind the program, these links should be of use.

Browser Trends June 2016: Microsoft Misfortune

Microsoft EdgeMozilla finally overtook Microsoft during April 2016. Do the latest StatCounter browser statistics hold any cheer for IE and Edge? …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, April to May 2016

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

Browser April May change relative
Chrome 56.89% 57.07% +0.18% +0.30%
Firefox 14.24% 14.50% +0.26% +1.80%
IE11 9.02% 8.65% -0.37% -4.10%
oldIE 3.11% 2.73% -0.38% -12.20%
Edge 2.10% 2.29% +0.19% +9.00%
Safari 4.20% 4.32% +0.12% +2.90%
iPad Safari 5.26% 5.35% +0.09% +1.70%
Opera 1.83% 1.80% -0.03% -1.60%
Others 3.35% 3.29% -0.06% -1.80%

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

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

Browser May 2015 May 2016 change relative
Chrome 49.36% 57.07% +7.71% +15.60%
Firefox 16.39% 14.50% -1.89% -11.50%
IE11 10.83% 8.65% -2.18% -20.10%
oldIE 7.45% 2.73% -4.72% -63.40%
Safari 10.82% 9.67% -1.15% -10.60%
Opera 1.62% 1.80% +0.18% +11.10%
Others 3.53% 5.58% +2.05% +58.10%

(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 userbase grew 9% last month. There are several caveats, so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

I’ve rearranged the statistics into approximate usage order. Edge and IE11 are counted separately, but IE10 and below are wrapped into the increasingly irrelevant oldIE category, which now accounts for less than 3% of the market.

Edge is growing its user base by up to 10% per month, but it’s not gaining users at the rate IE is dropping. IE11 remains a capable browser, but development has been abandoned and usage is falling accordingly. Edge is solid competitor to Chrome and Firefox, but it only runs on Windows 10 — and not everyone is able or willing to migrate yet.

Ironically, Microsoft is doing everything we ask of them. They:

The Microsoft ecosystem still feels a little disjointed when compared to Google: online login can be painful, collaboration isn’t as slick, Outlook’s HTML email view is poor, Office does not support SVG, Edge extensions are yet to arrive, and non-Windows OS software can be patchy. Google and Apple need strong competitors, but Microsoft are playing catch-up and it’s not been enough to stem the flow of users. They can succeed, but innovation will be the only way to win.

As for the other browsers, Firefox’s small jump during April consolidated its position at #2, with a 0.83% advantage over IE/Edge. Chrome increased slightly, and it was a relatively good month for Safari, given the recent drop in form.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, April to May 2016

Mobile usage jumped by a huge 2.25% during May and now accounts for 45.81% of all web activity. Warmer weather in the northern hemisphere may account for some of that increase, but we’re within reach of the promised 50:50 split.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser April May change relative
Chrome 34.17% 34.44% +0.27% +0.80%
UC Browser 19.75% 20.49% +0.74% +3.70%
iPhone 17.48% 17.36% -0.12% -0.70%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.90% 10.98% +0.08% +0.70%
Android 8.30% 7.68% -0.62% -7.50%
Samsung Internet 5.71% 5.46% -0.25% -4.40%
IEMobile 1.60% 1.52% -0.08% -5.00%
Others 2.09% 2.07% -0.02% -1.00%

Application usage remained similar to April, although it seems the Samsung surge has ended. Perhaps people have stopped using their shiny new S7s every few minutes?!

The main mobile news is Microsoft’s disposal of the Nokia brand just two years after their $7.2 billion takeover. Nokia’s aging feature phone business has been sold to FIH Mobile Ltd for $350 million and 1,000 jobs were cut. Ouch. Nokia’s old models still rank as the most popular ever sold, but the brand is set to disappear into obscurity.

Rumors remain about a new Surface Phone, but Microsoft has struggled in the mobile arena. Windows phones are generally well made, fast and intuitive, but they arrived too late on the market and struggle from a lack of native apps. I suspect Microsoft will shelve their mobile ambitions.

Browser Trends June 2016: Microsoft Misfortune

Microsoft EdgeMozilla finally overtook Microsoft during April 2016. Do the latest StatCounter browser statistics hold any cheer for IE and Edge? …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, April to May 2016

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

Browser April May change relative
Chrome 56.89% 57.07% +0.18% +0.30%
Firefox 14.24% 14.50% +0.26% +1.80%
IE11 9.02% 8.65% -0.37% -4.10%
oldIE 3.11% 2.73% -0.38% -12.20%
Edge 2.10% 2.29% +0.19% +9.00%
Safari 4.20% 4.32% +0.12% +2.90%
iPad Safari 5.26% 5.35% +0.09% +1.70%
Opera 1.83% 1.80% -0.03% -1.60%
Others 3.35% 3.29% -0.06% -1.80%

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

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

Browser May 2015 May 2016 change relative
Chrome 49.36% 57.07% +7.71% +15.60%
Firefox 16.39% 14.50% -1.89% -11.50%
IE11 10.83% 8.65% -2.18% -20.10%
oldIE 7.45% 2.73% -4.72% -63.40%
Safari 10.82% 9.67% -1.15% -10.60%
Opera 1.62% 1.80% +0.18% +11.10%
Others 3.53% 5.58% +2.05% +58.10%

(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 userbase grew 9% last month. There are several caveats, so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

I’ve rearranged the statistics into approximate usage order. Edge and IE11 are counted separately, but IE10 and below are wrapped into the increasingly irrelevant oldIE category, which now accounts for less than 3% of the market.

Edge is growing its user base by up to 10% per month, but it’s not gaining users at the rate IE is dropping. IE11 remains a capable browser, but development has been abandoned and usage is falling accordingly. Edge is solid competitor to Chrome and Firefox, but it only runs on Windows 10 — and not everyone is able or willing to migrate yet.

Ironically, Microsoft is doing everything we ask of them. They:

The Microsoft ecosystem still feels a little disjointed when compared to Google: online login can be painful, collaboration isn’t as slick, Outlook’s HTML email view is poor, Office does not support SVG, Edge extensions are yet to arrive, and non-Windows OS software can be patchy. Google and Apple need strong competitors, but Microsoft are playing catch-up and it’s not been enough to stem the flow of users. They can succeed, but innovation will be the only way to win.

As for the other browsers, Firefox’s small jump during April consolidated its position at #2, with a 0.83% advantage over IE/Edge. Chrome increased slightly, and it was a relatively good month for Safari, given the recent drop in form.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, April to May 2016

Mobile usage jumped by a huge 2.25% during May and now accounts for 45.81% of all web activity. Warmer weather in the northern hemisphere may account for some of that increase, but we’re within reach of the promised 50:50 split.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser April May change relative
Chrome 34.17% 34.44% +0.27% +0.80%
UC Browser 19.75% 20.49% +0.74% +3.70%
iPhone 17.48% 17.36% -0.12% -0.70%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.90% 10.98% +0.08% +0.70%
Android 8.30% 7.68% -0.62% -7.50%
Samsung Internet 5.71% 5.46% -0.25% -4.40%
IEMobile 1.60% 1.52% -0.08% -5.00%
Others 2.09% 2.07% -0.02% -1.00%

Application usage remained similar to April, although it seems the Samsung surge has ended. Perhaps people have stopped using their shiny new S7s every few minutes?!

The main mobile news is Microsoft’s disposal of the Nokia brand just two years after their $7.2 billion takeover. Nokia’s aging feature phone business has been sold to FIH Mobile Ltd for $350 million and 1,000 jobs were cut. Ouch. Nokia’s old models still rank as the most popular ever sold, but the brand is set to disappear into obscurity.

Rumors remain about a new Surface Phone, but Microsoft has struggled in the mobile arena. Windows phones are generally well made, fast and intuitive, but they arrived too late on the market and struggle from a lack of native apps. I suspect Microsoft will shelve their mobile ambitions.

Browser Trends May 2016: Firefox Finally Overtakes IE

April brought us a shower of Samsung surprises, so can the latest StatCounter browser statistics be similarly exciting? …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, March to April 2016

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

Browser March April change relative
IE (all) 12.54% 12.13% -0.41% -3.30%
IE11 9.40% 9.02% -0.38% -4.00%
IE10 0.80% 0.81% +0.01% +1.30%
IE9 0.87% 0.85% -0.02% -2.30%
IE6/7/8 1.47% 1.45% -0.02% -1.40%
Edge 1.98% 2.10% +0.12% +6.10%
Chrome 56.51% 56.89% +0.38% +0.70%
Firefox 14.29% 14.24% -0.05% -0.30%
Safari 4.17% 4.20% +0.03% +0.70%
iPad Safari 5.25% 5.26% +0.01% +0.20%
Opera 1.87% 1.83% -0.04% -2.10%
Others 3.39% 3.35% -0.04% -1.20%

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

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

Browser April 2015 April 2016 change relative
IE (all) 18.25% 12.13% -6.12% -33.50%
IE11 10.76% 9.02% -1.74% -16.20%
IE10 1.81% 0.81% -1.00% -55.20%
IE9 2.26% 0.85% -1.41% -62.40%
IE6/7/8 3.42% 1.45% -1.97% -57.60%
Chrome 49.97% 56.89% +6.92% +13.80%
Firefox 16.77% 14.24% -2.53% -15.10%
Safari 9.86% 9.46% -0.40% -4.10%
Opera 1.61% 1.83% +0.22% +13.70%
Others 3.54% 5.45% +1.91% +54.00%

(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 6.1% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

firefox browser logoIt’s taken almost fourteen years but Mozilla can finally claim to own a bigger slice of the web browsing market than Microsoft. Firefox stands at 14.24% while the combined IE/Edge total is a fraction under at 14.23%. Firefox has regained the #2 spot after losing it to Chrome in December 2011 (which then overtook IE just six months later).

Mozilla’s celebrations will be muted. Both Firefox and IE lost share to the dominant Chrome, but IE fell further. Edge has become the fastest growing mainstream browser, but its total 2.1% share of the market is matched by Chrome in growth alone every three months.

Chrome experienced a fairly sedate 0.38% jump in April. I predicted it wouldn’t reach 60% this year, but it looks as though I’ll be proved wrong. Again.

Opera and the desktop and iPad versions of Safari barely moved. It’s possible Opera’s new VPN could entice those wanting more privacy to re-evaluate the browser when the final version is released in a few months. A built-in VPN is the the only significant feature that differentiates Opera from other Blink-based browsers. Talking of which …

Vivaldi has entered the StatCounter statistics for the first time with a 0.01% user share. Vivaldi 1.0 was launched in April and is a great browser; you should try it. Whether it can make an impact on the big five remains to be seen. Currently, Vivaldi is positioned below country-specific browsers such as Amigo and QQ as well as the Playstation 3 and 4 console browsers.

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, March to April 2016

Mobile usage increased 0.73% during April to reach 43.56% of all web activity.

The top mobile browsing applications for the month were:

Mobile Browser March April change relative
Chrome 33.80% 34.17% +0.37% +1.10%
UC Browser 19.60% 19.75% +0.15% +0.80%
iPhone 17.50% 17.48% -0.02% -0.10%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.79% 10.90% +0.11% +1.00%
Android 9.03% 8.30% -0.73% -8.10%
Samsung Internet 5.53% 5.71% +0.18% +3.30%
IEMobile 1.64% 1.60% -0.04% -2.40%
Others 2.11% 2.09% -0.02% -0.90%

Samsung’s new range of S7 smartphones gave its custom browser a 300% user-base increase during March. The gains were more modest in April, but the figures remain impressive — especially when compared with Apple’s first drop in iPhone sales and revenue over thirteen years.

The iPhone version of Safari stayed static, but it’s clear Apple is losing ground to Android competitors. The company cannot expect buyers to continually upgrade every year when hardware differences are increasingly marginal and the only browser permitted on iOS is falling behind.

Apple appeared to lose interest in the web when native apps became a lucrative sales channel. However, within a few years, we should reach a stage where the difference between native and web apps is negligible. Apple is free to ignore industry developments, but history was not kind to the last company that neglected the web.