Browser Trends March 2016: Operating System Surprises

Have we reached equilibrium point in the browser market? The latest StatCounter statistics indicates little movement …

Worldwide Desktop & Tablet Browser Statistics, January to February 2016

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

Browser January February change relative
IE (all) 14.62% 13.38% -1.24% -8.50%
IE11 10.19% 9.78% -0.41% -4.00%
IE10 1.29% 1.02% -0.27% -20.90%
IE9 1.29% 1.03% -0.26% -20.20%
IE6/7/8 1.85% 1.55% -0.30% -16.20%
Edge 1.69% 1.83% +0.14% +8.30%
Chrome 54.33% 55.47% +1.14% +2.10%
Firefox 14.58% 14.66% +0.08% +0.50%
Safari 4.17% 4.20% +0.03% +0.70%
iPad Safari 5.27% 5.24% -0.03% -0.60%
Opera 1.92% 1.97% +0.05% +2.60%
Others 3.42% 3.25% -0.17% -5.00%

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

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

Browser February 2015 February 2016 change relative
IE (all) 18.89% 13.38% -5.51% -29.20%
IE11 10.53% 9.78% -0.75% -7.10%
IE10 1.90% 1.02% -0.88% -46.30%
IE9 2.39% 1.03% -1.36% -56.90%
IE6/7/8 4.07% 1.55% -2.52% -61.90%
Chrome 48.83% 55.47% +6.64% +13.60%
Firefox 16.53% 14.66% -1.87% -11.30%
Safari 10.21% 9.44% -0.77% -7.50%
Opera 1.60% 1.97% +0.37% +23.10%
Others 3.94% 5.08% +1.14% +28.90%

(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 8.3% last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated and StatCounter vs NetMarketShare.)

Chrome made another standard leap of 1.14%, mostly at the expense of Internet Explorer. IE now accounts for just 13.38% of the market, with 73% of those users on version 11. Edge is growing at a sedate pace. It’s a good browser, but is only available for Windows 10, and few people other than IE users have switched from their preferred application.

Operating System Statistics

There’s little movement in the browser market, so let’s examine Operating Systems:

Operating System Market share
Windows 47.31%
Android 27.51%
iOS 11.04%
OS X 5.20%
Other mobile 3.87%
Unknown 3.61%
Linux 1.00%
Chrome OS 0.30%
Playstation 0.09%
Xbox 0.03%
Other 0.04%

The statistics are collated from OS fingerprints gathered when a person browses to one of StatCounter’s three million monitored websites. They highlight web activity on those platforms rather than installations. Key observations:

  • The second, third and fifth places are held by mobile Operating Systems.
  • If you remove smartphone devices, Windows holds 75% of the market. Windows 7 accounts for 54.3% of installations, followed by Windows 10 (17.5%), Windows 8.x (17.1%) and Windows XP (still at 9.0% despite Microsoft ceasing support two years ago). One in every thousand of those visitors had Windows 98!
  • Linux seems a little low, although there is a large number of ‘unknowns’ which could include some distros. The majority of the world’s web servers run Linux, but those devices are rarely used for web browsing (except by a handful of Lynx masochists!).
  • Chrome OS is surprisingly small given Google’s promotional clout. That said, Chrome OS devices often cost as much as more powerful Windows, Mac and Linux PCs.
  • Sales figures indicate the Playstation 4 is selling twice as fast as the Xbox One, but web browsing on a Playstation is three times more prevalent.

Operating Systems have become increasingly diverse. The reason: mobile devices

Worldwide Mobile Browser Statistics, January to February 2016

February’s mobile usage barely changed and now stands at 41.11% of all web activity.

The top mobile browsing applications for February 2016 were:

Mobile Browser January February change relative
Chrome 37.69% 35.92% -1.77% -4.70%
UC Browser 18.63% 20.10% +1.47% +7.90%
iPhone 18.31% 18.21% -0.10% -0.50%
Opera Mini/Mobile 10.91% 10.74% -0.17% -1.60%
Android 10.24% 9.49% -0.75% -7.30%
IEMobile 1.90% 1.83% -0.07% -3.70%
Others 2.32% 3.71% +1.39% +59.90%

More from this author

There was an uncharacteristic drop for Chrome. This may be partly explained by the appearance of the Samsung Internet for Android browser at #7 with a 1.41% market share. The application is provided for Samsung Galaxy mobiles, tablets and smart TVs. It’s lightweight, features advert blocking and provides device-specific capabilities such as fingerprint scanning for ID/password authentication. As far as I’m aware, the current version recently moved from WebKit to the Blink rendering engine, although Servo is a future option.

Mobile web browsing can be painful and costly, owing to increased page weight and overcrowded networks. Vendors have responded with advert-blocking options which can drastically reduce download times and improve responsiveness:

Unsurprisingly, Google is yet to implement similar blocking technologies, since it is one of the web’s biggest advertisers. However, the path is clear. If you neglect to address heavy or intrusive advertising, browsers will do the job for you.

I’ll discuss advert blocking implications and options in greater depth next month.

Safari and Chrome aren’t the new IE6 — chill out!

IE6 and WebKit

IE6 and WebKit

Internet Explorer 6 was a plague. Not only was it extremely dominant in the web browser market, but it also highlighted a very dark time for Microsoft as a company. IE6 accomplished Microsoft’s infamous embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy, but it also allowed Microsoft to become stagnant. Since Gecko- (Firefox) and WebKit-based (Chrome, Safari) web browsers have really taken off, Microsoft has quickly moved to rectify the problem. IE9 and IE10 are much faster and more standards-compliant than previous efforts, but Microsoft’s corporate culture taints the way it views the current browser market.

It’s clear that Microsoft sees WebKit as a threat — specifically in the mobile space. Due to its almost complete domination of the smartphone (Android and iPhone) and tablet (Android and iPad) markets, this has even caused some people to accuse WebKit-based browsers of becoming the entrenched, stagnant stalwart that IE6 once was. The reality is that WebKit is not, will not be, and can not be the same problem that IE6 once was. Internet Explorer 6 was part of Microsoft’s plan for dominating the market. Safari and Chrome, despite their importance, don’t serve the same purpose for either Apple or Google.

The reason Apple forked KHTML to start the WebKit project was so that it would no longer be beholden to Microsoft. As stagnant as IE was on Windows, it was even worse on the Mac. Safari, and the underlying rending engine, exist only so that Apple will have a reliable web browser for its customers regardless of which third-party companies are developing for its platforms. Google makes the vast majority of its money from advertising. Its goal is for as many people as possible to use its web apps and services. Chrome exists as clear and stable way for Google to offer a clean and fast experience for its users. In both cases, it doesn’t actually matter if the end user is using a WebKit-based browser. As long as you’re buying Apple’s hardware or using Google’s web apps, neither company cares which browser you use. At least in the days of IE6, Microsoft desperately wanted Internet Explorer to be the only browser anyone ever wanted to use. Google and Apple don’t share that idea for their browsers.

WebKit Browsers

WebKit is completely open source, and anyone can leverage it (or fork it) to create their own browser. Google did it for Chrome, and it turned out fantastically. Microsoft’s Trident engine is closed source. Nobody can fork it or even submit improvements for Microsoft to use itself. This alone means that WebKit cannot really be used as a tool for embrace-extend-extinguish. Extinguishing doesn’t work so well when your competitors have access to the core of your application, and can use it themselves.

The only argument left for WebKit-based browsers being at all like IE6 is that WebKit has features that aren’t yet available in other browsers or in any spec. If web developers want to take advantage of a WebKit-exclusive feature, or if they want to target the vast majority of mobile browsers, they have to write WebKit-specific code. Now, with Firefox and Internet Explorer finally making headway in the mobile market, many developers don’t have the resources to re-write their sites using either new standards or more browser-specific code. This is not by any means a failing of WebKit — it is a failing of the competition and standards body.

Apple and Google both want to implement cutting-edge technology, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is very slow in adopting standards. That doesn’t mean that WebKit isn’t standards-compliant. In fact, WebKit-based browsers are even more standards compliant than IE10. In reality, this is more of a problem with the W3C. It’s hard to blame developers for wanting to take advantage of the latest technology in WebKit, but they know the risks of using non-standard code. Microsoft shouldn’t be worried about Safari and Chrome playing the role of IE6. Instead, it should double-down on standards compliance, and keep pace with new features in WebKit. If developers can write standards-compliant code that works in every major browser, they’ll do it happily. Don’t drag your feet, Microsoft, and you won’t have to worry about developer support.

Now read: The death of Firefox

Safari and Chrome aren’t the new IE6 — chill out!

IE6 and WebKit

Internet Explorer 6 was a plague. Not only was it extremely dominant in the web browser market, but it also highlighted a very dark time for Microsoft as a company. IE6 accomplished Microsoft’s infamous embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy, but it also allowed Microsoft to become stagnant. Since Gecko- (Firefox) and WebKit-based (Chrome, Safari) web browsers have really taken off, Microsoft has quickly moved to rectify the problem. IE9 and IE10 are much faster and more standards-compliant than previous efforts, but Microsoft’s corporate culture taints the way it views the current browser market.

It’s clear that Microsoft sees WebKit as a threat — specifically in the mobile space. Due to its almost complete domination of the smartphone (Android and iPhone) and tablet (Android and iPad) markets, this has even caused some people to accuse WebKit-based browsers of becoming the entrenched, stagnant stalwart that IE6 once was. The reality is that WebKit is not, will not be, and can not be the same problem that IE6 once was. Internet Explorer 6 was part of Microsoft’s plan for dominating the market. Safari and Chrome, despite their importance, don’t serve the same purpose for either Apple or Google.

The reason Apple forked KHTML to start the WebKit project was so that it would no longer be beholden to Microsoft. As stagnant as IE was on Windows, it was even worse on the Mac. Safari, and the underlying rending engine, exist only so that Apple will have a reliable web browser for its customers regardless of which third-party companies are developing for its platforms. Google makes the vast majority of its money from advertising. Its goal is for as many people as possible to use its web apps and services. Chrome exists as clear and stable way for Google to offer a clean and fast experience for its users. In both cases, it doesn’t actually matter if the end user is using a WebKit-based browser. As long as you’re buying Apple’s hardware or using Google’s web apps, neither company cares which browser you use. At least in the days of IE6, Microsoft desperately wanted Internet Explorer to be the only browser anyone ever wanted to use. Google and Apple don’t share that idea for their browsers.

WebKit Browsers

WebKit is completely open source, and anyone can leverage it (or fork it) to create their own browser. Google did it for Chrome, and it turned out fantastically. Microsoft’s Trident engine is closed source. Nobody can fork it or even submit improvements for Microsoft to use itself. This alone means that WebKit cannot really be used as a tool for embrace-extend-extinguish. Extinguishing doesn’t work so well when your competitors have access to the core of your application, and can use it themselves.

The only argument left for WebKit-based browsers being at all like IE6 is that WebKit has features that aren’t yet available in other browsers or in any spec. If web developers want to take advantage of a WebKit-exclusive feature, or if they want to target the vast majority of mobile browsers, they have to write WebKit-specific code. Now, with Firefox and Internet Explorer finally making headway in the mobile market, many developers don’t have the resources to re-write their sites using either new standards or more browser-specific code. This is not by any means a failing of WebKit — it is a failing of the competition and standards body.

Apple and Google both want to implement cutting-edge technology, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is very slow in adopting standards. That doesn’t mean that WebKit isn’t standards-compliant. In fact, WebKit-based browsers are even more standards compliant than IE10. In reality, this is more of a problem with the W3C. It’s hard to blame developers for wanting to take advantage of the latest technology in WebKit, but they know the risks of using non-standard code. Microsoft shouldn’t be worried about Safari and Chrome playing the role of IE6. Instead, it should double-down on standards compliance, and keep pace with new features in WebKit. If developers can write standards-compliant code that works in every major browser, they’ll do it happily. Don’t drag your feet, Microsoft, and you won’t have to worry about developer support.

Now read: The death of Firefox

Safari and Chrome aren’t the new IE6 — chill out!

IE6 and WebKit

Internet Explorer 6 was a plague. Not only was it extremely dominant in the web browser market, but it also highlighted a very dark time for Microsoft as a company. IE6 accomplished Microsoft’s infamous embrace, extend, and extinguish strategy, but it also allowed Microsoft to become stagnant. Since Gecko- (Firefox) and WebKit-based (Chrome, Safari) web browsers have really taken off, Microsoft has quickly moved to rectify the problem. IE9 and IE10 are much faster and more standards-compliant than previous efforts, but Microsoft’s corporate culture taints the way it views the current browser market.

It’s clear that Microsoft sees WebKit as a threat — specifically in the mobile space. Due to its almost complete domination of the smartphone (Android and iPhone) and tablet (Android and iPad) markets, this has even caused some people to accuse WebKit-based browsers of becoming the entrenched, stagnant stalwart that IE6 once was. The reality is that WebKit is not, will not be, and can not be the same problem that IE6 once was. Internet Explorer 6 was part of Microsoft’s plan for dominating the market. Safari and Chrome, despite their importance, don’t serve the same purpose for either Apple or Google.

The reason Apple forked KHTML to start the WebKit project was so that it would no longer be beholden to Microsoft. As stagnant as IE was on Windows, it was even worse on the Mac. Safari, and the underlying rending engine, exist only so that Apple will have a reliable web browser for its customers regardless of which third-party companies are developing for its platforms. Google makes the vast majority of its money from advertising. Its goal is for as many people as possible to use its web apps and services. Chrome exists as clear and stable way for Google to offer a clean and fast experience for its users. In both cases, it doesn’t actually matter if the end user is using a WebKit-based browser. As long as you’re buying Apple’s hardware or using Google’s web apps, neither company cares which browser you use. At least in the days of IE6, Microsoft desperately wanted Internet Explorer to be the only browser anyone ever wanted to use. Google and Apple don’t share that idea for their browsers.

WebKit Browsers

WebKit is completely open source, and anyone can leverage it (or fork it) to create their own browser. Google did it for Chrome, and it turned out fantastically. Microsoft’s Trident engine is closed source. Nobody can fork it or even submit improvements for Microsoft to use itself. This alone means that WebKit cannot really be used as a tool for embrace-extend-extinguish. Extinguishing doesn’t work so well when your competitors have access to the core of your application, and can use it themselves.

The only argument left for WebKit-based browsers being at all like IE6 is that WebKit has features that aren’t yet available in other browsers or in any spec. If web developers want to take advantage of a WebKit-exclusive feature, or if they want to target the vast majority of mobile browsers, they have to write WebKit-specific code. Now, with Firefox and Internet Explorer finally making headway in the mobile market, many developers don’t have the resources to re-write their sites using either new standards or more browser-specific code. This is not by any means a failing of WebKit — it is a failing of the competition and standards body.

Apple and Google both want to implement cutting-edge technology, and the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is very slow in adopting standards. That doesn’t mean that WebKit isn’t standards-compliant. In fact, WebKit-based browsers are even more standards compliant than IE10. In reality, this is more of a problem with the W3C. It’s hard to blame developers for wanting to take advantage of the latest technology in WebKit, but they know the risks of using non-standard code. Microsoft shouldn’t be worried about Safari and Chrome playing the role of IE6. Instead, it should double-down on standards compliance, and keep pace with new features in WebKit. If developers can write standards-compliant code that works in every major browser, they’ll do it happily. Don’t drag your feet, Microsoft, and you won’t have to worry about developer support.

Now read: The death of Firefox