522-browser-trends

Despite the ongoing Firefox releases, the browser market has remained quiet during the summer months.

So here are the latest statistics. I’ve changed the table so Firefox 4, 5 and 6 are amalgamated into one; it makes little sense to analyze the separate figures since most of those users update their browsers as new versions appear:

BrowserJulyAugustchangerelative
IE 9.07.27%8.05%+0.78%+10.70%
IE 8.026.30%25.68%-0.62%-2.40%
IE 7.05.45%5.07%-0.38%-7.00%
IE 6.03.42%3.09%-0.33%-9.60%
Firefox 4.0+17.66%18.10%+0.44%+2.50%
Firefox 3.6-10.30%9.39%-0.91%-8.80%
Chrome22.17%23.17%+1.00%+4.50%
Safari5.15%5.18%+0.03%+0.60%
Opera1.66%1.67%+0.01%+0.60%
Others0.62%0.60%-0.02%-3.20%
IE (all)42.44%41.89%-0.55%-1.30%
Firefox (all)27.96%27.49%-0.47%-1.70%

The table shows market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. another 9.6% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month. There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

IE9 had another good month. Its progress is remains relatively sedate, but there are two solutions if Microsoft want massive adoption:

  1. Offer Windows 7, the hardware which runs it, installation, migration and training services to everyone. For free.
  2. Alternatively, release a version of IE9 which is compatible with XP. The other vendors support XP and still manage to offer fancy features such as hardware acceleration. And CSS3 text shadows.

IE’s overall drop has slowed a little this month, but I suspect that’s a statistical blip while business users enjoy a summer break.

Firefox 4/5/6 is rising but not at the pace Firefox 3/2/1 is falling. While the rapid releases are mostly good, users are becoming frustrated with add-on compatibility failures and memory usage problems on Mac OS. Mozilla is addressing the issues but they’re losing users who may never return.

There’s little to report for Opera and Safari. Both browsers made modest gains, but neither is setting the market alight.

That leaves us with Chrome. It’s the same story: usage continues to grow at 1% per month — sometimes more. If the current trend continues, Chrome will overtake Firefox in December 2011. It’s already occurred in the UK where Chrome has 23.41% lead over Firefox’s 21.75%.

Personally, I like Chrome and regularly recommend or install the browser; it’s fast, simple, stable and updates without fuss. However, I primarily use Firefox (on Windows 7) because it has a range of essential add-ons for power-surfing and development. I thought others would think the same but, having asked the question on Google+, it appears not. Developers are switching to Chrome in droves. Mozilla is losing the technical evangelists who once promoted Firefox.

Mobile Browser Usage

Desktop browsers account for 92.88% of web activity. The remaining 7.12% is mobile access and it’s evident more people are using their phones for general web browsing. The applications they primarily use are:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 21.61% (down 0.46%)
  2. Android — 19.72% (up 1.55%)
  3. Nokia browser — 16.99% (down 0.11%)
  4. iPhone — 14.91% (down 0.19%)
  5. Blackberry — 11.64% (down 0.66%)

Note there are significant regional variations:

  • In the US and Canada, Android takes the top spot with 34.2% followed by the iPhone with 26.1%. Opera accounts for less than 4%.
  • The iPhone is most popular in Europe at 33.7% with Android second at 23.7%.
  • For Oceania, the iPhone has an almost monopolistic lead of 56.7%. Android is way behind at 19.4%.
  • It’s Asia, Africa and South America where Opera and less-expensive Nokia devices reign supreme.

Remember that these figures are collated from internet access — not sales trends. Users with an older mobile are less likely to use the web than those with the latest 3G handset. That said, in the developing world, users may not have access to a PC so mobile is the only option.

549-ie10-conditional-comments

Microsoft added many features to Internet Explorer over the years. Several revolutionized the web forever (XMLHttpRequest, the DOM, XML tools, font embedding, browser add-ons). Some never caught on. Some were truly awful.

The team intends to remove several of the less-successful legacy features in IE10 (perhaps they read #7 in 10 Ways Microsoft Could Make Us Love IE Again?) I suspect you’ve never coded XML Data Islands and Element Behaviors, but you’ve almost certainly used Conditional Comments. They’re about to disappear from IE forever.

Conditional Comments 101

Ensuring you web site or application works in all browsers is tough. It’s made particularly difficult when you have to support older editions of Internet Explorer. IE6 was released in 2001, IE7 in 2006, and IE8 appeared in 2009. Whatever your opinion of Microsoft, it’s unreasonable to expect a 10 year old browser to render the same as Firefox 5 or Chrome 12.

Web developers are particularly scathing about IE6. Many months are spent building fantastic web sites and applications only to find they break in IE6 at the eleventh hour. Fortunately:

  • IE6 bugs are well-documented and it’s possible to overcome the majority of issues — especially if you test early and often.
  • Microsoft provide Conditional Comments so developers can add custom CSS and script fixes which target a specific version of IE.

Examine the source of almost any HTML5 page and you’ll find this code in the head:


<!--[if lt IE 9]>
<script src="http://html5shiv.googlecode.com/svn/trunk/html5.js"></script>
<![endif]-->

It loads a shim in IE8 and below which allows the developer to style new HTML5 elements such as header, article, and footer. It’s not required in IE9 and other browsers with native HTML5 support — they ignore the script.

Conditional Comments are incredibly useful but, personally, I always felt a little uncomfortable using them:

  1. They smell a little like browser sniffing — which stinks.
  2. They’re rarely necessary. The majority of IE6 problems can be solved with a display:inline; here or a position:relative; there. While competing browsers don’t require those properties, they don’t have a negative impact other than a few bytes of extra bandwidth. I prefer my CSS properties in one place rather than distributed between two or more files.
  3. Conditional Comments are abused. I’ve had the misfortune to work on systems where developers created three or four separate stylesheets which targeted individual browsers. Simple property updates required changes to every file.

Why Remove Conditional Comments?

IE8 is normally well-behaved and you’ll only require the HTML5 shim (see above). With a few CSS3 exceptions, IE9 renders as well as any other browser. Hopefully, IE10 will catch-up — or even overtake — Firefox, Chrome, Opera and Safari.

Conditional Comments are not required. There’s no need for “[if IE 10]“ because pages will render (mostly) the same in all modern browsers.

That said, it’s not the end of feature detection and progressive enhancement. Not every browser supports CSS3 transformations, web sockets, geo-location and client-side storage. Even with support, the user can often disable or refuse permission for an operation.

In addition, Conditional Comments will not disappear from IE6, 7, 8 and 9. You can still target those browsers should the need arise but it will become less necessary over time.

I applaud Microsoft’s decision. It’s a bold move since they could have easy kept Conditional Comments and I suspect its removal will horrify some developers. However, the company is adhering to its “same markup” philosophy and ensuring HTML, CSS and JavaScript just work regardless of the browser or version.

It’s the right thing to do. Let’s hope the demise of ActiveX, Compatibility View and the old IE7 toolbars won’t be too far behind!

522-browser-trends

It’s increasingly difficult to keep track of the browser market. Chrome 12, Firefox 5 and Opera 11.5 were released last month. Some browsers auto-update, some don’t. Some vendors have lavish launch promotions, others don’t mention it.

The big news for July is that Chrome usage has passed 20% for the first time. Let’s examine the full StatCounter statistics in more detail…

BrowserMayJunechangerelative
IE 9.04.57%6.18%+1.61%+35.20%
IE 8.029.06%27.67%-1.39%-4.80%
IE 7.06.39%6.00%-0.39%-6.10%
IE 6.03.84%3.72%-0.12%-3.10%
Firefox 5.00.00%2.81%+2.81%n/a
Firefox 4.014.23%14.04%-0.19%-1.30%
Firefox 3.5+13.95%10.44%-3.51%-25.20%
Firefox 3.1-1.12%1.05%-0.07%-6.30%
Chrome19.38%20.67%+1.29%+6.70%
Safari5.01%5.07%+0.06%+1.20%
Opera1.83%1.74%-0.09%-4.90%
Others0.62%0.61%-0.01%-1.60%
IE (all)43.86%43.57%-0.29%-0.70%
Firefox (all)29.30%28.34%-0.96%-3.30%

This table shows market share estimates for desktop browsers. The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates the proportional change, i.e. another 3.1% of IE6 users abandoned the browser last month (yay!) There are several caveats so I recommend you read How Browser Market Share is Calculated.

In June, Chrome 11 toppled Firefox 3.6 to become the world’s second most-used browser. Confusingly, the launch of Chrome 12 has split Google’s user base so Firefox 4.0 has now taken second place. Despite being available for little over a week, Firefox 5.0 has already gained 2.8% market share as Firefox 3.x and 4.0 users migrate.

However, there’s little good news for Mozilla. Firefox’s overall total dropped by almost 1% in June: three times worse than IE and one of the biggest falls the browser has ever experienced. There doesn’t appear to be a particular reason; Firefox 4 and 5 have been well-received but they haven’t halted Chrome’s progress. Perhaps the changes were too radical for some? Or did users investigate other options rather than upgrading?

IE9 has made good gains although IE8 remains the most popular browser version. IE6 and 7 continue to drop although the pace is slowing.

Opera also experienced a small drop. However, version 11.5 may be able to reverse that trend and there’s better news for the company in the mobile arena…

Mobile Browser Usage

According to StatCounter, desktop browsers account for 93.47% of web activity. Mobile browser usage grew by almost 1% last month to 6.53%. This may be a seasonal anomaly since it’s summer in much of the western world — net users may be out enjoying the sunshine (or drizzle for those of us in the UK).

Movements within the mobile browser market are quite unusual and possibly influenced by seasonal factors. Nokia may be experiencing business issues, but they will be pleased to discover that their (fairly basic) browser has overtaken Android and Safari on the iPhone. Opera has also made gains following the latest release of their mobile editions:

  1. Opera Mini/Mobile — 22.81% (up 1.00%)
  2. Nokia browser — 17.66% (up 1.16%)
  3. Android — 17.25% (up 0.24%)
  4. iPhone — 15.22% (down 1.49%)
  5. Blackberry — 11.98% (down 0.78%)

If you’ve not done so already, perhaps it’s time to consider how your business will be affected by the rapid rise of mobile platforms.

387-ie9-beta

I’m genuinely excited. I don’t remember feeling this way when Chrome 6, Firefox 3.6 or Opera 10.60 were released — and IE9 is just a beta. There are several reasons for my unusual optimism:

  1. We normally wait 2 years between IE updates.
  2. The IE development team has listened to our demands and IE9 is the first version to support HTML5, CSS3, SVG, canvas and several other technologies.
  3. Unlike other vendors, Microsoft has been particularly secretive about IE9′s new interface. A screenshot was leaked, but we’ll only know whether it’s real today.

The beta download should be available at beautyoftheweb.com (yes, seriously) from:

11:00US PDT
12:00US MDT
13:00US CDT
14:00US EDT
18:00UTC / GMT
19:00UK / Ireland
20:00Europe
21:00Eastern Europe
22:00Moscow
02:00 September 16Australia AWST
03:30 September 16Australia ACST
04:00 September 16Australia AEST

Before you rush off to download the browser, note:

  • IE9 is not available for Windows XP. I hope Microsoft rectify that, but I doubt they’ll ever support their aging OS … even if the vast majority of people continue to use XP.
  • Installing IE9 on Windows Vista or 7 will remove your existing installation of IE7 or IE8. Since those browsers will remain popular for many years to come, ensure you have them available on another PC or virtual machine for web development testing purposes. Alternatively, there will be another release of the IE9 platform preview — it’ll run alongside existing versions of IE but it’s far more limited.

The big question — is IE9 any good? Can it live up to our expectations? Head over to our in-depth review…

126-collective-noun

Web designers and developers usually have a selection of the most popular browsers installed on their PC. You don’t? Really? Why not install a few and give them a go.

Operating Systems allow you to set a default browser and we all have our favorites. Some love Firefox for its flexibility. Some swear by Chrome for its speed and clean interface. Others prefer Opera for its tools and features. Many Apple users love Safari’s OS integration. IE users like the browser because … erm, well, they have their reasons (and we have high hopes for IE9).

I started with Netscape 2, migrated to IE3, 4, 5, 5.5 and 6, then switched to Phoenix, Firebird and eventually Firefox. Although I had other browsers installed, I rarely used them for anything other web page testing.

However, in the past year or two I’ve noticed a change in my browser usage patterns. I now use whichever application is most practical — sometimes, it’s simply the icon closest to my cursor. There are a several reasons:

  1. The 5 main browsers are all good applications. You may prefer one over another, but none is perfect and even the worst is fine for general web surfing.
  2. Chrome and Safari may offer some amazing CSS3 effects but the gap between the browsers is smaller than it’s ever been. All of the top browsers offer decent rendering capabilities.
  3. It’s often practical to have two or more different browsers open, e.g. if you’re accessing work and private GMail accounts at the same time.

In most cases, though, I use whichever browser offers the best facilities for the task in hand. For fast browsing, I might use Chrome. On a netbook, I often use Opera for it’s speed, built-in email and turbo mode for slow connections. For storing bookmarks and web page development, it’s hard to beat Firefox. Finally, I still use IE for testing and a few specific corporate applications.

While I doubt many general Internet users flit between applications, it’s increasingly less likely for a power user to have monogamous relationship with a single browser. Then again, perhaps it’s just me — I’ve become a browser whore.

What do you think? Are you wedded to one browser or do you flirt with them all? Please vote on the SitePoint poll or leave your comments below…

399-ie9-screenshot

Internet Explorer 9′s new interface has been revealed following an article published on a site run by one of Microsoft’s Russian subsidiaries. The screenshot was removed almost immediately, but it was too late — the image quickly dispersed throughout the web:

IE9 screenshot

Microsoft has refused to publicly comment about the leak but, if it’s a fake, it’s very good one.

The screenshot shows a minimalistic user interface reminiscent of those implemented by Chrome, Opera and Firefox 4. However, the style and layout of the back/next buttons, address bar and icons will be recognizable to IE8 fans (I’m sure they must exist somewhere?)

All the controls have moved to a single toolbar. It doesn’t leave much room for multiple tabs but it maximizes the web page viewing space. I’m surprised tabs haven’t been moved to the empty title bar area — Mozilla recently determined that tabs above the address bar is a more logical layout.

The Russian website also revealed IE9 would offer a unified search/address bar, a simplified set of toolbar icons, and tear-off tabs which can be snapped to a part of the screen. Windows 7 already offers this last option as “Aero Snap” so it may not be a feature implemented directly within the browser.

The IE9 beta will be released on September 15 2010 so we’ll soon know whether the leaked screenshot is real or not. The final version is unlikely to appear until 2011 so the interface may undergo radical changes before then.

Of course, it could be a Microsoft publicity stunt to raise awareness of the browser. I somehow doubt that — it’s been far more successful than many of their real campaigns! (Did anyone actually attend a Windows 7 party?)

What do you think? Is the screenshot real or fake? Do you like it?