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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.

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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.

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Speaking as a developer, Opera’s version numbering seems sensible. Unlike Chrome and Firefox’s rapid updates or IE’s ridiculously sedate pace, Opera normally release a new browser once or twice a year. The version number is incremented when it’s right to do so.

Opera 11.50 is out now and it’s brimming with lovely new features. Come on Opera — as the last bastion of logical updates, it should have been version 12! The most obvious change is the redesigned interface:

Opera 11.5

The differences are subtle, but 11.5 sports a lighter, sleeker and cleaner look. It’s easier to concentrate on web page content and Opera claim it’s faster. I like it.

Speed Dial Extensions

Perhaps the biggest change is speed dial extensions. Rather than simply providing quick access to favorite sites, extensions can add dynamic information to the Speed Dial page. Essentially, it’s a personal home page or set of desktop widgets on the start-up screen. A few extensions will be available today including Read It Later, Webdoc and StockTwits.

To help you manage your favorites and extensions, a new flow feature provides an unlimited number dials. Sizes are automatically adjusted for your screen or you can specify your own zoom level.

Password Synchronization

Password sync has finally arrived in Opera Link. The browser implements strong security so passwords are encrypted on the client using your Opera account password and a randomly generated key. No password is ever stored or transmitted as plain text, so that should reassure those affected by the recent high-profile security breaches experienced by Sony, Nintendo, the CIA and other organizations.

For more information, see Security of synchronized passwords with Opera Link.

Under the Hood

The developers have fixed thousands of bugs and upgraded the rendering engine. It should result in a 10-15% speed improvement for CSS and SVG rendering.

The browser has always been on the cutting edge of HTML5 and it now supports Session History and Navigation, the W3C File API, classlist and the <time> element.

Finally, if you’re a Dragonfly fan, you’ll be pleased to hear that version 1.1 will be available shortly (please, please, please can we have CSS line numbers and links!)

Opera 11.5 builds on what was already a great browser. If you don’t have it installed, head over to Opera.com and become one of the many thousands featured on their live download counter.

What do you think of Opera 11.5?

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In August 2010, Google Chrome exceeded 10% market share. Another milestone was achieved in September: Internet Explorer’s total usage dropped below 50% for the first time in over a decade.

There have been cheers throughout the web design and development community and the story has spread throughout the technical and mainstream press. However, it’s worth examining the StatCounter statistics in detail…

BrowserAugustSeptemberchangerelative
IE 9.0 beta0.00%0.09%+0.09%n/a
IE 8.029.40%29.38%-0.02%-0.10%
IE 7.013.91%12.98%-0.93%-6.70%
IE 6.08.02%7.42%-0.60%-7.50%
Firefox 4.0 beta0.00%0.26%+0.26%n/a
Firefox 3.5+28.03%28.33%+0.30%+1.10%
Firefox 3.0+2.60%2.48%-0.12%-4.60%
Chrome10.76%11.52%+0.76%+7.10%
Safari4.06%4.22%+0.16%+3.90%
Opera1.88%2.03%+0.15%+8.00%
Others1.34%1.38%+0.04%+3.00%
IE (all)51.33%49.87%-1.46%-2.80%
Firefox (all)30.63%31.07%+0.44%+1.40%

The ‘change’ column shows the absolute increase or decrease in market share. The ‘relative’ column indicates relative movements, i.e. 7.5% of IE6 users switched browser in the past month.

We can’t make too many assumptions from this data, but there’s one statistic reporters appear to have missed: IE8 usage has barely changed. The 0.02% drop is more than outweighed by the 0.09% gained by the IE9 beta release.

The most significant contributory factor for IE losses is migration from versions 6 and 7. Although a proportion of those users will have moved to IE8/9, a greater percentage has switched to an alternative such as Firefox or Chrome. There are several reasons why this has occurred:

  • IE8 is a capable browser but there are plenty of better options for IE6/7 users.
  • Good web applications are browser-agnostic or work on a variety of platforms. Legacy business applications are being updated and there’s less dependency on IE.
  • Microsoft and all other major vendors are backing HTML5. The rendering differences between browsers is smaller than ever and it rarely matters which application you use.
  • The majority of businesses use Windows XP and may have no intention of upgrading — especially during continued economic uncertainty. Yet IE9 is only available on Windows Vista/7. Why would a business continue to use an application which the vendor has (effectively) abandoned? It’s far cheaper and easier to install an alternative browser than upgrade the OS.

While we should be thankful for the drop in IE6/7 usage, 1 in 5 visitors continue to use the ancient browsers. Predictions of IE’s demise are premature and IE8 remains the world’s most-used browser.

It’s better news for the other vendors. Firefox, Safari and Opera all gained but Chrome remains the biggest winner. Google’s browser increases by nearly 1% every month and shows no sign of peaking. However, it’s about to face a stronger challenge from Firefox 4 and IE9.

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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…