Web browser market share reference
July 20, 2006 8:29 AM   Subscribe

What is the definitive online reference for web browser market share?

I've found this site which looks nice, but I don't know if it's the most authoritative site for stating browser statistics. Our company needs to convince a vendor to program a partner site to work in non-IE browsers (Firefox, etc.) and I want to make sure the statistics I'm quoting are reasonably valid.
posted by Joleta to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
To be honest, I don't think there really isn't a definitive reference. If I could make browser stats from any site's logs, I'd use a site which has the most "regular" people browsing it - something like ABC, maybe CNN or Google. You can't really believe what W3's statistics say, for just the reason W3 says: the people who care about browser statistics will most likely use an alternative browser to view the site; and if the site is using its own server logs to generate market share, the results will be skewed.
I'd go with whatever data shows Firefox to have the lowest market share (as Firefox is often the alternative browser). The link you have seems to me to be good market share values to quote. TheCounter shows results which are similar to the other site, so I'm confident that these numbers are good enough to work with.
posted by Meagan at 9:00 AM on July 20, 2006

I don't think there really is...
posted by Meagan at 9:01 AM on July 20, 2006

Google used to have an amazing trend analysis site that would show all the browsers, OS etc. but they removed it a couple of years ago (still not sure why).

This site is usually referenced whenever talk of FF popularity surfaces. Like most others, I take it with a grain of salt.
posted by purephase at 9:02 AM on July 20, 2006

It's impossible to quantify.

The best you can hope for is [some popular site] claims x% on Browser A, y% on Browser B, etc.

But those percentages are going to swing wildly based on audience - in this office, all the developers except two use Firefox, while the sales and management teams are all on IE. On top of that, lots of browsers don't even report themselves correctly.

IMO, the best "general audience" stats are going to come from Google, but they haven't published anything, AFAIK, since 2004.

What's your target audience for the site?

[For what it's worth... cross-browser compatibility is simply How Things Should Be Done. If their code isn't working in other browsers, they're probably cowboys.]
posted by Leon at 9:05 AM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: Our target audience is businesses and manufacturers who want to manage their energy use effectively. The partner site that I want to be cross-browser compatible allows them to do an online energy audit of their facilities.
posted by Joleta at 9:23 AM on July 20, 2006

Your best bet is to find stats for sites with similar demographics to the ones that will carry the ads. That's going to be your best bet-- a comprehensive number can't be obtained and individual numbers vary a lot depending on who's looking at the site.

(For example, I work for a site that skews older. Did you know that anyone still used IE 5 for Mac?)
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:27 AM on July 20, 2006

There is no definitive answer, but Browser News is the best one I know of. Not wanting to miss 10 or 20% of the market may be important, but IMO in the absence of reliable browser stats, the principle of standards compliance and the general benefits to code quality of cross-platform testing are more important.
posted by sfenders at 9:37 AM on July 20, 2006

Some of the free hit-counter sites have aggregate statistics which include a breakdown of browsers. Given that a couple of them tally 20 or 30 million hits per month, they have to be considered a pretty good sample of the whole.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 10:06 AM on July 20, 2006

Best answer: Does the partner site already exist? If so, then there is, in fact, a definitive reference as to browser usage for their site - their server logs.
posted by robhuddles at 10:07 AM on July 20, 2006

Best answer: Don't forget to tell 'em the situation is fluid, not static, and they should really be thinking of future proofing any development investment anyway. I'd imagine to a non-tech the idea of coding for IE-only might sound like the opposite: a safe choice.

Reference trends not just current numbers. For example trends to:
- web standards compliance (which means the opposite of coding for IE only)
- diversity in terms of the number of browers in reasonably common use, whether 5 or 20 percent non-IE browsers are being used, the trend is toward more of them
- future diversity in terms of platforms such as handhelds

I wish you well in your mission and hope whatever team is involved is not truly used to coding for IE-only. If so they may not enjoy making the adjustment.

If that partner site already exists in IE-nnly form you'll have a whole other order of problem to deal with.
posted by scheptech at 10:15 AM on July 20, 2006

Rather than demand cross-browser compliance (which is great), demand Standards-Compliance. Standards Compliance will keep your site safe for IE, Firefox, Opera and Safari browsers. If you MIGHT have customers that own a Mac, Standards Compliance is the ONLY way they will be able to interact with the web page (IE for the mac has been officially abandoned, Microsoft suggests mac users use Safari)

Arstechnica just had a column reporting that 40% of their users use Firefox, 30% use IE There are also figures concerning the global popularity, which is now up to 13%.

I wouldn't trust hit-counter sites, firefox users often have adblock installed, which would account for the very low (10%) reported by the counters.

The rationale most often used to help other browsers get respect is that a majority of Firefox/Opera/Safari users are very tech-savy. Tech-savy people generally have more disposable income. Tech-savy people are more likely to purchase items online. Therefore, while having an IE-only site immediately cuts out 18% of total customers, these 18% are more likely to purchase goods online.
posted by hatsix at 10:30 AM on July 20, 2006

There are always going to be problems with the stats. Opera, for example, identifies itself as IE by default to bypass problems with the still-out-there "Microsoft or nothing" sites out there.
posted by Hogshead at 11:07 AM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: The partner site is currently visible only in IE 5 or later. When I try to use any other browser, I get an error message.

I didn't want to name names, but it's a publicly available site. You can see what I mean here. This site is usually visible in an iframe on our website, but I pulled out the actual URL to avoid confusion. (Note that part of the URL for the error message says "BadBrowser." Doesn't look like I have much chance of swaying their opinion!)

EnVinta says non IE browsers are 5% of the audience. If they're using their own server stats, they may be right about that.

I like scheptech's and hatsix's approach via trends and standards compliance, and will pass those thoughts along to the Powers that Be.

Thanks everyone.
posted by Joleta at 11:47 AM on July 20, 2006

This might have something to do with their desire to remain IE-only:

meta NAME="GENERATOR" Content="Microsoft Visual Studio 6.0"
posted by scheptech at 1:51 PM on July 20, 2006

Well, considering that they give an error to non Microsoft browsers, I'm surprised they're getting 5%.

Another little tidbit to throw at them. Microsoft has been saying that they're going to be MUCH closer to standards complaince with IE7 than ever before. This will mean that it will end up rendering pages much closer to Firefox/Opera/Safari. Hence, IE7 will most likely not be compatible with quite a few "IE Only" sites.
posted by hatsix at 4:38 PM on July 20, 2006

Response by poster: Hatsix: Thanks for that tip. I tried the EnVinta site in IE7 at home (IT won't give it to us at work) and get the "Bad Browser" error message! That has got to be best argument yet.
posted by Joleta at 8:53 PM on July 20, 2006

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