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Labrow Marketing’s blogs on website design, development, optimisation and content
The voice of experience
Posted by Peter Labrow on 28 February 2013
The first quarter of 2013 sees Google Chrome consolidating its market domination. But what does that mean for website owners?
As a website owner, you might perhaps believe that the question of “who’s using which browser” isn’t that relevant to you. After all, you just want your website to work – in everything.
Yet the question is highly relevant. It’s one of the pieces of data that helps you plan how your website should function; what it should do; how it should look. The reason for this is that – believe it or not – browsers have changed an awful lot in the last few years.
In terms of desktop browsers, Internet Explorer is no longer king. Not by a stretch. Google Chrome is now the world’s most-used browser, with a market share of about 37% and rising. Next is Internet Explorer, with a market share of around 29% and falling. Firefox comes next, at around 21% (flatlining), followed by Apple’s Safari at around 8% with Opera trailing behind at just over 1%.
As with a lot of stats, the devil is in the detail. Geographically, North America, Canada, Australia, South Africa and China still prefer Internet Explorer. Much of North Africa and the Middle East prefer Firefox. South America, Mexico, Europe (including the UK) and Russia generally prefer Chrome. Don’t ask me why there is such a regional difference.
The broad trend is that Chrome and to some extent Safari are extending their market share – while Internet Explorer surrenders its.
Here’s some counter-intuitive information. The operating systems most-used when browsing are Windows 7 (about 52%), good old Windows XP (about 24%), Mac OS (about 7.5%), Windows Vista (about 6%) and iOS (about 4%) – the rest are there but ‘statistically irrelevant’. Since Microsoft is no longer shipping new browsers that work on Windows XP, it’s safe to assume that many are upgrading to Chrome and Firefox. But there’s also a definite and significant trend, given the OS market share, to choose to ditch Internet Explorer.
That’s not the end of the picture. Mobile browsing accounts for around 25% of website traffic. In the mobile space, Android is the top dog, with about 36% market share; Safari for iOS is next with almost 28% market share. Windows Phone has just over 1% market share.
So, on both the desktop and on mobile, Google triumphs – though Apple isn’t far behind on mobile. (Interestingly, both Google and Apple’s browsers share the same rendering ‘engine’, called WebKit. That doesn’t mean both browsers are the same, but a core part of them works in the same way.)
In terms of ‘versions’ of browsers, the picture grows far more complicated, but we won’t dig into that here. It’s worth noting that – for most realistic purposes – Internet Explorer 6 and 7 are all but deceased.
So, what does this tell website owners?
- Catering for mobiles is now very important. The number of people viewing websites on mobile devices is growing – and there are far more mobile devices than there are PCs, which means that mobiles have the potential to exponentially outstrip PCs.
- The majority of browsers have support for HTML 5. For the website owner, this under-the-bonnet change opens up the possibility of exploiting things such as richer media, animation without Flash and responsive design (websites which ‘change design’ automatically, based on the device being used to view them).
- The shift to browsers which support standards. The time has finally come when most browsers work in a mostly consistent way. Proprietary ways of doing things have fallen by the wayside.
But the biggest shift isn’t what can be done, it’s what doesn’t have to be done. Business websites in particular have been held back because of the entrenched user base of older, less capable browsers – and browsers which simply misbehaved, such as Internet Explorer 6 and 7. Most website developers will tell you that the list of foibles from these two browsers was so great that it doubled testing timescales.
Businesses are now much freer to create great websites without having to worry about “how this looks in Internet Explorer 6” – often to the point of significantly compromising new designs to accommodate a decade-old browser.
This is great news – it’s something website owners should be discussing with their website developers: to find out how their websites can benefit from casting off the shackles of the past.
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Posted by Peter Labrow on 11 January 2013
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