Preparing to teach the HTML Fundamentals class at Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, this summer, I did a quick bit of research on web browsers to check the current status of the browser marketplace. While not surprised, I was rather taken aback at the downfall of Internet Explorer and fast rise of Chrome.
According to StatCounter, from July 2008 to May 2012, while Firefox and Opera have mostly plateaued, Internet Explorer usage has dropped significantly on a steady downhill slope. Chrome has countered it with a steep incline since its release at the end of 2008. According to Wikipedia, Chrome now represents 33% worldwide share of the browser market, closely followed by Internet Explorer and Firefox, leaving the rest in the dust.
Chrome was originally released for Windows only. In 2009 a Mac OS X version was released along with a Linux version. In May 2010, Google released a stable platform for all three operating systems, and the green line on the chart started moving up the mountain to attack its two biggest rivals.
Firefox suffered greatly in 2010 from problems with Adobe Flash causing the browser to crash multiple times a day. It inspired them to create powerful prevention and protection systems to stop crashes due to poorly scripted add-ons and invalid or nasty design elements like Flash. Their faster development release path continues to make it a serious contender in the browser wars. Firefox currently represents 25% of the worldwide market, though 44-67% of the market in Indonesia, Germany, and Poland.
Web designers, developers, WordPress Theme designers and Plugin developers, and expert web users tend to make Firefox their default browser, though Chrome is becoming a solid choice. The wide range of Firefox add-ons for web page testing and development still outweigh Chrome’s options.
Don’t underestimate Mozilla’s ability to turn themselves around. There is a new version of Firefox called Firefox Aurora, which they call the “future of the web browser.” It is designed currently for desktop and Android mobile use and embraces all the latest in HTM5 and CSS3 and other experimental web technologies. It hosts a new interface that resembles previous Firefox interfaces with a nod to Chrome-styles of minimalism. If you like living on the cutting edge of web browsing, get Aurora and give them the feedback they need to make it even better.
In another interesting Mozilla twist in marketing, the Epic web browser by Hidden Reflex, made especially to support the diverse culture and languages of India, is run on the back of the open source code of Firefox. It features India flavored skins and Themes, support for 12 different Indian languages, virus and security protection, television viewing, over 1,500 applications from news to games to social media interaction, a word processor (with multiple language support), to do list tool, snippet app, timer, file manager, and much more. It is currently available for Windows only. While I couldn’t find a global market share for Epic, it’s a great example of how a web browser can be customized for a specific audience.
Safari and Opera for Mac have had an interesting time finding a grip in the browser market. Like Internet Explorer coming with the Windows operating system, Safari is Mac’s “default” browser. While Safari usage has grown slightly, especially with the increase in Mac sales since 2009, it represents under 10% of the global market compared to Opera at under 3% worldwide. This stat may change over the next few years as mobile adoption increases.
As of May 2012, Internet access with mobile browsers globally is just over 10%. With the growing sales of iPhones and iPads, Safari and Opera are becoming preferred mobile browsers for many countries worldwide dependent upon mobile access to the web. For the Android market, Firefox and Dolphin Browser are in the top of the global mobile browser market share.
Today, Chrome Android came out of beta and is being fired up on Android phones and devices around the world. First reports are that it is as fast as the desktop version and compares well against Firefox for Android.
For those living in the web design and development world, Amaya continues to rock as a simple and easy to use web browser and web editor. Started by the W3C in 1996, it continues to represent the most popular web standards. The last release in January 2012 didn’t bring HTML5 or CSS3 into the core, but don’t underestimate this browser for testing web pages.
Other browsers I consider essential for testing web pages and WordPress Themes include Lynx (for the text and simple view of a web page), Konqueror, the one stop do it all file manager/FTP Client/browser/text editor/SVN client/PDF viewer/etc. Is there anything that browser can’t do?
While these numbers are estimates in many ways, most web designers and developers find the stats fairly representative of their own website stats and analytics, skewed towards the audience’s expertise on the web. Highly technical and technology specific content sites attract users with state-of-the-art browsers, while others may note that some of their users are still using Internet Explorer 6, one of the death traps in browsers left on the web. If you are one of them, please upgrade immediately for your own safety.
If you wish to dig back into the archives of “browsers we have known or glimpsed in passing,” check out Evolt’s Browser Archive List. You supply the handkerchief.
Web Browsers Currently Kicking
- Mozilla Firefox (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android)
- Mozilla Firefox Aurora (Windows and Android – Experimental)
- Firefox for Android
- Chrome Browser (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Amaya (Windows, Linux, Mac)
- Lynx (Windows, Mac, Linux)
- Konqueror (Ubuntu, Windows, Linux, Mac)
- Opera (Windows, Mac, Linux, Mobile)
- Internet Explorer (Windows)
- Safari (Mac, Windows)
- Dolphin Browser for Mobile