I haven’t taken a close look at this site’s browser stats in nearly two years. The last time I looked was in mid-2008, shortly after the release of Firefox 3. At that time, Internet Explorer had a 57% share among visitors to this site and Firefox was just over 38%, with Safari and Opera fighting for scraps.
Things have changed a lot since then. Firefox is now up to version 3.6. Microsoft released Internet Explorer 8 roughly a year ago. And most important of all, Google Chrome entered the lineup. Google has a hit on its hands, and according to my stats Chrome’s success is coming at the direct expense of not just Internet Explorer but also Firefox.
To see the trends, I looked at three separate snapshots covering fall 2008, early 2009, and early 2010. Each snapshot was 30 days in length and included a minimum of 100,000 site visits.
Here’s the first snapshot. It covers the 30 days beginning September 2, 2008, when Google released its first beta of Chrome for Windows.
Remarkably, with a brand-new beta release, Google was nearly able to equal the combined share of Safari and Opera. IE (all versions, but overwhelmingly IE7 at that point) was still hovering over the 50% mark, and Firefox had not cracked the 40% level. Those early Chrome adopters were, for the most part, IE switchers. The Chrome percent is almost perfectly equal to the drop in IE share from just a few months earlier.
It’s possible that the fast start for Chrome was all from curiosity seekers, who would go back to their old default browsers after the experiment was done. So I jumped forward six months, to March 2009, picking the 30 days beginning with Microsoft’s official release of Internet Explorer 8. (It had been in a lengthy beta cycle and had already garnered lots of usage even in beta, but this was the official release.)
Microsoft’s customer base remained loyal (a closer look at the stats reveals that more than 30% of IE7 users upgraded in the first 30 days alone, and IE6 usage remained static). The slight increase in Chrome usage was almost perfectly equal to the slight drop in Firefox usage. Notably, this was the first time in four years that I had seen Firefox usage drop.
And now the final snapshot, for the 30 days ending yesterday.
Remarkably, Chrome has achieved better than 10% share, and its six-point gain has come in nearly equal chunks from the IE and Firefox user base. IE is down below 50% usage, and Firefox has retreated to its historical figures from 2006 and 2007. That’s a 2.7% drop for Firefox and a 3.8% drop for IE, which neatly accounts for the 6%+ increase in Google Chrome usage over the past year.
Some good news for Microsoft in general and the web as a whole: According to my most recent stats, IE6 usage has dropped to less than 8%—still too high, but a welcome trend—and IE8 has been adopted by more than 71% of IE users.
I think there’s no question that Google Chrome’s usage share will continue to grow. The big questions are: how high can it can climb, and at whose expense? Meanwhile, Microsoft is looking for the floor. How low will their share go before it stabilizes?
I think we’re entering a period where three browsers—and three HTML rendering engines—are going to dominate. I’ll be very interested to revisit this topic in a year and see what’s changed.
Trend-watchers can look at all my previous posts on this subject by following these links: