01 February 2010

Are people in Germany really switching browsers?

Halfway through January, there was a lot of buzz around new security holes in Internet Explorer. Nothing new here, you would be inclined to say, but this time some governments issued warnings to their citizens about this and recommended using alternative browsers, at least until the vulnerabilities are fixed. Germany was first, followed closely by France and Australia. The Mozilla Metrics team, cited by several blogs and news sites, announced a huge increase in the number of Firefox downloads from IE users in Germany and later for the two other countries as well. I was curios whether this has actually translated into a noticeable change in browser market share for these countries and since now January is over, I checked the browser statistics provided by StatCounter.

Looking at the daily data for Germany, Firefox doesn’t have any major jumps in market share. From the 1st of January, Firefox gained 1.14%, about as much as Internet Explorer lost (-1.15%). This continues the general long-term trend to switch to Firefox, which is the dominant browser there, with about 60% lately. With an estimated number of Internet users around 55 Mio., this would translate to 627.000 of users switching away from Internet Explorer, a fairly plausible number compared to the reported 300.000 additional downloads over a weekend. But compared to previous months, Firefox performed better, because in December it stagnated, and in November it actually lost some ground to Internet Explorer according to StatCounter.Browser market share in Germany, January

I also checked the more detailed version of the statistics, split by browser versions. The picture is much more interesting here: Firefox 3.5 and 3.0 are mostly stationary for the first 2 weeks, hovering around 45% and 14% respectively. Then, after the 15th, version 3.5 climbs quickly to nearly 50%, while 3.0 begins dropping faster. On the 21st, the day Firefox 3.6 was officially released, the growth of 3.5 comes to an abrupt end, as users begin updating to the newer version. Internet Explorer versions didn’t experience much change during this month, except for the weekend drop in IE6 usage. Browser versions market share in Germany, January

In my opinion, if the announcement of the German government had any effect, it was to encourage people already using Firefox to upgrade to the never, more secure, version. I think it’s more likely this caused the increased number of downloads seen in the Mozilla statistics.

If we look at France for the same time period, the picture changes entirely. There, both Firefox (-0.60%) and Internet Explorer (-0.11%) lost market share after January 1st. The biggest gainers were Chrome (0.85%) and Safari (0.24%), bringing the cumulated market share of WebKit above 10%. Browser market share in France, January

In Australia, despite the government’s warnings, more users switched to Internet Explorer than away from it, raising it’s market share by 1.09%. Firefox actually lost 1.22% and Safari gained 0.54%. I like this graph because it clearly shows how the market shares of IE and Firefox fluctuate during the week, with IE stronger Mondays to Fridays, when most employees are forced to use whatever they have installed at work. Clearly, Firefox is the personal choice for many Australians as well, despite the small drop in usage this past month. Browser market share in Australia, January

So, despite the increased number of downloads, it seems that overall not many people (not to mention companies!) changed their main browser after the official warnings from government agencies. If this was the single criteria available, would you do that? I know I wouldn’t!

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