01 November 2012

Predicting browser market share - 2012 edition

Two years ago I did a small analysis of the market share of browsers, complete with a prediction for the next months. I repeated the procedure last year and I will continue this year, to keep with the ‘tradition’. First, let’s compare last years’ forecast with the actual evolution of the browser market share at the end of 2011 and the beginning of 2012. As you can see in the graph below, the predicted values have been very close to the measured usage for and , even more than six months later. On the other hand Internet Explorer declined more steeply than the forecast, cumulating a difference of 5% 30 weeks after I did the calculation. Many users seem to have migrated to Safari, which gained some 2% market share in the same time frame. Taking a closer look at the breakdown by browser versions, you can notice the slow, but steady increase of ‘Safari for iPad’, which StatCounter apparently tracks under desktop. On the other hand, according to research by the author of html5test.com, many browsers fake the user agent to mobile Safari in order to have access to the best design on some sites, so these numbers could be artificially inflated. Browser market share actual 2011

For this years’ prediction however, things do not look so straightforward anymore. Somewhere around week 20 of 2012, the browser landscape became more turbulent. Coincidentally, that’s about the time when StatCounter started ignoring Chrome’s pre-rendering when gathering the stats, so this could have had an impact on the results. Chrome and Internet Explorer have battled for the first place for weeks; Chrome’s unstoppable growth seems to have slowed, as well as Internet Explorer’s decline – it has actually gained about 0.5% in the past months, with some surges. A similar trend is revealed by the data from another tracking company, Net Applications. Firefox on the other hand is slipping further and further away from the 25% mark, currently hovering above 22%. This behavior makes predicting a future trend very difficult. Choosing a different start week for the calculation will yield different predictions: in one of them for example Chrome and Internet Explorer are both slowly gaining users at the expense of Firefox. Safari is the surest bet, a continued increase, as more and more users adopt tablet browsing in complement or at the expense of desktop PC’s. In any case, without a fundamental change to the landscape – the launch of Internet Explorer 10 is unlikely to alter this distribution much, being tied to Windows 8 adoption for now – it’s likely that the market shares will hover around the current values for the next weeks. After that we’ll have to wait and see…Browser market share one possible forecast for 2012

Interestingly, looking at these last months, it’s pretty clear that Chrome and Internet Explorer have started evolving in sync, with one browser gaining usage as the other looses and vice versa. There seems to be a cyclical pattern to the changes, something that makes it even harder to predict future evolution, as it’s unclear what causes the sync and how long it will last. Below I have embedded the spreadsheet with the data and calculation; the model is the same used in the past two prediction, based and the assumption that the browsers are evolving, at least on short term, according to a Markov model.

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