May 14, 2009

a common browser usage misunderstanding

A few sites picked up on the graph I posted on longterm browser usage trends. Among them was Mashable which had the amusing title "RIP Internet Explorer: 1995-2021".

I'm drawing attention to this post because it repeats a very common and very wrong assertion. Mashable writes, "Whether it’s greater security, more reliability, extensions, or something else, it’s clear that more and more people are choosing Firefox, Safari, and Chrome over its slowly sinking competitor."

The truth is that more and more people are not choosing Safari. As a matter of fact, fewer and fewer people are choosing Safari.

Safari, just like IE, gets virtually all of its usage by shipping as the bundled and default browser with its operating system. (Safari's usage share on Windows, where does represent an actual "choice" is even sadder than Opera's -- completely irrelevant.)

The actual case is that we have a bundled browser on Mac that's losing share to Firefox over time. What does this look like? Well, according to Net Applications, here's what it looks like.

data from Net Applications browser usage reports

As you can see pretty clearly by the trend lines, Safari is losing share on Mac and Firefox is gaining share on Mac.

That's not "more and more people choosing Safari." Exactly the opposite, more and more people are opting out of Safari and choosing Firefox instead.

Now, Safari usage is growing. That's plain from my previous graph. The explanation, though, is not more people choosing Safari; it's more people choosing Mac. That's a very different thing. Having chosen Mac, Safari users, about 27% of them, have opted out of the bundled and default browser and instead chosen Firefox.

That's an even higher conversion to Firefox rate than we're seeing on Windows.

I'm not sure how, without just ignoring all evidence to the contrary, anyone can claim that more and more people are choosing Safari when Safari -- as a real user choice -- is fairing not even as well as Internet Explorer.

Posted by asa at 6:33 PM