RealTime IT News

Debate Swirls Around Browser Market Share

When Dutch Web analytics firm OneStat.com released figures last month showing Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser had fallen to 88.9 percent market share, the alternative browser crowd had new reason to cheer.

It was the first time in several years that IE failed to capture at least 90 percent of Web users. And while Microsoft's shares in the browser market were dropping, the young upstart Mozilla browsers had surged to 7.35 percent.

"It seems that people are switching from Microsoft's Internet Explorer to Mozilla's new Firefox browser," Niels Brinkman, co-founder of OneStat, said in a statement. "The total usage share of Microsoft declined 5 percent, and the total usage share of Mozilla increased 5 percent."

Not so fast, say other analysts.

"We were laughing when we saw the numbers for Microsoft," said Geoff Johnston, an analyst with Web analytics provider WebSideStory.

His company wrote a different story about the browser market share movement. Its late-October report kept IE in the 90s and gave Firefox less credit than OneStat did.

WebSideStory said IE's 92.9 percent share of the market is just a 3 percent slide since the May numbers. The Web analytics firm also reported Firefox enjoyed only about a 3 percent bump.

There is no question Firefox has gained momentum since its launch last year, according to most measurement firms, but how much remains up in the air.

The difference in percentage points could equal nearly 30 million users, said one analyst, which is enough to drive a truck through the gaps between all the varying stats.

As reported in internetnews.com, Mozilla browser usage jumped from 11 percent in May to 16.6 percent in September, according to W3Schools.com. Microsoft, on the other hand, watched its market share dwindle during the same time from 84 percent to 78.4 percent -- a dramatic drop-off from more mainstream estimates.

WebSideStory claims companies like OneStat misrepresent the big picture.

"They are Eurocentric," Johnston told internetnews.com. He called OneStat's numbers "juicy" and suggested the drop below 90 percent had more to do with a media play than accurate analysis. "The numbers may be accurate if you were using a plus or minus 10, maybe five, scale."

OneStat dismissed the Eurocentric quip and disagreed with the analysis.

"I have no idea why WebSideStory [would] say that our numbers are misleading," Neils wrote in an e-mail to internetnews.com. He said his company tracked visitors the same way as WebSideStory and called OneStat's tracking of 2 million visitors for seven days worldwide a "very reliable sample."

OneStat said it monitors Web usage at 50,000 sites in 100 countries. WebSideStory said it monitors about 20,000 sites worldwide, which comes out to about 30 million users. However, it only releases stats on the 22 million U.S. users it said it counts.

But Johnston said OneStat's analysis is misleading, because it takes on a smaller sample number and tracks smaller businesses in a much less concentrated area.

Browser Market Share by Percent
  Firefox/Mozilla IE
OneStat 7.35* 88.9
WebSideStory 3 92.9
*represents the Firefox browser as part of the Mozilla suite

Other analytic firms have weighed in on the hot topic of browser market share.

"We have seen very different numbers from WebSideStory to us," said John Pestana, a co-founder of Utah-based Omniture. "We tend to be more accurate."

Pestana said IE still dominates the browser market with a global usage share of 88.3 percent. But it has dropped roughly 5 percentage points since May, when IE commanded 93.7 percent of the market.

Like OneStat, Omniture takes its samples worldwide, which could be one reason the two companies have similar numbers. It also suggests the smaller players in the browser game are gaining ground faster abroad.

Pestana said Omniture collected its data from more than 10,000 sites worldwide and the company tracked billions of page views for the week ending Nov. 14.

"There is quite a bit of effort in making sure these are accurate," he said.

Clarifies number of sites WebSideStory monitors