Most popular US web browsers, according to the federal government

By the United States' government's count, Chrome is the most popular web browser followed by Internet Explorer and then Safari. Yes, Safari, not Firefox.

We finally have some clear, objective data on which web browsers and operating systems are the most popular in the United States. Thanks to the federal government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP), we now know that over the last 90 days, and 1.39-billion web visits to more than 37 government agencies, Google Chrome is the most popular web browser with 34.7 percent of all visitors.

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Internet Explorer (IE), with 28.3 percent, is in second place. Then, in something of a surprise, Apple's Safari takes third place with 20.3 percent. Firefox came in fourth with 11 percent.

Safari's surprisingly high rating is almost certainly because DAP 's top level numbers don't distinguish between desktop and mobile-based browsers. 67.5 percent of visitors to the government's web site used a desktop, while 24.9 percent used a smartphone and 7.6 percent visited with a tablet.

When you look at mobile operating systems, iOS is the most popular mobile OS with 16.5 percent. Android came in a close second with 13.9 percent. Taken all together it's easy to see why Safari ranks as high as it does.

Looking close at IE, which unlike Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, tends to have multiple versions out, you'll see that IE 11 is easily the most popular edition with 14.8 percent of users. Curiously, it's followed by IE 9 at 5.5 percent, then IE 8.0. at 3.3 percent and only then do you find IE 10 with 3 percent. IE 7 then comes in next to last with 1.7 percent.

Finally, you can stop coding your web site for IE 6. Less than 0.1 percent of American users are still using this long obsolete web browser.

It's been getting a lot harder to work out what's the most popular web browser. There's always been some controversy over whose numbers you could trust: NetMarketShare or StatCounter. Recently, there's been even more doubt about their results. That's because both companies have been showing extremely odd results such as the obscure Qihoo 360 Safe browser gaining significant market share.

Unlike NetMarketShare and StatCounter, which use their own special weighting techniques, added to the raw web numbers, DAP uses the raw data from a unified Google Analytics account. You can download its web traffic data yourself in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format for your own analysis.

Currently, DAP collects web traffic from almost 300 executive branch government domains, across over 3,800 total websites, including every Cabinet department. Data that can be used to track individuals isn't included, and visitors' IP addresses are anonymized.

DAP has also open-sourced the code, which displays the data on the web and its data-collection code. In short, I believe this to be the most transparent and accurate data on web browser popularity I've seen to date -- and I've been writing about the web since almost day one.

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