New stats show Windows 8 usage up sharply as XP usage plummets

New stats show Windows 8 usage up sharply as XP usage plummets

Summary: The latest monthly NetMarketShare reports contain a few eyebrow-raising numbers. Windows 8 is up sharply, XP usage has plummeted, and Google's Chrome browser seems to be falling out of favor. But this month's report might need a big asterisk to account for a key methodology change.


On the first day of each month, the good folks at Net Applications release their NetMarketShare statistics, which measure worldwide usage share of desktop and mobile operating systems and browsers.

This month’s numbers, covering August 2013, contain several eyebrow-raising blips:

  • After posting steady but unspectacular monthly gains since its launch last October, Windows 8 usage spiked up dramatically, going from 5.42 percent to 7.65 percent of worldwide web usage in the course of a single month.
  • Windows XP usage, which had been dropping at a similarly steady but unremarkable pace, suddenly and dramatically plummeted from 37.19 percent to 33.66 percent.
  • Google’s Chrome browser showed a sudden drop in usage, plunging in one month from 17.76 percent to 16 percent. Every other browser gained in percentage terms, with Internet Explorer hitting a two-year high of 57.6 percent.

With a worldwide installed base of nearly 1.5 billion PCs, each one of those moves represents a shift of tens of millions.


What happened? Did 40 million people suddenly wake up to the fact that support for Windows XP is ending in a matter of months and rush out to replace their outmoded machines with shiny new Windows 8 devices?

Sorry, no.

The real explanation might be more prosaic: Net Applications recently changed its formula for measuring usage. In an undated note labeled “Important methodology change,” the company explains:

This month we start deducting hidden pages from our usage share statistics. Hidden pages are pages that are rendered but never viewed by the user, therefore, they should not be included in usage share data. An example of a hidden page is a page that loads in a background tab upon the launch of the browser and is never made visible.

That note appears to have been added to the site in July, although it's not clear from the note when the new methodology took effect. The change in methodology is intended to help measure actual behavior by PC users rather than background activities performed by browser code. Previously, the company’s stats had excluded prerendered pages, which Chrome uses to load pages in the background as a Google user types a search request. In February 2012, prerendered pages accounted for 4.8 percent of Chrome pages. In June 2013, that number was over 12 percent.

This month’s change goes still further. In its FAQ page, Net Applications notes the impact of hidden pages on the raw page counts from different browser families. These figures were measured in June 2013:

Hidden pages by browser family

  • Internet Explorer 0.70 percent
  • Firefox 6.38 percent
  • Safari 0.15 percent
  • Opera 6.33 percent
  • Chrome 5.60 percent

If you factor those methodology changes in and assume all other factors are equal, both Firefox and Opera should have seen greater drops in usage than Chrome. Yet the usage share for each of those browsers was up, with only Chrome showing a drop. It will take a few more months of data to confirm whether this is a trend or just a blip.

That methodology change also suggests one possible reason for the apparent sudden drop in Windows XP’s usage. Windows XP users, blocked from using the most recent versions of Internet Explorer, are more likely to use an alternative browser such as Chrome or Firefox, both of which use hidden pages. Windows 8 users, by contrast, are more likely to use the standards-compliant Internet Explorer 10 (and IE 11 in Windows 8.1).

A few more nuggets worth noting from this month’s report:

  • Windows 8 (7.65 percent) now has more users worldwide than all versions of OS X combined (7.26 percent). Extrapolating that number from the worldwide installed base of desktop and portable PCs suggests that more than 100 million Windows 8 PCs are now in use.
  • Despite being available only as a preview release and then for less than 60 days, Windows 8.1 earned enough share (0.24 percent) to gain a place on the chart.
  • After more than two years on the market, Google’s Chrome OS still hasn’t garnered enough usage to cross the 0.1 percent threshold that Net Applications requires for an entry in the monthly list. Alas, comparisons to Microsoft's Windows RT aren't possible, as Windows RT stats are included with Windows 8.

All of these numbers need to be placed in the context of a shifting market, of course. Worldwide, consumers and businesses are buying fewer traditional desktop and portable PCs and spending more on tablets and other mobile devices. But with an installed base of 1.5 billion or so PCs it's still a force to be reckoned with.

Topics: Operating Systems, Apple, Browser, Google, Microsoft, Windows, Windows 8

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  • I suspect there will be no "authentic" spike until 8.1 is finally released

    It will be more akin to what Windows 8 should have been at launch, and my finally be ready for prime time.
    x I'm tc
    • Expect acceleration to continue

      Many have been waiting for the Haswell refresh to hit. If vendors up the screen resolutions as well beyond the stock 1366x768 they might get some customer response. Don't expect people to upgrade over a single tic of the specs even a tic toc is not going to generate much... The same old tired kit isn't going to do it anymore. It's taken some analysts a while to have an epiphany on Win8 but as more get it the negativity will subside. Despite a year+ of negativity Mac lost share and Linux still couldn't capitalize with anything noticeable.
      • both are true. many are waiting for both the

        8.1 update and haswell. But aside from the uptick W8x will see from that this change in methodology is way overdue. Chrome has long had bogusly over representation in the stats due to this practice. And not just with start up pages.
        Johnny Vegas
        • Methodologies

          I actually prefer statcounter. The data is not artificially weighted, but it allows to drill down by country. Also the mobile share does not combine phones and tablets into one number, which makes it a lot more informative.
          • Agreed

            NetMarketShare is, and has been for some time now, a relic. Surfing the Internet is an activity that is independent of personal computer form factor. It is also independent of the HMI presented to the user by a personal computer.

            With regard to HMI, one can surf the Internet with an Android-based, ASUS Transformer series tablet with or without the optional keyboard. Ditto with the iPad and the Microsoft Surface RT or Pro. Even high-end desktop systems based on Windows 8 offer the user the option of surfing the Internet using touch-based gestures.
            Rabid Howler Monkey
        • 8.1 update and haswell?

          Most retail buyers buy based on price.
          Whatever Best Buy is pushing.
          And 99% of retail machines are pre-loaded with Windows 8.
          Good, bad of indifferent, that's what people buy.
          And, to be honest, word processing, email and web surfing run just fine, even on Win 8.
          (And no, I'm not considering Win8. Win7 is just fine with me and the people I support)
  • Back2School

    I suggest that the Win8 jump is also attributable to back to school systems. The Win8 up, XP down trend is inevitable will only accelerate through the holiday season. I have a reminder in my calendar to pay special attention to the January numbers that come out on 2.1.2014 as they should show the real impact of the holiday season.
    Larry Seltzer
    • That would explain a September jump

      But not I think an August one.
      • it's still in the box?

        Why, you don't think people use their back to school systems until they get back to school?
        Larry Seltzer
        • massive sales.

          The jump is from 5.4% to 7.4%. If it were attributable to newly sold systems that would mean half as many systems were sold in end of July/early August as there were sold from October 2012 till July 2013.

          I guess the change in methodology is the more likely cause, given that the marketshare numbers on statcounter (web usage share provider, like show no sudden increase: they've been steadily climbing and are now 7.08%.
      • Why not?

        Heck the first day of school in my county was August 1st. In most areas in my part of the state most schools start before the 10th of the month. And the tax free week-end in my state was August 2-4. Considering sales tax in my state is 9.75% I that would motivate many people to buy PCs in early August. As far as college my son moved in his dorm August 17th first day of classes was August 20th. So why couldn't back to school explain an August jump?
      • People buy before school starts.

        In much of the country, school starts in late August. People buy computers for school prior to school starting. Therefore, it would most definitely be a bigger bump in August than September if you're counting back-to-school sales as a major factor.

        Personally, I think Internet usage stats are more useful than installed base stats. I personally have a number of machines which exist in the installed base numbers, but are rarely, if ever actually used. For example, I haven't used either of my laptops since I bought my iPad a couple years ago. For that reason, they're not significant in any measure of what people are actually using.

        This report should be a relief to those who worry about Win 8 completely failing. At least it shows people bought some for back-to-school use. That boost implies we may see additional gains over the holidays, too. Personally, I have no plans to leave Win 7 on the desktop any time soon, but I could see using Win 8 on a compelling phone or tablet possibly.
        • Also XP retiring has something to do with the increases.

          I'm not convinced though that it's because W8 is a success but because some people feel they have no other choice. And you also have those people who just will follow whatever stores are selling. I won't be leaving W7 either and not even XP.
          • Whatever

            If you and BillDem are correct in your analysis, then W8 cannot help but be a success eventually, no matter whether it got there by personal choice or whatever.
  • Do average pc users really have choice??

    Just mean more people are buying new pc now. For average users, when they walk into a store, all they can buy its windows 8 machines unless they go online to search windows 7 machines which not too many people would do. Unless there is another system other than windows, windows 8 shares will only go up. All theses markets shares chart is really pointless.
    • Yes, they have a choice.

      You even mentioned it yourself. Whether they choose to exercise said choice is a different question. However I might remind you Dell was very successful in selling PCs online. So it seems reasonable more than "not many" will go online to buy a PC.
      • No! Average buyers have no freedom

        No dell isn't doing well in consumer sector also they heavily promoting windows 8, buyers need to dig to find windows 7. Most of buyers just walk into best buy, Walmart, or Office Depot and pick up whatever they see. Windows has 90% market share, consumers don't have choice unless either they have money and willing to learn something new to go to other platform like Apple or whatever Google trying to push.

        In other counties, if you tell people you use Apple, most of reactions are 1 you must be rich 2 are you crazy? Where can you find software in other language then English?

        So answer is NO, most of buyers have no choice other then buy whatever Microsoft and OEMs sell.
        • Bullshit!

          Dell may be heavily promoting Windows 8 but they make it dirt easy to find Windows 7 systems. They have an option, aptly called "Operating System", which allows you to limit selections based on OS. There are three options: Windows 7, Windows 7 Professional, and Windows 8. Selecting "Windows 7" gives me 47 choices. If you're too lazy to look that's fine. But don't attribute your lack of ambition to the unavailability of Windows 7 based systems.
          • BTW, that 47 number is for laptops.

            I receive 15 for desktops. Now tell me where I can buy an Apple system with Lion.
          • Blame that on Apple

            "Now tell me where I can buy an Apple system with Lion."

            Apple's fault not anyone else's.