Web browser war: The early 2013 report

Web browser war: The early 2013 report

Summary: On desktops, it's a three-way fight with Internet Explorer or Chrome in the lead, depending on whose numbers you believe; but on mobile devices, it's either Safari or the native Android browser in first place.


The latest NetMarketShare browser numbers are in for March 2013. They reveal a three-way battle for the hearts and minds of PC web browser users, but on tablets and smartphones, Safari is leading by a wide margin. StatCounter, however, has Chrome and the Android native browser leading respectively.

Why the differences? The two most popular web browser counters use different methodologies.

NetMarketShare gathers its data from approximately 40,000 websites that use Net Applications (its parent company), HitsLink analytics service, and SharePost bookmarking service. They track 160 million visits a month, but only count visitors to a particular site once per day. That data is then massaged by Net Applications depending on the traffic it believes comes from a particular country and the number of internet users per country, according to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). So for example, as the company explains, "If our global data shows that Brazil represents 2 percent of our traffic, and the CIA table shows Brazil to represent 4 percent of global internet traffic, we will count each unique visitor from Brazil twice."

StatCounter also collects data from its customers, but it uses a much larger sample. StatCounter tracks over 3 million webs sites that use its StatCounter traffic analysis service. The company claims to follow over 15 billion page views per month. In addition, StatCounter doesn't massage its data. Instead, it bases its numbers entirely on raw page hits.

Here's how it works. Say ZDNet tracks web browsers using both Net Application and StatCounter's technologies. If you visited ZDNet 20-times in a day from your office in Rio de Janeiro, NetMarketShare would register your web browser visiting the site twice. StatCounter, on the other hand, would count it as 20 separate hits. This may not seem like it would make much difference, but as their respective numbers shows, it does.

So with no further adieu, here are the latest web browser statistics:

NetMarketShare has IE in the lead on PC web browsers by a comfortable margin. (Image: NetMarketShare)

By NetMarketShare's PC count, Internet Explorer (IE) squeezed out a tiny 0.01 percent gain, from 55.82 percent to 55.83 percent. In second place, Firefox moved up by 0.09 percent, from 20.12-percent to 20.21-percent. Third-place Chrome gained the most with a modest jump of 0.18 points from 16.27 percent to 16.45 percent.

All this growth came at the expense of the trailing pair of web browsers: Safari, which dropped 0.11 percent to 5.31 percent, and Opera, which fell 0.08 percentage points to 0.46 percent.

StatCounter, however, has Chrome leading both IE and Firefox on PC Web browsers. (Image: StatCounter)

Of course, StatCounter sees March's data in an entirely different light. By their numbers, Chrome led in March with 38.07 percent, followed by IE with 29.3 percent, and then Firefox with 20.8 percent. Bringing up the rear, Safari came in with 8.5 percent, and Opera limped in last with 1.17 percent.

NetMarketShare sees Safari leading the way on smartphone and tablet browsers. (Image: NetMarkerShare)

When it comes to smartphones and tablets, the two also disagree. By NetMarketShare's reckoning, Safari jumped up to 61.79 percent from 55.41 percent in February. The native Android browser came in second place with 21.86 percent share, and Opera Mini stayed in third place with 8.4 percent. The two most popular web browsers on the desktop? Chrome and IE? They barely register, with Chrome coming in fourth at 2.43 percent and IE with 1.99 percent.

StatCounter, however, shows the native Android Web browser leading the way on mobile Web browsers. (Image: StatCounter)

StatCounter sees a vastly different mobile web browsing world. From StatCounter's viewpoint, Android's in first with 30.78 percent. It's followed by Safari on the iPhone at 24.44 percent. Even if you add in Safari on the iPod touch, Apple's mobile web-browsing offering still comes in at second place with 27.05 percent.

Opera takes third with 15.54 percent. It's followed by the UC Browser, a multi-platform mobile browser, with 8.27 percent, and fifth place went to Nokia with 6.96 percent. StatCounter does agree with NetMarketShare on one point: Neither Chrome nor IE matter in the mobile space.

So which numbers do you believe? I can argue for either set, but personally, I find that StatCounter agrees more with the numbers I see from my own websites using Google Analytics.

Related stories

Topics: Browser, Android, Tablets, Smartphones, Networking, Mobility, Microsoft, iPad, iPhone, Google, Apple, PCs

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  • Three way battle on the PC?

    Only in SJVN's ABM world do those numbers indicate a three way battle. IE has a 56% majority share and almost triple the share of the next closest competitor.
    Sir Name
    • April Fools

      Even he wouldn't dream up Chrome in the lead any other day.
    • Only SJVN would suggest using statcounter for browsermeasurements.

      Statcounter does not even recognize IE10 yet a year after its beta';s were installed

      IE10 share e is listed in the categorie 'unknown'
      So the stats for IE in total do not include IE10 either.

  • Thanks for the explanation of the 2 methodologies

    "So, which numbers do you believe?"

    From what you've described, you can comfortably believe BOTH numbers because they measure completely different things.

    NetMarketShare is tracking marketshare: how many users are using which browser?

    StatCounter is tracking usage: how often is which browser being used?

    Car marketshare: how many people own a Ford vs Chevrolet vs Honda vs Toyota etc.

    Car usage: how many miles are driven in a Ford vs Chevrolet vs Honda vs Toyota etc.

    If in your particular city, if most police, taxi, and delivery / courier vehicles are Fords but everyone else buys Honda grocery getters, you could have Honda with the higher marketshare but Fords with the higher usage. Both numbers are accurate and not the least bit contradictory.

    So to answer your question:

    "So, which numbers do you believe?"

    Both. What the numbers suggest is that while most desktop users use IE, heavy desktop users use Chrome.

    This is actually quite interesting because recently, someone tried to suggest that Chromebooks had quite a large marketshare because a disproportionate amount of HTTP traffic was being requested by Chromebooks. I argued that you can't determine marketshare from usage because you have to assume that usage patterns are equal between devices. Clearly, usage patterns are NOT equal between browsers and clearly it appears that people who use Chrome are far bigger users of HTTP than people who use any other browser. I'm quite happy to see these statistics because it proves me right: you CAN'T determine what Chromebook marketshare is (number of users who use Chromebooks) based on HTTP usage.
    • WRONG

      "Both. What the numbers suggest is that while most desktop users use IE, heavy desktop users use Chrome."
      it says most desktop users have IE (according to your own logic), open it once, download their favorite browser then kiss a goodbye to IE :\
      • If that's true, that's great news for Microsoft

        "most desktop users have IE (according to your own logic), open it once, download their favorite browser then kiss a goodbye to IE"

        This would imply that Windows 8 is selling extremely well if month after month, 55% of web users are using a brand new copy of Windows.

        Want to double down on this theory of yours?
        • IE is only there because its there........

          But Nobody really ever uses IE anymore..................

          And your full of hot air regarding W-8.....unless that was your idea of a April fools joke ment to prp up Loverock Davidson to get him all excited ............
          Over and Out
          • Market share figures

            (Both of them) seem to disagree with your silly remark. I always have great fun when people make utter riduclous claims like "nobody uses IE" especially if one market researcher has it at over 50% whilst another has it at close to 30%, hardly "nobody".

            In fact, I personally use it on any Windows pc and prefer Firefox on the mac and Linux. Chrome is nothing but a piece of malware, supporting Google's data mining activities, therfore it won't run on any of my devices ever. Unless they ripp out the phone home stuff, kind of like the chromium browser, the open source cousin.
          • So fun to work with stats


            February 2013

            Internet Explorer 13.5 %, Firefox 29.6 %, Chrome 50.0 %
            Safari 4.1 %, Opera 1.8 %

            Ouch! Fanbois......

            Here is fun point my daughter's laptop came with IE yet she uses Firefox. My son's came with IE, he uses Chrome.
          • so?

            every other family member I know of use IE, no one gives a flying **** about browser wars anymore.
          • Browser?

            No one? Maybe you need to educate your family. Most of my family members say they use Firefox, others see no need of anything but what came on their computers, IE for the Windows group, and Safari for the Apple group.
          • IE in Wikimedia non-mobiles


            18,25/79,4 x 100% = 22,99%

            Less than 1 of 3 Windows user is using IE.
          • Errr.....

            Useless data. Based on just THEIR site. Not everyone knows Wikipedia.
          • So can we assume...

            ...that better educated Windows users (wiki users) are using 65% Chrome or Firefox and minority IE and on the other hand low educated ignorant are using IE?
          • Choices

            But,RickLively, if either of them uses a program that has internet access built in, then the access will show, guess what, IE, because that is what is built into Windows.... It's a pretty good scheme to maintain top spot in the listings.
          • w3schools?

            Nobody takes their claims seriously. You look at their sampling and methedology and it's laughable.
          • W3Schools methedology is simple

            They look at their own server logs.

            They don't massage the numbers to adjust them by country, religion or of the user's favorite color.

            How *representative* their experience is is open to question -- but they're not claiming to be representative.
          • It's well known fact that those experienced computer users...

            ...are more likely using Chrome or Firefox instead of IE (Windows-users). Those who knows hardly nothing about computing are more likely fooled to use IE.
          • Browser wars.

            Why is IE the most used? Because it comes on every Windows computer. It's there, and it works, so most users think that's all there is. If they download Google Chrome, then they see something looks so much like IE, they can't really see any reason to switch. Same goes for Firefox now. So only power users really choose a browser other than IE. As for Windows 8, it is not selling well, but since it comes on every new WinTel computer, there is no way it isnt going to sell. Now if they gave users a choice between Win7 and Win8, Win8 wouldn't get 10% of the sales it has now.
          • I'm just guessing...

            ...but I'm pretty sure Steve Ballmer uses IE. And my own experience suggests that many other people do as well. But there are other choices, and I do find it convenient to use IE to download Firefox to a new Windows box or VM.
            John L. Ries