Apple Safari now has more than one billion users thanks to iPhone - but it's still lagging its main rival

The milestone comes as the EU tries to stop Apple from requiring browser makers to use Safari's WebKit engine on iOS.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Apple's Safari browser now has more than one billion users, new data indicates, joining Chrome as one of only two browsers with over a billion active users. It's all down to mobile and comes just as the EU attempts to break Apple's control over browsers on iOS. 

VPN provider Atlas estimates that Safari now has just over one billion users, accounting for about 19% of all internet users. Google Chrome remains the clear leader with an estimated 3.4 billion users, but both Safari and Chrome users far outnumber their nearest rivals. 

Chromium-based Microsoft Edge has just under 213 million users, while Mozilla Firefox has 178 million users, and Samsung Internet has 149 million users.

"The statistics are based on the GlobalStats browser market share percentage, which was then converted into numbers using the Internet World Stats internet user metric to retrieve the exact numbers," Atlas VPN clarified

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Microsoft Edge user numbers increased from 171 million in Atlas VPN's 2021 estimate to overtake Firefox for the third spot this year, while Firefox's numbers declined from 181 million. 

Most of Safari's users are from iOS, and the iPhone in particular. Apple in January announced it had an installed base of 1.8 billion devices across iOS and macOS. 

Both platforms ship with Safari as the default browser. Apple's 2021 installed base illustrates the share between the two. Last year, Apple had a combined installed base of 1.65 billion devices, of which more than one billion were iPhones alone. 

Up until 2020, with the release of iOS 14, iOS users were unable to set Chrome or any other mobile browser as the default. But given the tendency for users to stick with defaults, it's likely Safari remains the most popular browser on iOS. And that change in iOS happened five years after Google search on mobile surpassed search volumes coming from desktop.  

While users can now set Chrome or Firefox as the default browser, Apple still requires third-party browser makers to use its WebKit browser engine on iOS. 

However, incoming European digital market competition laws may change this fact. The EU in May published the final text of its Digital Markets Act (DMA), which aims to loosen the grip of online 'gatekeepers' over digital platforms and impose new rules on the operation of core platform services, which includes everything from operating systems and app stores to browser engines and in-app payment systems. 

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The final text, published on May 12, defines core platform services to include "identification services, web browser engines, payment services or technical services that support the provision of payment services, such as payment systems for in-app purchases." 

"In particular, each browser is built on a web browser engine, which is responsible for key browser functionality such as speed, reliability and web compatibility. When gatekeepers operate and impose web browser engines, they are in a position to determine the functionality and standards that will apply not only to their own web browsers, but also to competing web browsers and, in turn, to web software applications," the DMA text reads.  

Damien Geradin of EU competition law firm Geradin Partners said in April that gatekeepers will have until early 2024 to comply with obligations under the DMA.     

Per the text, these obligations include that: "Gatekeepers should therefore not use their position to require their dependent business users to use any of the core platform services provided by the gatekeeper itself as part of the provision of services or products by those business users."


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