For ages, it was almost impossible to get hard data on which were the most popular web browsers. Sure, many companies claimed to have good information, such as NetMarketShare and StatCounter, but their numbers were massaged. The US federal government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP), however, gives us a running count of the last 90 days of US government website visits. While it doesn't tell us about global web browser use, it's the best information we have about American web browser users.
And so, in early March 2020, we know that the top web browser for the last three months -- with 4.02 billion visits counted -- was, drum-roll please, Google Chrome. While not as dominant as Internet Explorer (IE) once was -- in 2002 IE owned the field with 96% market share -- with 49.3% Chrome is well ahead of Apple Safari, with its 31.6%
How does Safari rank so high, with Macs still pegged at about 10% - -9.3% to be exact, according to DAP -- of the PC market? Easy. These days just over half --50% to 46.9%-- of the web browsing market belongs to smartphones over PCs. The remainder, 3.1%, goes to tablets. Of smartphones, in the US, 29.5% are iPhones, while 23% are using Android-based smartphones. So, it's there on iPhones, and to some extent iPads, where most Safari users are coming from.
In third place, and steadily declining, you'll find the once-mighty IE with 5.7%. Even though Microsoft has been urging users to dump IE in favor of Edge for over a year, some users are still sticking with the out-of-date browser. The most popular version is the still supported IE 11, with 5.1%. The antique IE 7, which hasn't been supported in over four years, is still hanging around with 0.5% of the market.
How Microsoft lost its monopoly in web browsers
Below that comes the newly transformed Edge, which is now based on Chrome's open-source parent Chromium. The changeover hasn't helped its popularity much. Edge has only 4.2% market share. According to web metrics vendor NetApplications, however, Edge finally nudged ahead of IE, 7.4% to 6.4%. Edge's growth may also have been inhibited by Google and Microsoft sparring over Edge's security and the use of Google Chrome extensions.
The web browser that's really hurting the most, though, is Firefox. In this round-up, Firefox has only 3.6% of the market. In 2015, when I first turned to DAP's numbers, Firefox was 11%. By 2016, Firefox had declined to 8.2%. Firefox has a slight bounce upward by 2018 to 9%. But now, Firefox has declined so much you really must begin to worry about its long-term future.
While Firefox continued to draw praise for its privacy initiatives with DNS-over-HTTPS (DoH) on by default and improving its overall security, its numbers keep trending downward. And, it's not just DAP's numbers. Other surveys, such as NetApplication's, show Firefox's numbers falling to 7.6%. Even more worrying, in mid-January, Mozilla, Firefox's parent company, laid off about 70 employees.
As for the other browsers, Samsung Internet, a mobile-only browser for Samsung smartphones, came in with 2.7%. Brave, another Chromium-based browser, which has been getting some buzz, is buried in the noise of others.