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Chrome is the most popular web browser of all

The others aren't even close. One time market-leader Microsoft Windows' Internet Explorer is a distant third.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor
DAP Web Browsers January 2017

When it comes to web browsers, Chrome is on top, Safari is second, and once-dominant IE is now far back in third.

For over a decade, Internet Explorer (IE), thanks to Microsoft's illegal crushing of Netscape, ruled the web browser field. Competitors, such as Mozilla Firefox, made runs at IE, but they barely dented IE's lead. Then came Google Chrome in 2008, and in short order, IE was in trouble.

Today, according to the federal government's Digital Analytics Program (DAP), Chrome dominates US web browser use. While Chrome doesn't have the 90-plus percent market margins that IE once did with 44.5 percent, nothing else comes close. IE lags far behind, with only 15.5 percent market share.

In fact, IE is in third place. Apple Safari has second place, with 25.4 percent.

How can Safari rate so highly? After all, on the desktop, macOS has only 9.2 percent of end-users. Its high ranking is almost certainly because DAP's summary numbers don't distinguish between desktop and mobile-based browsers. Fifty-nine percent of visitors to government websites used a desktop, while 35.1 percent used a smartphone and 5.9 percent visited with a tablet.

Firefox, once the solid No. 2, has tumbled to fourth place, with 7.4 percent. Microsoft's Windows 10-specific browser, Edge, is used by only 3.5 percent of end-users.

Breaking down IE numbers further, Microsoft has at least been successful in its long efforts to wean users off older, less-secure versions of IE. Internet Explorer 11 has 13.5 percent of the total market. Only IE 7, the last version supported by the obsolete Windows XP with its 1 percent market share, is above a single percent of the market. And, at long, long last, that cockroach of browsers, IE 6, is buried, with less than 0.1 percent of users.

As for the other web browsers, only in-app Safari has a significant presence, with 1.4 percent of users. Opera -- once a well-liked, second-tier web browser -- has been dropped into the 2.2 percent that goes to all other browsers combined.

DAP's results come from 2.17 billion visits over the past 90 days to more than 400 US executive branch government domains. It includes about 5,000 total websites -- including every cabinet department. DAP uses the raw data from a Google Analytics account. DAP has open-sourced the code, which displays the data on the web and its data-collection code. You can download its web traffic data in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format to look at the raw numbers yourself.

Popular web browser measurement companies, such as NetMarketShare and StatCounter, massage web browser data with different methodologies, which results in very different numbers. The US-centric DAP numbers are vendor-neutral and are based purely on user data.

According to StatCounter, Chrome is No. 1, with 58.4 percent of the market as of December 2016. By its count, Firefox is eating Chrome's dust, with 13.45 percent. Safari is in third place, with 10.54 percent, followed by IE, with 8.92 percent, and then Edge, with 3.09 percent. Opera, again, has fallen off the chart.

NetMarketShare agrees that Chrome is No. 1. In its desktop-only analysis, Chrome has over 50 percent. By its count, IE, while far behind, is in second place, with 20.62 percent. Firefox is in third, with 7.49 percent. Safari, without its iPhone and iPad support, drops to fourth place, with 2.8 percent. Opera finally pops up, with 0.91 percent.

Add it all together and no matter whose data you use, two things pop up: First, Chrome is now easily the most popular web browser. And, second, our web use is continuing to move from the desktop to mobile devices.

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