Home & Office

​What's really the most popular Web browser?

Most Web browser metrics aren't worth the pixels they're written in, but the US's Digital Analytics Program is based on hard data from real people and the real winner is Google Chrome by a wide margin.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

For years, hard data on the respective popularity of Web browsers was almost impossible to find. Oh, lot of companies claimed to have it, 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 government web site visits.


The most popular web browser choice of 2.05 billion visitors was, drum-roll please, Google Chrome with 43.1 percent. It wasn't even close. Chrome is twice as popular as the number two web browser.

The second most popular was a surprise. It's Safari--yes Apple's Safari--with 21.9 percent. In third place, counting every version from Internet Explorer (IE) 6 and below up to IE 11, was IE with 20.1 percent.

How, you ask, can Safari possibly be in second place? Easy.

While 61.1 percent of users came to government web sites are using desktops--and the vast majority of them are running Windows--19.1 percent of all visitors are using iPhones. Of that number, I'd speculate that the vast majority are Safari users.

After IE came Firefox, which continues to decline with a mere 8.2 percent. Microsoft is trying its best to improve Windows 10's Edge browser, but it's still not getting many users. Edge can only boast 2.5 percent of users.

Android's native browser comes in last with 1.6 percent. There are other web browsers, but all 2.5 percent are lumped together.

All this data comes from a unified Google Analytics account for US federal government agencies. This program is meant to help government agencies understand how people find, access, and use government services online. The program does not track individuals, and anonymizes the IP addresses of visitors.

You might think that this site is only good for how US citizens use the Web. You'd be wrong. While 87.2 percent of the federal web sites visitors are from the United States, 12.8 percent are from other countries.

You can probably guess the most popular federal web sites. The US Postal Service is number one. It's followed by the IRS sites. which is no surprise as the April 18 tax deadline approaches. Other popular sites include the National Weather Service and the Social Security Administration.

If you'd like to run your own analysis of the federal data, you can download its web traffic data yourself in JavaScript Object Notation (JSON) format. You can also work with the programs behind DAP yourself. Its code is open source. You can find the web site code and the data collection code on GitHub.

Related Stories:

Editorial standards