Browser Design

Operating systems are becoming less important and browsers more important as data move into the cloud and virtually all our interactions whether we're using a computer or a smart phone are through a browser. Even though we often read market share numbers for the various browsers in the press, I was interested in learning what readers of this blog and followers of my Twitter accounts used. Readers of this blog are three times more likely to use Firefox as they are to use Internet Explorer or Safari and those browsers are used about equally by the blog readers. Chrome is about half as popular as IE and Safari. Opera use hardly registers. Let's now look at browser use by the followers on Twitter. As shown in the pie chart, Firefox is used by 61% of followers, Chrome by 12%, Safari by 11%, IE by 10%, and Opera by 4%. Firefox leads by a large margin is browser use when considering blog readers or Twitter followers. Safari and IE are clustered together in second place and Chrome is in that pack based on the Twitter results too. Opera doesn't appear to be in the running.

What leads to these results and why are they so different from the numbers typically reported in the press? Many argue that the higher numbers in the press reported for IE are due to users of computers running Windows who simply haven't or don't know how to use a browser other than the one that came installed on their computer. Readers of this blog and followers of the Twitter account are likely more advanced users who have made a choice of which browser they want to use. Incidentally, the Safari numbers are likely increasing due to the increase in Macs, iPhones, and iPod Touches with the latter two having only Safari available as a browser and Macs have the choice currently of Safari and Firefox (with half the blog readers who use Macs using Safari and half Firefox). Interestingly, only one reader in the past month used Safari on Windows.
If the readers and followers are more discerning, what are they using as their primary criteria for choosing a browser. I asked my Twitter followers to list their top three criteria and here's what they said:
  • easy and clear GUI, low memory usage, amount of available addons that are useful
  • speed, tabs, does it behave with applications like a web meeting
  • Internet Explorer 6, Internet Explorer 7, Internet Explorer 8, in other words standards based
  • speed, speed, and speed
  • speed, organization of my info such as downloads/history/bookmarks, and lack of Microsoft influence
  • availability of add-ons, speed, tab browsing
  • speed, fewer buttons, customized extensions (zotero); as a result I am most often using FF, and waiting for zotero on chrome
  • security, speed, compatibility with the sites I visit (aka adherence to web standards)
  • starts fast; loads pages fast; flash and java support
  • my company standard (IE), what my web visitors use (IE), habit (IE). Chrome is nice but IE has my cookies
  • it's not IE, it's not IE, still not IE
  • it is what my users use based on web logs, same, same (always ends up as IE)
  • speed, security, apps
  • speed, reliability, developer tools. only since chrome have I considered speed to be really important
  • that it's not written by Microsoft, speed, support for social services (delicious, twitter etc)
A pretty interesting set of responses. There are a few common themes. The importance of speed was mentioned 12 times and people tend to feel pretty strongly about IE both positively and negatively. Web standards was mentioned several times and, interestingly, as a reason to use IE. Add-ons and extensions were a factor too and mostly in relation to Firefox.
I personally haven't used IE for a number of years other than for the one or two applications that I need to use which only work in IE. I've used Firefox as my primary browser on Windows and Mac until very recently when I've moved to Chrome on Windows and am waiting for it to be made available on the Mac. The speed of Chrome, particularly in rendering JavaScript, the single search/address bar, the minimal browser UI especially in application mode, and the addition of themes recently motivated me to make Chrome my default browser. I'm very pleased with it. I hope that all those who develop browsers will follow Google's lead with its Chrome browser. As always, I'd very much appreciate it if you would use the comment feature of this blog to share any thoughts you may have on this. Thanks.