File Under: Browsers

Browser Stats: Firefox 3.5 Is More Popular Than IE 7 or IE 8

Firefox has finally achieved one of its main goals, surpassing Internet Explorer as the most popular web browser.

This latest shift is illustrated by a new batch of browser share stats from analytics firm StatCounter, which is making the rounds on tech news blogs Tuesday.

There is, however, one big catch to StatCounter’s numbers — to arrive at the conclusion that Firefox is bigger than IE, you have to break down both Firefox and Internet Explorer’s share into separate version numbers.

Firefox’s popularity among web evangelists sometimes leads to overly-optimistic press, and StatCounter’s latest numbers are no exception. Which isn’t to say that StatCounter’s numbers are wrong, merely that, as Mark Twain said, “there are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”

StatCounter’s data shows that Firefox 3.5 had 21.93 percent market share at the end of last week, compared with 21.2 percent for IE 7 and 20.33 percent for IE 8. That’s certainly good news of Mozilla, but if you ignore the versioning, IE still wins with some 55 percent of the web, while Firefox can claim around 32 percent.

The fact that all the browsers need to be split by version number for Firefox to come out ahead obviously means that, in the real world, IE is still winning the browser wars.

The good news, from a web developer’s perspective is that IE is losing market share overall. Adjust the slider on StatCounter’s graph to look at the last year and you’ll find that IE’s combined stats have fallen from 68 percent to 55 percent.

Furthermore, IE 8′s growth appears to be cannibalistic, that is, as IE 7 drops, IE 8 grows, meaning that IE 8′s growth is largely from upgrades, not brand new users.

Because much of the future of the web depends on HTML5 and other tools absent in all version of Internet Explorer, IE’s loss in market share means that more people are now using a browser that supports web standards and more of the latest and greatest the web has to offer.

And that’s a good thing, no matter which numbers you want to throw around.

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