The new auto-update feature will only apply to users who’ve opted into the automatic updates through Windows Update. Those that have opted in will be upgraded to the latest version of IE available for their system. If you’re still on Windows XP that means you’ll be updated to IE 8. Vista and Windows 7 users will move to IE 9. The Windows Blog notes that when upgrading, your home page, search provider, and default browser settings will not be affected.
Internet Explorer updates have been offered through Windows Update previously, but unlike other “important” Windows updates, users needed to initiate the actual installation of IE updates via a dialog box. The only real change for most users in today’s announcement is that you’ll no longer need to mess with all those notification windows and dialogs. Instead IE will just seamlessly upgrade.
If you don’t want automatic updates, you can turn off Windows Update (though you should be aware that doing so could leave you with a insecure browser and operating system). Enterprise customers can opt out of the new auto-update mechanism using the IE 8 and IE 9 Automatic Update Blocker toolkits available from Microsoft.
The new auto-updating will ensure that users have the latest, most secure and stable version of IE, and web developers may be able to enjoy a fringe benefit as well — fewer IE 6 and IE 7 users on the web.
Microsoft has previously launched a campaign to kill off IE 6 and many large websites — like Google and WordPress — have already dropped support for the aging browser.
Web developers still supporting IE 6 may not need to do so much longer if Microsoft’s auto-update strategy pays off. Since the new auto-update mechanism will apply to IE 7 as well, it too may not need to be supported much longer. Of course, even in the best case scenario where IE 6 and 7 users drop below 5 percent worldwide, web developers would still need to contend with IE 8. While IE 8 was a huge step up from its predecessors, it still lacks support for most of the HTML5 and CSS 3 features found in modern web browsers.
Microsoft’s move to silent, automatic updates for Internet Explorer means that Apple’s Safari web browser is now the only browser that doesn’t default to automatically updating. Microsoft says that the auto-updating will roll out regionally, starting in January with users in Australia and Brazil and “scaling up over time.”
For the first time Chrome Beats Firefox on Webmonkey.com
Once the darling of the tech set, Mozilla’s Firefox web browser is no longer the perennially #2 underdog of the web.
According to StatCounter, a web analytics company tracking browser market share, Google Chrome has overtaken Mozilla Firefox to become the second most used web browser in the world.
For the first time Chrome also managed to beat out Firefox to become the most used web browser among both Wired.com and Webmonkey.com readers.
StatCounter claims that for November 2011 Chrome accounted for 25.69 percent of browsers on the web while Firefox trailed it by the tiniest of margins at 25.23 percent. Both still pale in comparison to Internet Explorer’s 40.63 percent market share.
That said, the traffic split between Firefox and Chrome at both Wired.com and Webmonkey.com nearly mirrors StatCounter’s numbers. The main difference around here is that both browsers beat Internet Explorer. But for the first time in a very long time, Firefox is not the most used browser among Webmonkey readers. Last month Chrome accounted for 32.14 percent of users while Firefox trailed just behind at 31.06 percent.
A couple of interesting things happened in the world of Web browser usage during October. The more significant one is that Internet Explorer’s share of global browser usage dropped below 50 percent for the first time in more than a decade. Less significant, but also notable, is that Chrome for the first time overtook Firefox here at Ars, making it the technologist’s browser of choice. [Ed. Note: That still hasn't happened at Webmonkey, but it's very close. See below for more stats.]
Internet Explorer still retains a majority of the desktop browser market share, at 52.63 percent, a substantial 1.76 point drop from September. However, desktop browsing makes up only about 94 percent of Web traffic; the rest comes from phones and tablets, both markets in which Internet Explorer is all but unrepresented. As a share of the whole browser market, Internet Explorer has only 49.58 percent of users. Microsoft’s browser first achieved a majority share in—depending on which numbers you look at—1998 or 1999. It reached its peak of about 95 percent share in 2004, and has been declining ever since.
Where has that market share gone? In the early days, it all went Firefox’s way. These days, it’s Chrome that’s the main beneficiary of Internet Explorer’s decline, and October was no exception. Chrome is up 1.42 points to 17.62 percent of the desktop browser share. Firefox is basically unchanged, up 0.03 points to 22.51 percent. Safari grew 0.41 points to 5.43. Opera has been consistently falling over the last few months, and it dropped again in October, down 0.11 points to 1.56 percent.
In spite of Android sales now outstripping iOS sales, iOS users are far more abundant on the Web. Mobile browsing is currently a much smaller market, with 5.5 percent of Web usage conducted on smartphones and tablets. This small market is also a lot more volatile than the desktop market. Mobile Safari was up by 6.58 points last month to 62.17 points. The biggest single loser was the Android browser, dropping 2.91 points to 13.12 percent. Symbian, BlackBerry and Opera Mini also registered falls, down 2.15 points to 2.55 percent, 0.64 points to 2.04 percent, and 0.27 points to 18.65 percent, respectively.
The upgrade trends show a familiar story. Chrome users, who for the most part receive updates automatically, switch to new versions quickly and efficiently. Chrome’s “tail” is growing ever longer, though, with about 2 percent of desktop browser users—about 14 percent of Chrome users—using old versions. That number is growing every month, and it appears to be resilient.
Firefox retains its clean split between people on the new, rapid release versions (4-9) and those on the old stable version (3.6). The rapid release users are upgrading fairly quickly, though the cut-overs are neither as rapid nor as automated as those of Chrome. However, almost a quarter of Firefox users are sticking with version 3.6. Until and unless Mozilla produces a stable edition with long-term support, this is unlikely to change.
Internet Explorer, however, continues to see major usage of old versions. Internet Explorer 6 and 7, which aren’t current on any supported version of Windows, are still the version used by 25.4 percent of Internet Explorer users, 13.38 percent of desktop users as a total. These are people that can upgrade to either Internet Explorer 8 (if they’re using Windows XP) or Internet Explorer 9 (if they’re using Windows Vista), but who have, for some reason, refused to do so. Internet Explorer 8 users appear to be switching to Internet Explorer 9 at a slow but steady rate, with the former down about a point, and the latter up by about a point.
The browser usage here at Ars Technica continues to be unusual, with Firefox and Chrome over-represented on the desktop, and Android showing a much stronger performance among mobile user than is seen on the wider Web.
A compelling case can be made that the causes for these two phenomena—Internet Explorer’s decline, and Chrome’s growth—are closely related. They represent the influence of the computer geek.
Ars Technica’s unusual usage figures are not surprising when considering its audience: visitors to the site tend to be technologists and early adopters: Ars readers were among the first to switch to using Firefox as their browser of choice, and similarly they’re leading the way with Chrome. While Internet Explorer’s decline, Firefox’s flatlining, and Chrome’s growth have happened faster at Ars than the broader Web, the underlying trends are the same. [Ed. Note: Webmonkey's browser stats are roughly the same as of October 31st. Chrome has yet to overtake Firefox among Webmonkey's perhaps more developer-heavy audience, but it's gaining on Firefox every month. For the month of October 33.4 percent of you were using Firefox, 32.4 percent Chrome and only 16.0 percent Internet Explorer.]
This is perhaps not surprising. Ars has more than its fair share of IT decision-makers, both in corporate environments and home environments (I’m sure that many of us know the perils of being the “computer guy” roped in to fix the problems plaguing friends’ and family’s machine). It might be a few months before a Chrome-using Ars-reading geek starts to recommend it to friends and family, or a few years before he gets approval to roll the browser out across the company whose computers he maintains, but the migration will happen. Technology decisions are usually made by technology people—and technology people read Ars, ditched Internet Explorer for Firefox a few years ago, and are now switching to Chrome.
Firefox appealed to the geek demographic by offering tabs, a wealth of extensions, and active development: geeks enjoy new things to play with, and a browser that’s frozen in time, as Internet Explorer 6 was, holds no appeal. Chrome in turn offered a focus on performance and stability, even more active development, and the cachet of being built by Google. Chrome was also quick to offer obvious but useful things such as built-in, robust session restoration, and a useful new tab page (something Internet Explorer 9 replicated, and which is currently in beta for Firefox). Bundling Flash also removed a potential headache, by ensuring that a potentially buggy plugin was kept current and up-to-date. On top of all this, Google has been vocal in pushing its view of how the Web should work, with the VP8 video codec, the SPDY Web protocol, and most recently, the Dart scripting language.
A browser that doesn’t appeal to this demographic won’t receive the benefit of this kind of on-the-ground advocacy. Mozilla is working to bring some of Chrome’s appealing features to Firefox, with its new development schedule and future features such as tab isolation, and though this is currently causing some headaches—there are continued issues with extension compatibility—Firefox’s market share is for the most part holding steady. Once Mozilla can get rid of the annoying wrinkles and make updates as pain-free as Chrome’s, it might start to win back the attention of the techie demographic. Especially if Mozilla can come up with a viable IT-friendly long-term support option.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is strenuously avoiding this same demographic. Internet Explorer lacks small but significant creature comforts such as resizeable text boxes, built-in spell checking, and session restoration, and while it does offer certain extensibility points, they fall a long way short of those offered by Firefox, and as such, its extension ecosystem is a whole lot less rich. It’s not enough for Internet Explorer to be a solid mainstream browser: the less technically engaged users who switched to Firefox because a trusted authority told them to aren’t going to spontaneously switch back to Internet Explorer, even if it is good enough for their needs. They’re going to wait until their techie friend next fixes their PC and tells them that they should consider switching to Internet Explorer because it’s “better”. Just as they did for Firefox and do for Chrome.
Internet Explorer is still an important browser, with a userbase large enough that few developers can afford to ignore—though sites that don’t need global appeal may well be able to safely ignore Internet Explorer 6—and at current rates it will remain important for a few years yet. But until and unless Microsoft makes its browser appeal to the influential geek demographic, it looks as if Internet Explorer has nowhere to go but down.
This article originally appeared on Ars Technica, Wired’s sister site for in-depth technology news.
Internet Explorer. That’s all you really need to say to raise a web designer’s blood pressure. And yes, we know IE is improving, but there are still plenty of users stuck on IE 8 and IE 7 (even IE 6) and you can’t just leave those browsers out in the cold.
The first method that came along to deal with IE’s rendering quirks were various CSS hacks — slip an underscore in here, add an asterisk there and you can target specific versions of IE in your stylesheets.
CSS hacks work well enough, but they’re a pain to maintain. Using conditional comments to load IE-only stylesheets is another option, but now you have extra HTTP requests and two stylesheets to maintain. You could also use conditional comments to add CSS classes to the <html> or <body> tags of your pages, but that increases the size of your pages in every browser.
The truth is there’s no perfect way to handle IE. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages and the right answer will vary from project to project.
We can’t tell you how to handle IE, but we can tell you that developer Mathias Bynens has put together a very well written and thorough rundown of all the different ways you can handle Internet Explorer’s rendering quirks — conditional stylesheets, conditional classnames and good old CSS hacks. Bynens also has a fourth option: combining conditional classnames with “safe” CSS hacks.
Bynens defines “safe” CSS hacks as hacks that “work in specific versions of a given web browser” and are “unlikely to be parsed by all other browsers, including future versions.”
Regardless of how you choose to deal with Internet Explorer, the reality is you will have to deal with it. Bynens’ post makes a great primer on the various options available and is well worth adding to your bookmarks.
Web analytics firm StatCounter is reporting that Internet Explorer dipped below 50 percent in worldwide browser market share in September for the first time since the browser wars of a decade ago. The firm also notes that Chrome is now at 11.5 percent.
But have a look at Net Marketshare Hitslink, which shows IE still commands 60 percent worldwide. Net Marketshare also puts Chrome at just under eight percent, a notch above where it was in August.
At the beginning of each month, a new crop of browser market share stats are released. It’s the same three or four big firms that report the data, and each has its own methodology.
The numbers vary widely depending on who’s reporting them, and the results tend to get spun harder than the Sprewells on my Bugatti Veyron. Browser vendors, tech journalists, and SEO experts toss these numbers around as definitive proof that one browser is choking on its own vomit while another is going to take over the world and eat your children.
Of course, I would never say any of this data is bunk — each firm does solid work — but you should always look at all the reports and study their findings as a group.
That’s why my favorite chart is the one on Wikipedia, which collects the median values from the five biggest stats reporting firms and presents the broadest view (Note the current chart hasn’t been updated with September’s data).
The big takeaways from the latest numbers: Firefox is holding relatively steady and Chrome has officially become a Big Deal. But half of the worldwide browser share is a massive chunk, and IE is still a huge force, especially in the U.S. Its influence is certainly eroding worldwide, no doubt thanks to the EU ruling that Microsoft begin presenting a browser choice screen to Windows users in March, 2010.
The most important browser share stats to pay attention to are the ones that show usage on your own site. You should be running Omniture or Google Analytics or some other tracking app to study which browsers are hitting your site, then adjusting your own development strategy accordingly.