I’ve been working on the internet since the early ’80s and its predecessors, such as ARPANET, before that. So when the web, or WEB as we put it then, came along, I started keeping a close eye on web browsers.
Web browsers are still the primary way we connect with the endless fields of data, stories, and video that make up the modern web. Today, Apple Safari on smartphones — thanks to the iPhone — and Google Chrome on desktop are ways we work and play on the web.
Historically, it’s been challenging to get hard data on which browsers really were the most popular web browsers. True, many companies claimed to have good numbers, such as NetMarketShare and StatCounter, but their numbers are massaged. The US federal government’s Digital Analytics Program (DAP), however, gives us a running count of the last 90 days of US government website visits. That doesn’t tell us much about global web browser use, but it’s the best information we have about American web browser users today.
This drop didn’t come from any sudden rise of Edge or another alternative browser. Perish the thought. On the desktop, Chrome rules.
But, in the last 12 months, we’ve seen an enormous rise of smartphones over PCs for web use. In 2022, 54% of the web browsing market belonged to smartphones over PCs. Back in 2019 and 2020, smartphones gained on desktops from 46.9% to 50%. Today, smartphones rule.
Pay attention website designers: if you’re not developing sites for smartphones, you’re making a major blunder. Tablets? The tablet market is down to a mere 1.8%.
As for smartphones, Safari rules. Macs are a bit more popular, having moved up to 10.4% of the PC market from 2021. But with a 35% market share, iPhones dominate both the smartphone and smartphone browser markets. Indeed, the iPhone’s iOS is now the most popular end-user operating system of all.
All the varieties of Windows put together only comes to 31.1%.
Android? It has only a 20.7% share The only other browsers that matter on smartphones, besides Safari and Chrome, are Samsung’s built-in Samsung Internet with a tiny 1.1% share and the generic Android Webview.
As for desktop web browsers, Chrome is even bigger than it looks at a glance. Its open-source foundation, Chromium, is also what Microsoft Edge runs. Edge, with 6.7% of the user base, is now the third-place web browser. Except for Mozilla Firefox, all the other web browsers that matter, such as Opera, Vivaldi, and Brave, run on top of Chromium.
Firefox is in fourth place and doing badly. In the last 12 months, Firefox dropped to 2.6% from last year’s 2.7%. In 2015, when I first started using DAP’s numbers, Firefox had an 11% market share. By 2016, Firefox had declined to 8.2%. It had a slight bounce upward by 2018 to 9%. Despite its ad deals with Google, Mozilla has been laying off more employees. Firefox, frankly, is becoming irrelevant.
Finally, at long, long last, the long dying Internet Explorer (IE) has finally dropped off the list entirely. It’s gone from 2.2% in 2021 to be in the also-run category with everyone else at 1.9%.
In short, today’s internet belongs to Chrome on the desktop and Safari on smartphones. Nothing else really matters.