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One market research firm claims Microsoft's browser now trails Google globally, but others disagree

CNN and some other sources reported on Tuesday that Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) veteran Internet Explorer (IE) browser may have been passed by Google Inc.'s (GOOG) Chrome browser.

Indeed, that's what Stat Counter, an online tracking firm reported, claiming that usage for all versions of IE was 31.94 percent of users on May 20, while Chrome was used by 32.76 percent of users.

But as 19th-century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli said in his quote popularized by U.S. author Mark Twain, "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."

[Source: Stat Counter]
Indeed Stat Counter has long shown third-party browsers to hold a much higher market share than other market research firms.  

The latest numbers from Net Owl another research firm showed IE to have approximately 48 percent market share in April, with Firefox in second place with 19.75 percent, and Chrome in third place with 17.14 percent.  These figures are similar to Microsoft's own reported usage statistics.
By contrast Stat Counter reckoned IE to have 34.35 percent, Firefox to have 24.85 percent, and Chrome to have 31.09 percent near the end of April.

There are a lot of possible reasons for these discrepancies.  One possible cause is that Stat Counter may favor the kinds of sites visited by individual (home) users, who are more likely to be using a third party browser, versus a business user who is more likely to be using IE.  So don't consider IE's downgrade to second place official quite yet, but do take the reports as indication of Google Chrome's remarkable rise and increasing market traction.

Update: Wed. May 23, 2012:

A reader "Joe" helpfully chimes in:

We've looked into Chrome for our enterprise, and once we realized what what going on with the statcounters, we stopped. Global Stat's tracks HITS, where as NetmarketShare" rel="nofollow

and statowl seem to track unique visitors. Global Stat's seems to also not account for Chromes aggressive pre-caching of sites, but the other two do.

That could explain the cause of this unusual and inconsistent result, if accurate.

Sources: Stat Counter, Stat Owl

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Random sampling?
By drycrust3 on 5/22/2012 3:00:50 PM , Rating: 3
One of the problems here is this looks like they assume everyone on the internet is either based in America or are frequenting American websites on a regular basis e.g. Google, Wikipedia, etc when they aren't. China is the world's biggest internet market, and, not being familiar with their habits, a majority of them could easily never frequent American websites. They should have been included in the survey, as should Europe, South America, India, Africa, etc, but probably weren't.
My guess is the Night Owl survey is more accurate.
A point to note is that Microsoft only supply an IE for the Windows and Apple operating systems, they don't supply one for Linux distributions and other operating systems.

RE: Random sampling?
By JediJeb on 5/22/2012 4:38:52 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder also if you are blocking tracking with FF will those browsers be registered correctly in this survey? I know I have Google+ and Google Analytics and such blocked on mine, would I show up on statistics done by Google Analytics? If you are running FF and Zonealarm now you can block almost all the tracking sites.

By chµck on 5/22/2012 4:02:52 PM , Rating: 2
Do those numbers include mobile browsers?

Chrome is probably so popular because it's supposed to be the fastest.

IE9 is actually quite nice. It's fast and supported by every site.

Firefox is still bulky, though it's my primary. I like all the addons.

Poor safari.

RE: hmm
By xti on 5/22/2012 4:24:44 PM , Rating: 2
yeah with tablets and phones, not even close when its just desktops/laptops.

By Ammohunt on 5/22/2012 10:50:22 PM , Rating: 2
Netscape vs. IE back in the day=news what browser is top dog now Who cares!

RE: Wow!
By Dr of crap on 5/23/2012 8:11:08 AM , Rating: 2
yes, thank you!

Browser Issues
By BSMonitor on 5/22/2012 3:13:14 PM , Rating: 3
I use both. Basically because there are still times where I come across websites that frak up in Chrome.

By Motoman on 5/22/2012 3:40:37 PM , Rating: 2
Quick Note: Something got reported on the internet -- Skepticism is Warranted

IE, lol.
By Argon18 on 5/23/2012 5:17:34 PM , Rating: 2
IE is for the ignoramuses who buy their computers from Best Buy, and simply don't know any better. They use IE because the icon was already on the Desktop of their shiny new PeeCee.

By Iketh on 5/22/12, Rating: -1
RE: sigh
By Mitch101 on 5/22/2012 3:15:23 PM , Rating: 2
I can see people running to chrome because Firefox still crashes way too much especially when doing nearly anything with embedded video. As much as I love Firefox and its plugins they need to fix the issues that are making people look elsewhere. I rarely get the trying to start Firefox and find its been running and never shut down properly now they just need to work with adobe a bit more to get the darn embedded video problems worked out.

I think IE9 will change a few peoples minds Ive been using it for a little while and find it to be much much better than IE8 at rendering pages correctly. Few memory leaks with IE9 and if you leave it run overnight but they will get it straightened out.

My 2 cents plenty of browsers to go around. I played with Safari and Opera too but I keep coming back to IE and Firefox personally.

RE: sigh
By inighthawki on 5/22/2012 4:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
Few memory leaks with IE9 and if you leave it run overnight but they will get it straightened out.

Then they're not memory leaks ;)

RE: sigh
By Iketh on 5/22/2012 5:13:26 PM , Rating: 4
I agree with your view on IE9 100%, but I never found a reason to switch from any of the previous IEs either, especially when you factor in security.

I had a college girl once borrow my laptop and the first thing she said when she opened it up was, "Wow! You're in love with Microsoft!" She clarified by explaining that I'm using a Windows laptop AND Internet Explorer with an honest look of disgust on her face. Yet, her field of expertise had nothing to do with computers. She went on to say how nobody she knew uses Internet Explorer. I briefly explained to her that I write software for a living and if she knew the things I knew, she would be using Windows and Internet Explorer too.

But that's just it. Choosing a different browser (for a lot of people, especially among the youth) is based on a cool factor just like clothes. It's the same thing with Macbooks. The whole thing just makes me shake my head.

I'm 32 BTW...

RE: sigh
By BugblatterIII on 5/22/2012 7:45:43 PM , Rating: 1
A browser that's baked into the operating system at a very low level, and you think that's better security?

The take-up of IE9 has been pitiful. Not only did MS exclude a massive portion of its userbase (XP users) but they also tied it to a service pack many people couldn't install. All because of the idiotic decision many years ago to bake IE into the OS to get around bans on shipping IE with the OS.

Microsoft, a browser is just an app. Re-write it accordingly.

I used to write software for a living, now I architect systems and manage developers. IE is a massive pain in our arses and I'd much prefer that it didn't exist; it very briefly moved us forward a decade ago but since then it's been holding us back.

Admittedly IE9 is less painful than IE8, which is less painful than IE7 and so on. Problem is that the old versions are still used significantly and so have to be supported.

That's not the case with other browsers; there's a bit of a Firefox 3.6 userbase hanging on but other than that you really only need to support the latest versions of each browser.

I'm 41 btw. In today's youth-centric culture that probably means I lose? ;o)

RE: sigh
By JediJeb on 5/23/2012 11:09:32 AM , Rating: 2
I agree with it being tied too deeply into the OS. I still avoid .avi files online because I remember when you could load a video and then all sorts of browser windows begin to pop up because you can embed activex commands within the .avi file. That is just something I would rather avoid. With activex disabled in FF by default I feel much safer, then I can easily use NoScript to help control the other scripts that would run allowing only the sites I trust. Maybe that is in the new versions of IE, but I just haven't used them enough to find out if it is that easy to control.

RE: sigh
By sprockkets on 5/22/2012 8:22:45 PM , Rating: 2
I briefly explained to her that I write software for a living and if she knew the things I knew, she would be using Windows and Internet Explorer too.

Uh, hope you didn't say that for Win95-WinVista and IE like 4-6.

RE: sigh
By Argon18 on 5/23/2012 5:15:39 PM , Rating: 2
LMAO, you must not be much of a developer. If you the things I knew, particularly about how broken IE is, and how broken the Windows OS is, you wouldn't use them. I kicked that crap to the curb over a decade ago, both at home, and at my small business. I spend ~$40k per year on IT, and not a dollar of it goes to Microsoft. Amen!

RE: sigh
By MZperX on 5/23/2012 12:05:06 PM , Rating: 2
My primary browser is Firefox, now on version 9.x.y (nine point whatever, I can't remember), and honestly I only stayed with it mostly out of force of habit. With my addons installed and running (AdBlock, NoScript, FastDial, and Download Bar) it is slow and clunky. It hasn't been crashing on me but it has massive memory leaks. If I just start Firefox and leave it on the Fast Dial tab that comes up and do nothing at all, its memory use keeps creeping up. If I come back several hours later, it goes well in excess of 250-300 MBytes memory allocation according to task manager.

Now, you could say that's not that much with 4GB of physical memory available but I disagree. IF it had a reason to gobble up that much because I ran some kind of browser based application, fine. But there is no excuse for using that much memory just sitting there. The only cure is to close the browser and restart it but because the memory leak is constant, it creeps up there in no time again.

I am disgusted with it enough that I'm considering a switch to chrome.

RE: sigh
By Iketh on 5/22/2012 5:19:00 PM , Rating: 2
So I'll assume with the downrates that I'm the only one experiencing the typing cursor issue in IE9... on all three of my systems. That's just great...

RE: sigh
By Mitch101 on 5/23/2012 9:45:12 AM , Rating: 2
I suspect your using the same video card company or using extended monitors on each. Ive see that issue with video drivers in the past. Windows 8 and IE9 are still beta so I take it has some more baking to go.

I think you got down rated because a lot of us like IE because it really is the most secure browser. A lot of sites like to talk performance but always use Java heavy sites when doing benchmarks. Java is where IE does most of its security scans so other browsers are always going to have better speed when it comes to Java.

RE: sigh
By Master Kenobi on 5/23/2012 4:00:42 PM , Rating: 2
Windows 8 and IE9 are still beta so I take it has some more baking to go.

Windows 8 yes, IE9 no. IE10 is the standard Windows 8 version and that is also still in beta.

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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