If I had written the script for Pinocchio, Jiminy Cricket would have sung, “Let your intellectual curiosity be your guide.” It’s part of my appeal as an analyst; I just can’t help but try to answer any question that crosses my path.

The most recent item to pique my curiosity was the browser statistics chart at W3Schools. This chart shows the share of users surfing W3Schools with a particular web browser month by month over the past six years. Obviously, the chart itself doesn’t do the data much justice. When you graph it out, however, it paints a very interesting picture.

W3Schools Browser Usage Over Time

There are a lot of interesting points in the chart above. You can clearly see how IE 6 has grown, plateaued, and declined as the dominant browser over the last few years, at once taking share from the IE 5 user base and then ceding it to the IE 7 user base as one would expect. You can see how Netscape gave way to its successor, the Mozilla Suite, in 2003, and how the Mozilla Suite in turn gave way to Firefox when it launched at the end of 2004. At the same time, you can see how other browsers like Opera and Safari have struggled to even show up on the radar.

Perhaps the most striking trend, of course, requires a simpler view.

W3Schools Grouped Browser Usage Over Time

In the chart above, I’ve combined all versions of Internet Explorer into one trend line and all versions of Netscape, Firefox, and the Mozilla Suite into another. As you can see, IE has declined over time as the Mozilla/Firefox family has risen in popularity. In fact, if you apply some linear regression, you see that the two lines cross in the not-too-distant future.

If these trends continue, Internet Explorer will continue to lose an average of 0.51% of the browser market per month. The vast majority of those users (all but 0.01%) will migrate to a browser in the Mozilla/Firefox/Netscape family. Then, some time in Q3 of 2009, Internet Explorer will be overtaken as the dominant browser.

Discussion

Naturally, this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for anyone who’s kept an eye on browser usage over the past few years. Thanks to a passionate community of open source supporters, Firefox has grown into a phenomenon among the web-savvy. Just last month, it set out to get in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most downloads in a single day with the release of Firefox 3.

Of course, this data only speaks to the web-savvy audience that visits W3Schools. For the vast majority of web users, it’ll still be a long time before Firefox attains widespread usage. Much to the disdain of us Firefox fans, Internet Explorer is too common and familiar among average web users to oust from the number one spot so quickly.

Disclaimer

This was an off-the-cuff analysis of a single website’s publicly-reported browser usage statistics. Naturally, it shouldn’t be taken as authoritative evidence of anything. It is nothing more or less than one analyst’s predictions based on a limited dataset. It’s interesting, for sure, but try not to blow it out of proportion. 😉

5 thoughts on “IE to Lose Dominance Among Web-Savvy Users by Q3 2009

  1. Every designer I work with echoes that sentiment, Justin. Unfortunately, I searched for more corroborating data to back up my prediction, but I wasn’t able to find anything conclusive.

    The important point to note is that IE’s dominance is indeed slipping, and it’s doing so remarkably fast among the web-savvy audience at W3Schools. If these trends continue, it’s only a matter of time before the public at large comes to adopt better alternatives like Firefox.

  2. I hope your right. One encouraging point is that a month or so I finally convinced my wife to use Firefox and stop using IE which is a huge accomplishment (I’m still owrking on her father).

    ANyways we encountered a site that didn’t work in Firefox so I said to load it in IE to which she groaned and said “That is stupid I don’t want to use that”.

    Once you start converting the average user and they realize what a piece of junk IE is then IE’s days are numbered.

  3. I wouldn’t mind virus explorer so much if it were a good browser. You know, Microsoft I have no problem with, they’re great – it’s just that Internet Explorer is a completely useless piece of junk.

    I still spend a disproportionate amount of time designing for IE even after dropping IE6, because IE7 is still so far behind the other browsers it isn’t funny.

    However if IE 10 was the best browser around, I would happily turn around and endorse it — but what are the chances of that? The latest technology supported by IE is ten years old already.

    The good news is (is this obvious?) since web designers are all using and pushing proper browsers, the experience will continue to degrade for IE users until it’s impossible to surf the net with it at all.

    Seriously now, I leave all my work broken in IE, and in doing so I make sites that load twice as fast on the other end! Everybody wins! Except Internet Explorer’s unwitting victims, and idiots.

    Naturally I leave noscript-element-like messages everywhere advertising a variety of modern browsers.

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