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Did Chrome overtake IE in popularity, and if so, should we care?

June 3, 2012

Last month, some eyebrows were raised around the world as a major supplier of world-wide statistics reported that Google’s Chrome browser had overtaken Microsoft’s Internet Explorer as the world’s most popular browser.  There are a few reasons why an announcement like this doesn’t carry as much weight as you might think for a development firm – even one that puts a lot of weight in website development, like SNQ.

First of all, taking a truly accurate survey of the most popular browsers in the world would mean analyzing the user information from every website in the world, and that’s simply not possible.  The company in question, StatCounter, reports that they analyze more than 15 billion hits each month, from a pool of about 3 million websites that use their data analysis tools.  That’s a lot of data, but it doesn’t necessarily represent the average in the world.  As a point of comparison, there is another major service, NetMarketShare, who shows IE well ahead of Google for the same period, with around 54% of the share, to Chrome’s 18%.  You can see comparisons of the two here: StatCounter and NetMarketShare.

Second, for a company that needs to cater to the world at large, like us, it really doesn’t matter who’s in the lead, so much as who are the players.  If IE has more than half of the world’s share, that doesn’t mean that I can simply ignore that 18% that Chrome represents – I’ll have to take them into account too, and that means that whenever I’m building a website I have at least four or five browsers open while I’m programming.  I check them all as I make changes so I don’t have any surprises later.

Last, the differences between them have diminished.  I remember back in the old days, when Netscape Navigator and IE were duking it out to decide how JavaScript should be implemented (talk about nerd rage), and we had to program in support for <div> tags versus <layer>’s, or the “document.objects” collection, but all of those squables are behind us now (thank goodness), and what I’m really interested in these days is who supports what plugin (or doesn’t support them), or whether I can allow HTML 5 and CSS 3-specific content to be included.  These changes often have less to do with the browser’s type (meaning IE, Chrome, FireFox, etc.) and more to do with the browser’s version.  Most of the time, I just program in the effect I want, and then make sure it can degrade well if the specific browser doesn’t handle the effect well.

This is a long-winded way of saying what I really wanted to get across, which is that we at SNQ keep an eye on this type of stuff, and even though it does carry interest for us, these declarations are usually more academic than anything else.  After all, we’ve been programming with the “graceful degradation” concept for years already, so whether you prefer Chrome, IE, FireFox, Safari, Opera, or anything else, we’ve got it covered.

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