Browser Market Share Claims Are Dubious

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Mozilla has announced that the Firefox Web browser has reached one billion downloads and some sources claim that Firefox has attained a solid 32 percent of the browser market. The methods used to calculate market share for web browsers though seems dubious and in some cases seem to betray a bias on the part of the organization gathering the statistics.

Of course, that depends on your source. Some research firms report Firefox with closer to a 50 percent share of the market and actually leading Internet Explorer. The problem lies in how and where the statistical information is gathered. Web sites can determine with some accuracy which browser is being used to connect with the site, but the validity of the statistics is tainted by the quantity and types of sites being monitored.

Gathering browser statistics from sites focused on Mac or Linux or advanced information security topics is much more likely to yield results showing Internet Explorer dropping off sharply. Internet Explorer is not available for the Mac or Linux OS and some cite security as their primary reason for not using Internet Explorer. Similarly, gathering statistics from more consumer-oriented sites is likely to yield higher Internet Explorer results because the majority of consumers are likely using the Windows operating system and the built-in Internet Explorer web browser.

One example of the sort of skewed logic that goes into reporting these numbers was illustrated recently by Robert Strohmeyer. He pointed out that while Apple was reporting that its latest Safari Web browser had been downloaded more than 11 million times, the statistic relied heavily on a prompted update pushed out to existing users. Many of the users who had received the download may rely on other browsers, such as Firefox or Opera as their primary Web browser and never give Safari a second thought.

The same can be said for the dominant browser on the market- Internet Explorer. Because it has been included with Windows as far back as memory serves it could be argued that the market share for Internet Explorer is skewed. In essence every Windows PC has Internet Explorer whether it is being used or not.

A billion may be a trivial number these days when discussing things like the economy, or the national debt, or healthcare reform, but for browser downloads it is still a pretty remarkable feat. I also agree that the Web browser playing field is becoming increasingly leveled and that products such as Firefox, Opera, or Google Chrome offer solid competition for Internet Explorer’s established dominance. I just question the motives behind these studies and reports and find the accuracy of the results to be dubious at best in some cases.

Tony Bradley is an information security and unified communications expert with more than a decade of enterprise IT experience. He provides tips, advice and reviews on information security and unified communications technologies on his site at .

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