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Will the Real Browser Stats Please Stand Up?

Resources, Web Design, Web Development | Aug 2, 2010

Recently, Mashable published an article entitled “IE6 Finally Nearing Extinction”, announcing that IE6 usage in the United States and Europe has finally dropped below 5%.

That news probably warmed the cockles of the hearts of web designers everywhere. Thus, it seems designers and developers now have even more incentive to stop supporting IE6, following the pattern set by Google, notably with regards to YouTube.

The stats in the Mashable article are based on StatCounter Global Stats. In this article, I’ll provide some food for thought by way of some alternative statistics that in many ways contradict the sources for the article published by Mashable.

These stats should drive home the point that every website is different, and that in some cases it may still be necessary to provide a fairly decent experience in IE6, while progressively enhancing design and functionality for newer browsers.

Below is a screenshot from the June browser version report for Europe, with IE6′s share indicated:

Browser version stats for Europe

But developers should not be so quick to jump on this bandwagon. The statistics that the Mashable article were based on are specific to Europe and the U.S. (which are obviously huge markets), so the advice given in so many areas of web design likewise applies here: Design for your audience, and don’t be swayed by trends.

 

What are the Worldwide Stats?

Let’s look at the same statistics from StatCounter, but with the broader worldwide filter applied:

Browser version stats worldwide

Now the IE6 usage stats are just about doubled, up to just under 10%. Already we can see the importance of considering your own audience and your own analytics reports before hastily disregarding IE6 support.

Another browser version report, this one by Net Applications provides significantly higher statistics for IE6:

Browser version stats on Net Applications

Net Applications explain on their home page how their stats are compiled, for those who are curious as to why their stats for IE6 differ so much. Even if we don’t accept these as the most relevant stats, they do offer an alternative report that encourages developers and site owners to pay close attention to their own analytics.

Another very significant set of stats for worldwide browser usage is provided by W3schools. Generally speaking, web developers should not rely on reports from W3schools, because their usage stats are based on W3school’s analytics. Their website is visited by web professionals and programmers who are very unlikely to use IE6 in their day-to-day tasks. Nonetheless, their browser version stats are interesting to consider:

Browser version stats from W3schools

Even in this niche area, the usage for IE6 is almost 3% higher than the reports for the U.S. and Europe. So again, while the stats for Europe and the U.S. are encouraging for the demise of IE6, we should still be careful.

It should also be noted that the W3schools browser stats page is (and has long been) at the top of Google search results for the phrase “browser usage statistics“. This is misleading because those stats are specific to the tech and programming industry, and should not be considered for final analytics.

 

What About Individual Country Reports?

This is where the reports get very interesting. Below, you’ll find screenshots displaying browser version stats for some of the most populous nations in the world, with the IE6 stats indicated:

Browser Usage Stats for China

Browser version stats for China

The stats shown above for China alone are hard to believe. IE6 dominates usage in that market. But encouragingly, the stats are much lower for Asia overall, as shown below:

Browser Usage Stats for Asia

Browser version stats for Asia


Browser Usage Stats for India

Browser version stats for India


Browser Usage Stats for Pakistan

Browser version stats for Pakistan

Of course, just because these are some of the most populated parts of the world, does not necessarily mean those are large or lucrative markets. In fact, due to the dense population numbers, the opposite could be true.

So, the stats above will obviously only be pertinent to those who are developing websites and web apps targeted at those specific geographic markets.

At the very least, reviewing some of these country-specific reports reminds us why the usage stats have remained so high for so long.

 

What Does This all Mean?

The reasonable thing to conclude from these reports is that each project is different, and no single set of stats should be the determining factor for support of IE6.

If you’re developing a brand new site that doesn’t have any analytics trends, then you should carefully study the demographics of your intended audience, and then adjust your support requirements as new analytics statistics are gathered after launch.

On the other hand, if you’re redeveloping or realigning an already established property, past analytics reports should prove invaluable to your development efforts to ensure you’re reaching as many people as possible.

As an epilogue to this discussion, it would certainly be wise to also consider usage for IE7 and IE8 — both of which, according to many of the charts shown above, have significant market shares.


This post was written exclusively for Webdesigner Depot by Louis Lazaris, a freelance writer and web developer. Louis runs Impressive Webs where he posts articles and tutorials on web design. You can follow Louis on Twitter or get in touch with him through his website.

Do you still notice significant usage stats for IE6 in your site’s analytics? Please comment below and let us know.

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  • http://lakeside.com.np/ Lakeside Technologies

    This certainly means that IE6 is still and will be in the browser wars and for a long time too. It is not be be neglected totally if you want a fair share of the users worldwide.

  • http://www.fatdux.com Eric Reiss

    Yes, the stats will change, depending on your market. What I find curious is that although Apple is now the world’s largest supplier of computers and other web-enabled devices, the stats for Safari are dismal. And this seems to be pretty consistant across regions.

    Any thoughts on this?

    • JT

      Thats because Apple are NOT the worlds largest supplier of computers by a very long way. The last time I checked Macs accounted for something like less than 10% of computers worldwide and thats mainly developed nations such as US/UK/europe.

    • http://www.designprinciples.com Mike Cronin

      Apple may be the most valuable tech company in the U.S. right now, but I don’t think it’s the world’s largest supplier of computers or mobile devices. I’m sure Safari’s numbers are right around where we should expect with regard to its market share. Of course, some Mac users prefer to use other browsers (Chrome, Firefox), but on the flip side, I’m sure some Windows users run Safari.

    • http://twitter.com/jasonedelman Jason

      Apple is definitely not even close to the world’s largest supplier of computers: http://community.winsupersite.com/blogs/paul/archive/2010/04/20/mac-q1-2010-pc-market-share-3-6-percent.aspx

      Yes, that’s a Windows site, but check what he links to. Numbers don’t lie.

  • http://www.thenetflow.com Dan O’Neill

    I have been preaching my own version of this for years. Some developers have started to refuse even basic support for IE6, based off flawed and one sided stats.

    In the end its all about demographics. Got a site where users can swap jigsaw puzzles? Expect to be supporting IE6 for a long time :)

    The company I work for (a SysAdmin for a large financial multinational), nearly all of our users are still using IE6. Some of the sites our users visit on a daily basis, still only support IE6. Some are unusable in any other version or IE let alone any other brand of browser. Because of that, those teams that use those sites cant upgrade. This then causes problems in other sites. Its a fairly annoying problem.

  • azwebcat

    What I’d like to see is more granular stats by market niche – for example, in the area of e-commerce, what percent of IE6 users make online purchases? What percentage of higher ed users are still in IE6? A breakdown by age would be useful as well.

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      That’s actually an excellent suggestion for an article. I don’t remember ever seeing those kinds of stats, but I’ll certainly look into it. Thanks.

  • http://danfrydman.com Dan Frydman

    There are significant anomalies within countries. Within the UK we have a problem with government agencies unwilling or unable to upgrade from IE6. In fact in a recent response to a petition the UK government outlined its position that upgrading isn’t likely.

    It’s a huge portion of our economy and so will continue to distort the stats for the UK while the rest of Europe and the US move on.

  • http://www.jc-designs.net/blog Jeremy Carlson

    “Design for your audience, and don’t be swayed by trends.”

    My God, finally. GREAT article. I have posted comments like this when other “Bring down IE6″ threads go up. You cannot go by generic stats like those. It might be a good indicator, but you have to go by YOUR stats.

    We track everything at work, and IE6 is way higher than one would expect because of the type of clients we build for (any medical related field), which sometimes can’t upgrade, or just plain haven’t.

    My blog, IE6 is 3.3% out of a total 15% for IE. That is because it is geared towards developers/designers. Work though has a total of like 60%, with IE6 taking somewhere in the 20′s. WAY different numbers.

    I am really starting to dislike posts that mislead people about stats.

    Thanks again for a damn good article.

  • http://www.afdeling18.dk Søren Sprogø

    It simply can’t be stressed enough that you shouldn’t look too closely at these “law-of-averages” stats when designing a site. The browser shares for a tech news site vs. a site for seniors is a world apart.

    There’s always two things I question when reading stats like these:

    1)
    Does big (american) companies like StatCounter really have enough market share and data to reveal anything about the EU market? I for one don’t know ANY sites here in the EU using StatCounter or Net Applications.

    2)
    I often wonder if all those IE6 users are ACTUAL USERS. And not just old, bad bots scouring the interweb with an outdated user agent string.

  • http://www.bebop-cafe.com BebopDesigner

    Impressive (and scary). Honestly, I wished certain browser would disappear for good. But thanks for the reality check.
    Brilliant post.

    Cheers

  • http://benthinkin.net Ben Gremillion

    Good points for arguing the issue at large.

    Statistics for each site I monitor show different browser stats. For last two months, at least, IE6 was a minority on all of them. That may not reflect the worldwide trend, but I tailor sites to their audiences. None of my clients target the whole planet.

  • http://www.ospreye.com/blog Rhett

    At the company I work for, we manage several sites that are a mix of consumer and B2B sites. The B2B sites show a significantly higher stat for IE6 browsers than our consumer sites do. Even still, I like to know what the overall trends are, so we can anticipate changes to our browser support policy.

    Bottom line is you have to do your own math.

  • simon

    I keep an eye on stats for about 30 websites I’ve made. In every single case without exception the sites that have a worldwide readership show a significantly higher percentage of visitors using IE6, typically between 8-15%, and the sites that have a primarily UK readership it is much lower, approx 2-6%.

    I don’t think any business in its right mind would willingly lose up to 15% of its potential customers, so web designers asked to make sites IE6 compatible have no reason to say no in my opinion. You could argue that dropping support will encourage people to upgrade, but that’s going to be pretty hard to convince a marketing or business manager that case!

  • http://ds.laroouse.com esranull

    very good stats thanks

  • http://aevumincorruptus.com AevumDesign

    We recently had an interesting conversation about IE6 and whether or not to block it in your designs… here’s the consensus:
    http://uxexchange.com/questions/3182/blocking-ie6-deny-outright-or-warn-of-issues/

  • http://www.benstokesmarketing.co.uk Ben Stokes

    Wooop get out Ie6 :) I am a chrome man my self . . . As we all no Firefox is grat for developer tools but I have found it to slow for browsing now.

  • Dain

    Take the IE6 stats and throw them out the window. IE6 is the most spoofed user agent. There are countless malware/spyware apps that will open popups, or take over the windows “active desktop”. There are many bots/crawlers that spoof IE6 user agent to avoid problems with blacklisting or blocking. There is more than a handful of “browsers” that claim IE6 user agent (Older versions of Opera, Windows Mobile IE, AOL & all those crappy ISP custom browsers..).

    Look at the stats to YOUR OWN web site, cut the IE stats in half, then drop most of your IE6 support. Update to a more usable experience, for modern browsers and see if you get any complaints. Chances are you’ll just have happier customers and more of them.

    There are rare cases, in which a company creates/manages an internal web-app for an Enterprise client(s) that has not yet updated from IE. In the Enterprise world an upgrade of this kind is extremely expensive. These are the ONLY people who really have any argument supporting IE6.

  • NOBITA

    OH NO!!!!!!

    I’M a chinese!

    Mostly! I use SAFARI & CHROME!

    I hate IE6!

  • http://www.Amanatullah.com Ahmed Amanatullah

    I am web designer from Pakistan and disappointed to see our country’s love for IE6.

    • NOBITA

      ME TOO。。。。。。。。

      I’m from China!

    • http://www.impressivewebs.com Louis

      Well, I don’t think it has anything to do with “love”. Sometimes people are not aware that it’s possible to upgrade a browser. It works, so they use it. They see no reason to upgrade, nor are they familiar with the concept.

      So, I suppose it’s “love for IE6″ by default, not necessarily that they love it more than IE7 or Firefox.

  • http://www.setupizle.com setup

    …..Thanks Admin Thank you…..

    setup

    seo

  • Dont Know

    India and Pakistan love IE 6.0 because (in my view) majority PC run on pirates version of Windows XP. These pirates version mostly comes with IE6. Now they cant upgrade them without going through Microsoft online Windows authentication blah blah, if you manage to get passed that you find your internet speed is soooooooo rubbish that it will take at least 4 to 6 hours downloading the latest version and in that time you are bound to have electricity failure or power cut. One more point you will find majority of PC running on XP SP1 because of the same reason 1) Pirated Version of OP and 2) Shit Internet Speed.

    Sayonara

  • http://johan.notitia.nl/ Johan de Jong

    Great article, very usefull when my colleagues will trash IE again ;)

    I guess the biggest lesson we’ll learn by this article is the fact that you need to support your target audience.

    If you target developers and designers in the US and west Europe you can drop IE without stepping on someones toes. If you target international businesses or Joe Average you’ll have to support IE6.

  • http://www.ravi.uxdsign.com Ravikumar V.

    i support ie 6. I love to code for it…

  • TicTac

    Some of the responsibility for IE6 still being a popular browser fall on us webdevelopers, and really – we can do something about it! Even if we have a project where we are forced to support IE6, we can help visitors to make a better decision wherever possible.

    Check out the links below and start today:
    - http://labs.finn.no/finn-anbefaler-ie6-brukere-a-oppgradere-sin-nettleser/
    - http://ie6.forteller.net/index.php?title=Main_Page

    (Funny fact: Microsoft Norway gave their support to the campaign :) )

  • http://www.psdstyle.net chuckles

    Die IE6 die already!!!!

  • J.B.

    German government is about 95% IE6 – from ministries to the local offices. Large companies and industries rely mostly on IE6 & WinXP as well, many of web-based services (like some account-management from Deutsche Telekom) work only with IE6. It’s sad, but it’s true: IE6 may has lost some importance due to the Firefox, but it’s still most important browser in business and government. Safari & Chrome in german business and industry are close to zero.

  • http://danfrydman.com Dan Frydman

    Hi JB, that’s very interesting. In the UK we’ve asked for the government to recommend a move away from IE6 and they said no. The German and French governments did recommend a move, but didn’t. Realpolitik is alive and well in Europe.

  • http://www.webdesignnet.co.uk Web Design in Maidstone

    I still hate to see that most clients of mine use IE6… I think the usage of IE6 has bigger numbers…

    many joomla templates are not compatible with IE6

  • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress/ La Cinyc

    Most important thing here is to create for your customers indeed and see what your “end-user” will be like… if it’s a bit of a tech savvy audience… they’ll have tons a browsers, if they don’t, some of these don’t need to be on your page either way (ok, very black n white-ly sketched here ;) ) so don’t design for browsers nor trends, design for the people it is meant for and… u can always attach an extra stylesheet to your page with the bare minimum design for other browsers… it is “not done” anymore to state: please view with firefox, chrome or safari, lol… yet, … it should be a standard label popping up for everyone using ie (whatever version still ) web standards are supposed to be the standard and followed… or changed together instead of just doing things differently… but hey, pro’s n cons, pro’s n cons to any browser…

  • http://hollisbartlett.com Hollis

    The reason that IE6 still exists is because it came with Windows XP, and people are still using that OS. There was no compelling reason for corps to upgrade to Vista or 7. In fact, Dell and others still sell corporate workstations with XP because IT departments don’t want to deal with a new OS. I blame the whole Microsoft MCSE training ecosystem.
    Add to that all the netbooks that have been sold with XP. You can still, TODAY buy a netbook PC with Windows XP and IE6.

    I recently had to redesign a site for a client, and I checked the stats – around 15% IE6 usage, all from the USA. The site was targeting small industrial companies.

    Now, if there’s a good reason to upgrade the browser, it will happen… and by reason I mean something that will cost companies money if they keep 6. That is the only motivating factor. When cloud computing becomes the most productive and economical way to go, and requires html5 and other things that IE6 can’t produce, AND companies aren’t being driven by IT managers looking to protect their jobs and not be made redundant by new technologies, and IE9 comes out with html5, then we might start to see these old corporate networks get a boost finally. Maybe that’s why Microsoft is rolling out Office in the cloud, Skydrive and other stuff.

  • manohar

    hate to work on IE 6 issue…

    in India many of people is browsing their website through ie6 only. . .

  • http://www.simonday.com Simon Day

    I’ve spent the last two years slowly moving away from IE6 but it has been gradual. I still support IE6 but it is no longer the default. The client will have to pay me extra for any time spent getting the site “pixel perfect” in IE.

    What is important is that every designer has the ability to deal with IE6 because there sure are a lot of projects out there with 90%+ IE6 users.

  • http://www.robinjohn.info Robin

    Once google pulls support to IE6 for all its product, its done !

  • Stephen

    I agree with the premise of this article that every project is different and should be treated as such. However, IE6 remains a headache, and the cost to a client for IE6 support should reflect the extra work required to deal with it. In other words, your client can pay extra fir IE6 support, or they can gently encourage their users to upgrade. Just another small way to encourage IE6 into its grave.

  • Steven

    Whether people like it or not IE6 support is dying. People will be FORCED to use another version or platform. Google dropping support for IE6 is big. And they aren’t the only ones, i’ve noticed many banks and financial websites have started posting notices that IE6 will no longer be supported. IE6 has to die and people who still use will just be left behind. If people don’t stop coddling the legacy browser users people will never upgrade.

  • http://www.dysondeals.co.uk Dyson Deals

    I work for a UK based consumer electronics store. Considering the fact that we sell the latest technology, it is still surprising to see people stuck on I.E. 6

  • http://www.aus-media.com Nik

    Those stats are PAINFUL!!!

    It would be interesting to know what the ‘real’ stats for display resolution is. I am close to jumping from 980px to 1000px… but if the stats are anything like these, maybe not :(

  • http://www.iddaalive.com/ iddaalive

    IE 6.0 ????…who still use it!!!!

  • http://pricingmetals.com Metals John

    that’s funny! I think there is no one tend to use IE6 at this time. most of user are using IE 7. however, i prefer Firefox. so, don’t worry about IE6..it will going to the hell soon.

  • http://www.orange.fr Marc

    Interesting Article :

    In my company (Big French Telco operator), we move to IE7 a few months ago.
    One year ago, I still saw RFQ documents with IE6 required as Max version of IE (even Netscape x.y was mentioned).

    Just 3 remarks :
    1) What every article on this subject is missing is the fact many users have multiple browsers installed and there is no stats on that.
    At my company, we use IE6 (now IE7) for the “legitimate” access to internal web ressources but we have Firefox also installed (and tolerated by IT department).
    They tend to block other browser installations (Flock, Chrome) with exceptions (Safari, Opera) and without any clear rules.

    2) Graceful degradation :
    One subject presented at London FOWD and London Web Direction was graceful degradation. It’s good practice to develop for the best then degrade it for the other browsers.
    I agree it’s not easy to sell that to a company which allow only one browser.

    3) Browser side Installation policy by Editors :
    To my opinion, there is also one flaw in Browser upgrade policy.
    Whatever Browser you use, no side installation is permitted unless you’re an experienced user. Then you can’t have side installations of IE (6, 7 and 8), Firefox (2, 3.2, 3.3, etc…), etc…
    Every time, it’s a big jump in the unknown for the average user.
    With graceful side installation, you could have the opportunity to upgrade slowy, peacefully and painlessly to a new browser with the older browser still available “just in case”.
    But as you know this is not the case…

  • http://troyhunt.com Troy Hunt

    Great article, the Asia browser stats is a really interesting illustration of how diverse audiences can be. I was interested in what might cause these massive discrepancies so did some research and formed a “pirate hypothesis”.

    Thought I’d share it here: http://www.troyhunt.com/2010/08/aye-pirates-be-reason-ie6-just-wont-die.html

  • http://www.thestemwarestore.com Chris

    I have been debating this issue in my mind for a few months. Tough call for sure. One of the things that has to be mentioned though is that the additional CSS needed for IE 6 on most websites is not terribly painful. It requires a little planning but we aren’t talking about building a brand new site either. I think that IE 6 has just become one of those IT lightning rods that I have seen come and go in the nearly 20 years that I have worked in this field. If you’re designing for the users in the US, you only have another year or two before it goes away so just set up a process to deal with it and focus on learning HTML 5. That’s my two cents.

    • http://www.psyched.be/wordpress/ Darkened Soul

      The extra coding is only a slight bit of extra effort, however, u come to mention html5 … along with css3… though the future is what it is…. let’s hope the standards will be supported by most browsers a tad bit faster than they used to do…

      we all long for standards…

      hopefully we do not have to restyle everything in html5 to keep it cross browser compatible as well.

  • http://www.bestcardprinter.com Jeff Jones

    I thought I read IE6 will be supported till 2014 by Microsoft?
    J

  • http://www.craigfordham.net Lisa

    I always love reading these statistics and there analysis, Thank you. LT

  • http://www.securityking.com Craig

    Unfortunately we have to design for IE6 until Microsoft decide not to support this :-(

  • http://www.cardsoftware.net Amanda Smit

    Very interesting article, Thank you for sharing!

  • http://chrisjamero.carbonmade.com Chris J.

    In my opinion, maybe most users are still on Windows XP.

  • http://www.ajenterprises.us Arn Johnson

    Exactly. Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  • http://www.ajenterprises.us Arn Johnson

    Perhaps, but I think with the advent of Win7 (no IE6) and IE9 (no XP), that day is coming quickly.

    At least anecdotally, on most clients sites’ stats that I see, IE6 is in the extreme minority (<3-4%). Dain's comment about spoofed IE6 user agents is something else to think about as well.

    There's no single cookie-cutter answer to this question, as the comments here have thoroughly covered (IE6 usage varies wildly – unique to client's demographic, location usage, intranet or not etc etc etc).

  • http://www.ajenterprises.us Arn Johnson

    Ugh.. please say it’s not true.

  • http://www.ligtvlive.net/ lig tv devu

    I agree “The extra coding is only a slight bit of extra effort, however, u come to mention html5 … along with css3… though the future is what it is…. let’s hope the standards will be supported by most browsers a tad bit faster than they used to do…
    we all long for standards…
    hopefully we do not have to restyle everything in html5 to keep it cross browser compatible as well.”

  • http://basketbolizle.blogspot.com basketbol izle

    I agree with pan “Good points for arguing the issue at large.
    Statistics for each site I monitor show different browser stats. For last two months, at least, IE6 was a minority on all of them. That may not reflect the worldwide trend, but I tailor sites to their audiences. None of my clients target the whole planet.”

  • http://www.misyon5ice.ersincayan.com Misyon5ice

    Firstly, Thank you for your past.
    I totaly agree with you. Yhis post about browser stats please stand up. I wait other post.

  • Vendetta

    When will be that great monent that stupid lazy ugly firefox will die!
    Because the IE6 is most more functional than shitfox

  • http://www.bonjour-assistance.fr/ depannage informatique colmar

    Le succès de IE6 en chine est presque incompréhensible.