Will the Real Browser Stats Please Stand Up?

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August 02, 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: 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: 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: 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: 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

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 Usage Stats for India

Browser Usage 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.

WDD Staff

WDD staff are proud to be able to bring you this daily blog about web design and development. If there's something you think we should be talking about let us know @DesignerDepot.

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