Technologizer

BREAKING: Chrome Just Became the Web’s #1 Browser (Unless It Didn’t)

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As apparently noticed first by blogger Joey DeVilla and picked up by our own Matt Peckham among many others, fresh stats from web analytics company StatCounter have Chrome edging past Internet Explorer in market share, at least for a week. It’s a landmark moment in web history — neatly summarizing the fall of IE and the rise of Chrome in one data point which we’ll all remember for years to come.

Except…

Matt, unlike some of the folk who reported on this, used phrases such as “if we trust…” and “according to…” in his story. Which was smart, because all we know is that Chrome squeaked by IE in StatCounter’s numbers. It’s one of numerous companies which releases browser market-share figures, and — this may not shock you — there’s no consensus on the precise breakdown. Actually, there are enormous disparities.

Everybody uses different methodology; everyone uses a different pool of users which may or may not resemble the web at large; nobody seems to publish a truly comprehensive explanation of what they’re doing. And StatCounter is, so far, the only outfit that thinks that Chrome just took the lead this month.

Here’s a chart of StatCounter’s new figures, which are for May 14-20 and are based on 3 million sites that use StatCounter’s analytics service and 15 billion monthly pageviews…

And here are the numbers from some other organizations. (They’re for the full month of April, so they’re not as up-to-date as the StatCounter data.)

Clicky‘s data is based on the 300,000 websites that use its analytics service, and reflects 300 million pageviews a day.

Net Applications draws its numbers from a network of 40,000 websites and 160 million unique monthly visits, and weights countries to reflect their real-world populations.

W3Schools‘ numbers are for its site only — they don’t claim to tell you anything about the web in general — but that often escapes the attention of people who quote them. (Here’s the L.A. Times declaring that Chrome is already the most used browser on desktops” because W3Schools says it’s so.)

W3Counter says that its figures are for the last 15,000 visits to 56,972 sites that use its analytics service.

Wikimedia‘s numbers are presumably for Wikipedia and related sites, and are reported two ways: All Requests and HTML Pages.

So let’s recap: depending on which numbers you choose to believe, Chrome just became the most popular browser (StatCounter), or was already the most popular browser (W3Schools) or is breathing down IE’s neck (W3Counter and Wikimedia All Requests) or is in second place but quite a bit behind IE (Clicky and Wikimedia HTML Pages). Unless it’s behind both IE and Firefox (Net Applications).

Someone who knew more about this stuff than I do might be able to judge the relative approaches of these browser-tracking organizations and conclude that one of them has the most reliable numbers. Me, I’m just throwing my hands up in the air, sighing dramatically and concluding that we can be positive that Chrome is remarkably popular for a browser that’s less than four years old. But that’s all we know for sure.

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