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2010: A Good Year in the Browser Wars

2010: A Good Year in the Browser Wars Image

The year 2010 was, in many ways, a good year in the browser wars. All browser makers improved their HTML5 and CSS3 support and made major strides in JavaScript performance. Even IE participated, if you include the IE9 beta.

In terms of overall share, as the chart below shows, IE continued a slow decline, slipping below 50%, from 56% to 47%. In the web design world, we can only view this as a step in the right direction—but not as big a step as we’d all like to see.


Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Market Share

Safari and Firefox held steady, while Chrome’s growth came at IE’s expense.

When we break out all the versions, it becomes apparent that IE8 has established its spot as king-of-the-hill, but its pentration has stagnated at around 30%. Firefox 3.6 is only 5% behind.


Source: StatCounter Global Stats – Browser Version Market Share

IE7 and IE6 continue their slow decline, but still make up about 11% and 6%, respectively, of all visits. It is striking how much more quickly new versions take over for other browsers; note the rapid switch from Firefox 3.5 to 3.6 that occurred from February to April, and the quick romp through four versions of Chrome over the course of the year.

Lots in Store for 2011

If you are using CSS3 enhancements in your designs, the number of viewers who will see them should increase dramatically over the course of 2011, thanks to the launch of IE9. Firefox 4 will deliver nice improvements for a huge part of the market, and Chrome promises to continue to push Webkit technology much further into the market than Safari has been able to reach.

Unfortunately, Internet Explorer will neither improve quickly enough nor fade away fast enough to eliminate much of the pain it causes.

The IE7 and IE8 installed base will remain too large to ignore, forcing us to continue viewing CSS3 features as being suitable only for embellishments. Although IE9 will bring Internet Explorer to approximate standards-parity with its competitors, the IE world does not benefit from the rapid adoption of new versions that occurs with the other browsers. In the case of IE9, there is an additional constraint: it will not run on Windows XP.

In the world of the web, we are both blessed and cursed with a variety of browsers. It’s not going to become any tidier in the near future, with no competitors poised to drop out. Because a laggard installed base makes up a large part of the web population, as designers we’re going to need to deal with older browsers for a while yet. But by the end of 2011, everyone using the current release of any of the major browsers will enjoy substantial HTML5 and CSS3 support, as well as fast JavaScript.

Topics: Web Design

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