Thoughts on browsers market shares

Numbers and interpolation

Based on statcounter stats, IE6 market share dropped from 6.48% to 4.96% in the last 10 weeks. I predict it should take one more year or so to see it under 1%.

Meanwhile, in the same period, IE7 has gone from 11.95% to 10.55%.This means that IE7 will have be to supported for the next 3 years or so. I’m being optimistic here, because people (and companies) are getting aware that they can change they web browser and even upgrade it. Three more years without CSS table display, cross-document messaging or data URL and a bunch of other features which cannot really be emulated or compensated with a couple of lines of JS. But that’s not the worst part.

World-wide operating systems market share show a current Windows XP market share at about 50%. What’s wrong with this? IE9 doesn’t run on Windows XP. Meaning that we are going to have to make websites work for IE8 for a while. Another issue is the part of the population who doesn’t know how to upgrade/change the web browser or are simply not allowed to (this still happens in some companies). These people, on Windows 7 with IE8 by default, won’t change. IE8 is going to be in 3-4 years what IE6 currently is: a web browser that keeps the web under its technical capacities. And as opposed to IE6, we won’t be able to say “hey, upgrade your browser” (because of the XP problem).

Potential solution

From the user perspective, IE6 or IE8 didn’t make that much of a difference besides the speed (which count a lot) and cleaner look. This time can be highly different. There are a lot of features which aren’t available in IE8 that can change the web app experience. Rich graphics (Canvas, SVG), offline web app, WebWorkers, fileAPI, WebSocket (hopefully, the protocol will be fixed soon) to name a few are either hard or impossible to emulate with JavaScript. Depending on how ready web developers are to loose a few visitors, they can use in their app the subset of features that are also implemented in IE9 (to support it, since IE10 should be released in a half billion year) and say to their IE8 (and below) visitors that they should change their web browser. A short video could easily explain and show what the website could do and say that their current browser cannot do it.

Alternative future: Flash to compensate

A lot of people are expecting new open web app technologies (HTML & CSS next generation, rich graphics, video, audio) to kick Flash’s ass. One should not forget that Flash has at least the merit of having all its features supported in all web browsers and I’m afraid that having IE8 around will be the occasion for Flash to continue shining with a lot of very fancy features in all web browsers. And Flash may become again a first choice to develop a web app since it will cost less to have the same very fancy app working in all web browsers.

Conclusion

IE8 becoming the next IE6 seems quite sure already. Encouraging visitors to move on by using today or very soon new open web technologies (supported by IE9) and creating a small video (hosted on youtube, dailymotion, vimeo, whatever) seems to be a good plan to make the web go forward.

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