Web Browser Upgrade Cycles (Update: including Webkit browsers)

Okay, my last post was purely editorial, so this one is going to be purely observational, with no editorial commentary. These graphs show how the two most popular browsers (MSIE and Firefox) compare in terms of new-version uptake, among users of a website that I maintain. From looking at these graphs, it is clear that new Firefox versions achieve, on average, much more punctual uptake than new MSIE versions. This is apparent despite the fact that the graph skews things significantly in MSIE's favor by using version numbers (as opposed to release dates), even though Firefox versions are released much more frequently.

Firefox 2.0 was released in October 2006; MSIE 6 was released more than twice as long ago, in August of 2001. IE 7 was released in October of 2006, around the same time of Firefox 2.0, and has an absolutely overwhelmingly higher remaining usage share, taken as a percentage of the overall usage share for all versions of each respective browser: around twenty percent versus around half a percent during the last two months. (If you do the arithmetic naively you get 19.4% versus 0.54%, but there's significant false precision there. It's based on only two months of data for just one site, so you really have to consider the results as round, approximate figures.)

If you look at the stats for a different website, your numbers will of course vary. Nonetheless, it's very clear from these graphs that new Firefox versions are installed, on average, rather sooner than new IE versions. I could speculate on possible reasons for that difference, but for now I'll leave that as an exercise for the astute reader.

Update: Here are my graphs for the two major Webkit browsers.

Note that, with the sample size being only one site and the usage share of these browsers being smaller, these graphs can (potentially) be significantly skewed by a relatively small number of users. For example, why did usage of Safari 4.1 only become noticeable after 5.0 was released? My guess would be that this is an anomaly. At its peak, Safari 4.1 made 218 page loads from our site in a quarter. That's full page loads, not raw hits, but it could still be explained by a single user.

Still, you can definitely see a trend toward fast uptake of new versions, particularly on the Chrome graph. I could speculate on the reasons for this, but at the moment I'll refrain. If you really want to see a difference, compare the Chrome graph here to the MSIE graph up top. There's obviously a marked difference in upgrade frequency from one browser to another.

Finally, here's a version of the Firefox graph that breaks down minor versions (3.1 versus 3.0 and 3.6 versus 3.5), which is better for comparing Firefox to the Webkit browsers. The first Firefox graph, which groups minor versions, was intended for comparing against MSIE.


booniffle said...

Safari 4.1 was released at the same time as 5.0

Jonadab said...

Interesting. I didn't know that, but it goes a long way toward explaining that particular wrinkle in my data.