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In fog of browser wars, the victor varies with the metrics

John P. Mello Jr. | June 3, 2013
NetMarketShare says Microsoft's IE is top dog, while StatCounter crowns Chrome the king in the competitive browser market.

browser war

In a classic example of lies, damn lies, and statistics, two research companies have released studies showing completely different leaders in the browser war.

According to NetMarketShare, Internet Explorer had more than half (56.9 percent) the market share in browsers in May. Meanwhile, market watcher StatCounter calculated that Chrome was top dog in May, with more than 40 percent of the market.

Why the discrepancy? It's all in how the two outfits calculate their numbers.

Methods, meanings vary
NetMarketShare, which bases its numbers on traffic to about 40,000 sites, measures unique visits to those sites. No matter how many times you visit one of those sites during a day, the company will count it as one visit. It also weighs its numbers by region, so browser usage from countries that typically produce more web traffic will have a greater impact on NetMarketShare's numbers.

netmarketshare browsers may 2013
NetMarketShare bases its report on the number of unique visits to about 40,000 sites.

StatCounter, which samples data from some three million websites, uses page views to calculate a browser's market share, so users may be counted multiple times when they visit a website monitored by the firm. StatCounter's numbers are also "raw." It doesn't weight the findings or apply other manipulation to correct the figures for data-gathering anomalies.

statcounter browsers may 2013
StatCounter uses page-view data from about three million websites to calculate a browser's market share.

Both methods have pluses and minuses, but the bottom line is that market share means different things to the two companies.

An ongoing skew is that Internet Explorer comes with every copy of Windows. A user needs to make an affirmative choice to install and run another browser — especially in the U.S.

In Europe, however, Microsoft settled charges of anticompetitive business practices pursued by the European Commission by agreeing in 2009 to install browser choice screens with a menu selection of browsers.

And, as always, already having a large market share helps build a larger one. Users of the popular Gmail service by Google are frequently invited to try its Chrome browser.

Newer versions of IE are gaining traction
Within the context of their different methodologies, the browser-counters identified some interesting trends for May.

NewMarketShare uncovered progress by Internet Explorer toward the newest version of the browser. It found IE 10's market share (9.26 percent) finally passed the combined share of the two oldest versions of the application in the market: IE 6 (6.03 percent) and IE 7 (1.78 percent).


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