For many readers, Talk of the Sound is the first blog they have knowingly visited and for a large number of contributors the first site to which they have contributed content -- articles, comments, photos and so forth. Many are not computer-savvy and only first got motivated to learn more through their interest in participating on this site. For the rest who are experienced users this will be old hat but I have pulled some data that might interest even the most advanced users.
In the video below, Google says that most people who use computers are not clear what a web browser is or how it differs from things they know like Windows or Email. This brief video from Google explains the fundamentals.
The vast majority of computer users know relatively little and have a "take what I get" approach. Most people who have a computer at work are given a machine running Microsoft Windows operating system which comes with a browser from that same company called Microsoft Internet Explorer. Users at work are typically not allowed by their IT department to download and install new software so these users often end up using Microsoft Explorer. Not only are there many other browsers to choose from but they are updated constantly so that there are new versions to choose from even if you stick with the same brand. Despite this, due to inertia in many forms, many people are not only using the default Windows browser, Internet Explorer but using an older version, Internet Explorer 6.0.
Internet Explorer 6.0 was launched in 2001. If you are using this browser then stop and get a new one. There is now a movement which includes Microsoft to "kill" this browser with limited success.
Almost a decade and two major browser revisions after its launch, Internet Explorer 6 is almost universally criticized for its incompatibility with Web standards and its poor browser security. Despite the criticism, though, IE6 has refused to die. In fact, broken down by version, Internet Explorer 6 is still the number three browser, and has more market share than Internet Explorer 7.
For many years there were two browsers and then just one. Times have certainly changed and the floodgates opened. As noted by USA TODAY, the many different devices, uses and needs of consumers has created a world where many people are using multiple browsers over the course of a given day.
...a significant shift in how millions of Americans use browsers to traverse the Internet for information, pictures and video. A decade ago, the Web browser market was a two-horse race between Microsoft's Internet Explorer (MSFT) and Netscape Communications' Navigator. (We all know who won.) Today, it's a crowded field. Microsoft is still No. 1, but its lead in market share faces challenges from Mozilla, Google (GOOG), Apple (AAPL) and others.
Indeed, every few weeks, there seems to be a major browser announcement.
Wikipedia offers a brief history of web browsers which helps put current trends in context.
The history of the Web browser dates back in to the late 1980s, when a variety of technologies laid the foundation for the first Web browser, WorldWideWeb, by Tim Berners-Lee in 1991. That browser brought together a variety of existing and new software and hardware technologies.
The introduction of the NCSA Mosaic Web browser in 1993 – one of the first graphical Web browsers – led to an explosion in Web use. Marc Andreessen, the leader of the Mosaic team at NCSA, soon started his own company, named Netscape, and released the Mosaic-influenced Netscape Navigator in 1994, which quickly became the world's most popular browser, accounting for 90% of all Web use at its peak (AOL later bought Netscape but discontinued work on the browser).
Microsoft responded with its browser Internet Explorer in 1995 (also heavily influenced by Mosaic), initiating the industry's first browser war. By bundling Internet Explorer with Windows, Microsoft was able to leverage its dominance in the operating system market to take over the Web browser market; Internet Explorer usage share peaked at over 95% by 2002. Internet Explorer has 60% browser usage share as of September 2010 according to Net Applications, and it continues to show a negative trend.
Opera first appeared in 1996; although it has never achieved widespread use, with a browser usage share that is stable around 2.4% as of September 2010, it has a substantial share of the fast-growing mobile phone Web browser market, being preinstalled on over 40 million phones. It is also available on several other embedded systems, including Nintendo's Wii video game console.
In 1998, Netscape launched what was to become the Mozilla Foundation in an attempt to produce a competitive browser using the open source software model. That browser would eventually evolve into Firefox, which developed a respectable following while still in the beta stage of development; shortly after the release of Firefox 1.0 in late 2004, Firefox (all versions) accounted for 7.4% of browser use. As of September 2010, Firefox has a 23% usage share.
Apple's Safari had its first beta release in January 2003; it has a dominant share of Apple-based Web browsing, accounting for 5.3% of the entire browser market as of September 2010 and is slowly gaining. Its rendering engine, called WebKit, is also running in the standard browsers of several mobile phone platforms, including Apple iOS, Google Android, Nokia S60 and Palm webOS.
The most recent major entrant to the browser market is Google's Chrome, first released in September 2008. Its market share has quickly risen; as of September 2010, it has an 8% usage share and appears to be gaining further in the coming months.
The most popular browsers TODAY are Microsoft Explorer (windows only), Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Apple Safari (especially due to popularity of iphones which use a Mobile version of Safari)
For Windows users, most people use either Microsoft Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. Safari ships with Macs and iPhone and iPods. There are others that appeal to certain sorts of users for various reasons -- Opera is integrated into gaming consoles, Flock is popular with people who use twitter and other social-networking services like LinkedIn. A few weeks a new browser for Facebook called RockMelt was announced.
There is no "right" answer and the browsers are constantly being updated and developed and made better so the "best" today may not be the "best" tomorrow. Many users are chasing "speed" and so jump from one to the next as different versions make performance gains.
Most people who know better do NOT use Internet Explorer. It is often slow and clunky and full of stuff Microsoft wants to jam down users throat. They remain the biggest player (although they have lost 1/3 of their market share) because most people buy Windows machines or get the from work and "IE" comes preloaded. Many people do not know what a browser is so its no surprise that a larger number do not know they can change to a different browser.
For most experienced users the two main choices are Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. Chrome is, today, the fastest browser.
A second factor is "add-ons" or "extensions" -- Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome both allow you to add extra buttons to your browser menu that do things like check email or the weather (the weather channel offers an extension for chrome and firefox). Safari has added extensions and IE will have then soon enough.
Talk of the Sound Browser Stats
A slightly majority of Talk of the Sound visitors (52%) use Internet Explorer but just 4.8% use the old IE 6.0 browser. So, good for us!
A big surprise to me is that the second most popular browser is Safari (20.8%) which must certainly reflect the relative affluence of the area and our readers because this means a lot of Apple customers -- Macs but also iPads and iPhones -- on the site. Apple products tends to be more expensive devices. Firefox (17.5%) is third, Chrome (6.0%) is fourth.
Just in case you were wondering -- and if you read this far I know you are -- about three-quarters of visitors to Talk of the Sound are on a Windows machines, about 23% on Apple machines, about 92% on desktops or laptops and about 8% on mobile devices.
This does indicate we need to do more work to upgrade the iPhone app as our next big project.