Statcounter’s Chrome Story Is Bunk

A while ago, I noticed a startling report from Statcounter had fired up interest in the mainstream media about Google Chrome beating Microsoft Internet Explorer in the “browser wars”. Statcounter claimed their research showed most Internet users now using Chrome. The report was echoed far and wide, seemingly by journalists who had no ability (or interest) in checking the claim.

This weekend, I also read in the Sunday Times (yes, sorry, Murdoch paper…) that a branding agency called Essence – who happen to be doing some work for us – are topping the Sunday Times “International Track 200”. Their profile in the paper (but not online) cites some work for Google that helped “… Google Chrome to overtake Internet Explorer as Europe’s No 1 internet browser“.

All this struck me as mighty suspicious. Sites that report usage data to Statcounter are, to apply a sterotype, mostly run by and for anoraks – that is, those most likely not only to know what a web browser is, but also to bother to install Chrome over MSIE (or even Firefox).

So I looked at our own stats on this. Our customers are normal people, mostly in a rather older (30-65) middle-class demographic, but pretty representative of the general Internet-using population. We’ve also got 85 websites in 34 languages – and pull rather a lot of traffic.

Sure enough, my suspicions were confirmed: global browser usage is nothing like that reported by Statcounter. Reports of Chrome’s dominance are hogwash. In fact, Internet Explorer commands about half of all traffic worldwide, while Firefox and Chrome duke it out for second place, followed by Safari bringing up third place.

But wait – the Times article quotes Aodhan Cullen, StatCounter’s chief executive, saying “At weekends, when people are free to choose what browser to use, many of them are selecting Chrome in preference to IE.”

So I ran the numbers for a weekend. There was no appreciable difference between weekend and mid-week usage. In the UK, Essence might have moved a few people onto Chrome, but it’s hardly threatening the Microsoft slice of the pie just yet.

It was generally the same story in most points of sale – with some exceptions. Take India. And look at India on a weekend. China, on the other hand, is the other way around!

Is this Statcounter’s smoking gun? They also have some other Indian news this year. When I investigated that from our own Omniture reports, it too came out as total baloney. Desktop browser usage in India is roughly four times that from mobile devices, as it is roughly everywhere else right now. Mind you, things might be different in a few year’s time by the way the charts are going. But now is now.

So it seems the only verifiable part of Statcounter’s Chrome story is in India at weekends.

Where, one has to ask, does Statcounter get off?