Category: Browsers

The Performance Implications of Android Dominance

When working with customers in Europe or who serve their data in the US and Europe, I am stunned when they ask why their performance is so much slower in certain European countries compared to the US.

Glimpsing at some publicly available stats (thank you Statcounter!), the reason is clear: Android is the dominant Mobile platform in Europe.

Mobile OS Breakdown – Europe – March 2021 to March 2022

This doesn’t hold true everywhere in Europe – in the UK (yes, it is still in Europe!), Android and iOS have nearly equal Mobile device market share.

Mobile OS Breakdown – UK – March 2021 to March 2022

But in Germany, the divide is vast, with Android clearly dominating the playing field.

Mobile OS Breakdown – Germany – March 2021 to March 2022

But there is yet another divide that is greater than even the Android/iOS split – the Android version difference. Depending on the country, your performance could be dependent entirely upon the versions of Android that the visitors use.

Starting with Germany in Q1 2022, Android usage is dominated by the three latest OS versions: 10, 11, and 12.

Android OS Breakdown – Germany – 2022-01-17 to 2022-03-27

But in countries like Spain and France, Android/9 is still a prevalent OS. This version of Android runs on much older hardware and is more likely to experience degraded performance compared to those running 11 or 12.

Android OS Breakdown – Spain – 2022-01-17 to 2022-03-27
Android OS Breakdown – France – 2022-01-17 to 2022-03-27

For teams trying to design performant web sites, this is a critical piece of information. While Mobile is the dominant platform, sites need to be designed to deliver excellent user experiences for all visitors. And in Europe, this means Android users.

What can you do?

  • Focus on rendering – Get your critical content and functionality on the page as quickly as possible. Items that are secondary (ads, tracking, marketing, etc.) can be delayed
  • Reduce your JS as much as possible – Older Android versions struggle with hardware limitations, so reducing the upfront JS processing will be critical
  • Optimize your images – Sounds simple enough, but using an image management service that provides the right image for the device that is viewing the content will make your site device appropriate

And, most importantly, use an Android device. If you make your development team use Android for a week, they might get the message that they need to do more to reach into this neglected Mobile population.

If you’re a browser geek like I am, check out this post I wrote in 2009 about the browser stats. The world is a very different place now.

Compression and the Browser – Who Supports What?

The title is a question I ask because I hear so many different views and perspectives about HTTP compression from the people I work with, colleagues and customers alike.

There appears to be no absolute statement about the compression capabilities of all current (or in-use) browsers anywhere on the Web.
My standard line is: If your customers are using modern browsers, compress all text content — HTML (dynamic and static), CSS, XML, and Javascript. If you find that a subset of your customers have challenges with compression (I suggest using a cross-browser testing tool to determine this before your customers do), write very explicit regular expressions into your Web server or compression device configuration to filter the user-agent string in a targeted, not a global, way.

For example, last week I was on a call with a customer and they disabled compression for all versions of Internet Explorer 6, as the Windows XP pre-SP2 version (which they say you could not easily identify) did not handle it well. My immediate response (in my head, not out loud) was that if you had customers using Window XP pre-SP2, those machines were likely pwned by the Russian Mob. I find it very odd that an organization would disable HTTP compression for all Internet Explorer 6 visitors for the benefit of a very small number of ancient Windows XP installations.

Feedback from readers, experts, and browser manufacturers that would allow me to compile a list of compatible browsers, and any known issues or restrictions with browsers, would go a long way to resolving this ongoing debate.

UPDATE: Aaron Peters pointed me in the direction of BrowserScope which has an extensive (exhaustive?) list of browsers and their capabilities. If you are seeking the final word, this is a good place to start, as it tests real browsers being used by real people in the real world.

UPDATE – 09/24/2012: I found a site today that was still configured incorrectly. Please, please, check your HTTP Compression settings for ALL browsers your customers use. Including you MOBILE clients.

Browser Wars: July was not a month for revolutions

Once again it is time to analyze browser usage in the US for the last month. July saw the appearance of Firefox 3.5, which has replicated the pattern seen with Internet Explorer 8, where it supplants the previous version slowly and linearly as people get around to upgrading.

Can MSIE 8 overtake MSIE 7 in August? How much will Firefox 3.5 usage grow in August and will it replace FF 3.0 as the dominant version in the Firefox family?


As with previous analyses, Internet Explorer 6 retains its iron grip on the corporate, custom Web application market. The question is not when, but if, this browser will actually fade away. It is unlikely that Internet Explorer 6 will disappear until Windows 2000 and Windows XP percentages are in serious decline.

This points to a larger concern that organizations will have to face within the next 18 months: What do they do when the Windows 2000 lifecycle terminates in July 2010 and as Windows XP sees fewer updates moving toward lifecycle retirement in 2014? [See the Microsoft LifeCycle information here]

Hiding from the inevitable just makes changes that much more dramatic and difficult.

It is not likely that the patterns in the StatCounter data will change until the summer vacation season is over in the US, and students bring their shiny new computers online at the start of the school year.

Browser Wars: June was an interesting month

June is one of my favorite months. The sun returns (although in the Boston area there are concerned that it has been replaced by clouds and humidity), the kids get out of school (and get sent to camp), and the outdoor pool opens (and I actually swim in it).

In the US browser market, Internet Explorer 8 continues its slow replacement of Internet Explorer 6 and 7, finally overtaking MSIE 6 on June 11 [Stats courtesy of StatCounter].


The great news is that Internet Explorer 6 is slowly falling of the pace, relegated to large companies with proprietary code and a degree of inertia that impedes their movement to accepting new browsers.

The two-month trend does show some very dramatic changes, most notably with Internet Explorer 7 and Firefox 3.


While these changes appear dramatic, the lack of absolute values to base the StatCounter graphs on means that it’s very difficult to determine if these values are a result of a shift in the actual browser market, or a result in decreasing numbers of visitors to sites with the StatCounter tracking code.

Worldwide for June, the primary trend is that the decrease in Internet Explorer 7 is matched almost precisely by the increase in the use of Internet Explorer 8.


Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 6 remained almost completely unchanged through June, indicating that the US trend is very different than that seen throughout the rest of the world. The tracking trend indicates that Firefox 3 could have overtaken Internet Explorer 7 by the end of July.

Could have is used purposely here, as the release of Firefox 3.5 will fragment the market share for this browser, and it is not likely that it will match the stats for Firefox 3 immediately.

Despite all the claims that the browser war is over, and that applications have moved beyond the browser, it is highly unlikely that this dream will be realized in the consumer browser market until late 2010, when the effect of Windows 7 can be seen on the use of Internet Explorer 8 .

Overall, June 2009 was a month of substantial shifts in the US browser market, which will be further aggravated with the release of Firefox 3.5, and the slow and steady adoption of Internet Explorer 8 by consumer and business users.

UPDATE: TechCrunch has noted the ongoing shifts to the browser share market [here].

Browser Wars: Internet Explorer 8 Usage in US Now Tied with Internet Explorer 6

This week marks a momentous time in the history of the Internet. In the United States, StatCounter reports that for the first three days of the work week (Monday – Friday), Internet Explorer 8 usage is equal to Internet Explorer 6 usage.


Tie this to the trend of decreasing Internet Explorer usage noted late last week and the release of Firefox 3.5 RC1 and Safari 4.0 and Opera 10 in the last few weeks, and it appears that the balance of browser usage on the Internet is becoming more fluid.

Does this mean that standards will become more relevant? Can you truly count on limiting customers to one browser?

Will browser lock-in for certain applications continue to be considered acceptable?

Browser Wars – Internet Explorer 7 Use Collapses in the US

I have been monitoring this trend for a couple of weeks to see if it remained constant, and it appears to be a real thing. Since the end of May 2009, Internet Explorer 7’s browser share in the US has collapsed, with a requisite increase in the use of Firefox 3.0.


This is a staggering change. Either this is an artifact of the way that StatCounter is capturing browser data or a very large organization(s) suddenly switched the default browser that it allowed its customers to use.

Does anyone have any insight into why this may have occurred?

Browser Wars: The Slow Rise of Internet Explorer 8

Since its GA release on March 19 and its addition to Windows Update in late April, Internet Explorer 8 has been gradually increasing its market share in the US. Based on the current growth pattern in StatCounter’s GlobalStats data, it appears that Internet Explorer 8 will overtake Internet Explorer 6 sometime in late May or early June.

StatCounter Browser Stats - US - 03/01/09-05/11/09

In other parts of the world, the adoption of the new version of Internet Explorer is substantially slower, and affected by regional differences in the browser population. Europe is notable in this as MSIE8 has just overtaken Opera 9.6 in the browser population in the last week.

StatCounter Browser Stats - EU - 03/01/09 - 05/11/09

In Asia, Internet Explorer 8 has moved into fourth in browser share, but is a substantially lower percentage of the population than the top three browsers. In a frightening statistic, Internet Explorer 6 is the most popular browser in Asia, indicating that path to adoption may be longer in this region.

StatCounter Browser Stats - Asia - 03/01/09 - 05/11/09

Overall the adoption of this new browser as a replacement for Internet Explorer 6 and 7 is slow and steady. MSIE8 does not appear to be significantly cutting into the Firefox population, but this could change as people begin to hear more about the features of the new browser, and Web sites begin to be designed to its features, rather than those of MSIE6 and MSIE7.

Browser Wars: Why Internet Explorer 6 Still Exists

At CNet News today, the article What browser wars? The enterprise still loves IE 6 nicely sums all the reasons that Internet Explorer 6 is still in use in enterprise environments. The dominance of Internet Explorer 6 in the workplace is something I discussed a few days ago, supported by the pattern of higher weekday use of this browser during the work-week.

Limiting employees to a browser that is considered an ancient technology by Web developers poses an interesting dichotomy to companies. Internally, they are powering their internal applications with coal and steam, and turning the cogs of business with leather drive-belts. Externally, the customers get to see a site that is shiny, one that has all the gadgets of a rich-Internet application that require the computationally advanced capabilities of a modern browsers.

To some extent, the companies who use Internet Explorer 6 internally are saying to their employees that the Internet is simply another desktop application that they must use.

I am firm believer that the Web will be the home of many of the applications we use on a daily basis in the very near future [here and here]. My vision of this is that the Web application is designed to free the user, and lessen the workload for IT departments.

Most organizations continue to see the Internet as a negative, a threat to productivity, a necessary evil. So if they restrict their employees and provide them with a browser that doesn’t quite work properly on the Internet, they still have ultimate control.

I have had the benefit of working for organizations throughout my professional career that did (do) not limit my choice of browser or operating system, allowing me to find my own preference. I realize that this is rare in corporate Industrial Culture, and I consider myself lucky.

So, why is their still a need for Internet Explorer 6? Frankly, there is really no need for it in my opinion, and the CNet News article has a table from Forrester that supports that. That doesn’t mean that my browser idealism and utopian dream of “may the best browser win” will hold any sway over the IT decision makers in large organizations.

StatCounter still shows that during the week, Internet Explorer 6 holds 12% of the browser share in the US [here]. So, will this 12% of the browser world hold back the promise of the Internet for the rest of us?

Browser Wars: Internet Explorer 8.0 Released on Windows Update

While I was performing my standard Windows Update on my work virtual machine this morning, I wondered if the promised Internet Explorer 8.0 release to Windows Update had been dropped.

I switched to my test-bed, vanilla Windows XP virtual machine, ran Windows Update, and PING! Up it came. The masses of people who blindly do what Windows Update tells them to do will now be installing Internet Explorer 8 on their machines.

The interesting thing is that the only piece of software that Windows Update said was a critical Update was Internet Explorer 8.0. Given that it would be replacing Internet Explorer 7.0 on my virtual machine, how bad was Internet Explorer 7? Are they trying to push MSIE6 and MSIE7 out of the way ASAP?

Today should see a large number of new installs of Internet Explorer 8, either on purpose or inadvertently by those folks who install everything that Microsoft tells them to. I will be monitoring StatCounter’s GlobalStats over the next few days to see if there is a spike in, most notably, US installs of Internet Explorer 8.

Just as a sidebar, Internet Explorer 8, without the support of Windows Update, has increased from 3.5% to 6.28% of the browser share in the US (3.33% to 6.2% in North America; 2.65% to 4.4% Worldwide) in the April 1-28 2009 period. [Stats courtesy of StatCounter GlobalStats]

I can’t make a lot of comments about the quality of browsing experience in one version of Internet Explorer over another; I have been a dedicated Firefox user on Mac, and a Safari user on Windows (yes, that is weird) for a while. But the desire to move as many people as quickly as possible to a new browser speaks volumes to where Microsoft thinks the Web is going. And they realize that it is not going in the direction that its older browsers had been taking it.

Further Updates will follow.

UPDATE: A colleague forwarded me this article on the release of Internet Explorer 8 to Windows Update. Effectively, you still have to go through the Web interface and agree to download the new browser. It’s not being pushed down onto Windows users through the automatic update built into the OS, no doubt to placate the glacially-slow IT departments I mentioned here.

Browser Wars: The Unique Pattern Of MSIE 6.0

Internet Explorer 6.0, that infamous dinosaur from the dark ages of 2001, is still with us. And on occasion, I have hinted that this is the result of the biblically-slow pace of change in large corporate IT departments.

Well, now I have proof of this.

Using data from our good friends at StatCounter, this graph leaped from the screen and nearly exploded my mind.

statCounter-USA- APRIL1-262009

The pattern in the data is clear, if you are paying attention, which I haven’t been. The dips that appear in the Internet Explorer stats occur on weekends.
That means that many of the Internet Explorer 6.0 users are only using it because it is forced on them by their IT departments.


Dear IT professionals of the world: Internet Explorer 6.0 is an exploit waiting to happen and a barrier to inventive Web development. Please upgrade. Thank you.

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