Is Internet Explorer up or down? Microsoft and research firm in stat spat

Web analytics firm StatCounter, which has been reporting a steady decline in Internet Explorer market share, has issued an extensive defense of its research techniques in an open letter to Microsoft’s Roger Capriotti, the IE product marketing director who previously challenged the research company’s statistical methods.

StatCounter contends that its numbers are a more accurate representation of real browser usage than those of Net Applications, a competing research firm that shows an increase in Internet Explorer usage over the same time period.

Among other things, StatCounter cites its sample size of 3 million websites (compared with 40,000 for Net Applications) and says its assessment of browser usage in China is a better representation of actual usage there. The company also explains its use of page views and other techniques it uses to determine browser market share.

The post concludes, “At the end of the day Roger, whether you like it or not, we’re telling you this: On a sample exceeding 15 billion page views per months to over 3 million global websites IE is not doing very well… Don’t shoot the messenger though Roger! We just record the stats.”

Alon Zakai, a platform engineer for Mozilla Firefox, disputes StatCounter’s contention about the superiority of its sample size, based on the laws of statistics.

Microsoft issued this statement on the StatCounter post …

We stand by our assessment that Net Applications provides a more accurate analysis of the browser landscape. To give just one example, we simply cannot rely on a data source that suggests there are only 23 million Chinese citizens online. (StatCounter global market share for China shows 1.17% of the world internet traffic when reliable data from The World Bank puts that number at 460 million. Other sources like CNNIC puts it at 513 million at the end of 2011, and Internet World Stats puts it at 420 million in 2010).

It is also unfortunate that StatCounter decided to respond to our critique of their data by staging a personal attack on one of our employees. We believe in a healthy dialogue and personal attacks in a professional environment are unwarranted.

Internet Explorer has been facing increasing competition from Google Chrome, which StatCounter showed overtaking IE in global market share in May, the first time Chrome has claimed that status for a calendar month. Net Applications showed Internet Explorer still well ahead of Chrome in desktop market share for the same month.

Microsoft has been seeking to direct attention to the growth of its latest browser, IE9, on Windows 7.

[Chart via StatCounter]

 

  • http://twitter.com/statcountergs StatCounter GS

    We’re sorry to see
    that despite our detailed and extensive explanation, this Microsoft
    spokesperson still doesn’t appear to understand browser usage market share
    data.

    We are also baffled by the comment re a “personal attack”. Roger
    Capriotti wrote a blog post about our service and we responded with an open
    letter to him. Our letter was extremely polite and professional – as are all
    our communications with him – no “attack” involved.

    According to your post Microsoft states: “We simply cannot rely on a data
    source that suggests there are only 23 million Chinese citizens online.”

    We suggest no such thing!

    We’re not sure how we can explain this to Microsoft any more clearly – it is
    NOT appropriate to base browser usage stats on users. Please re-read this section
    of our letter: http://gs.statcounter.com/press/open-letter-ms#usage-stats

    Furthermore, the CIA Internet User data (which Microsoft has endorsed) does NOT
    distinguish between people who access the internet several times per day and
    those who only go online once every few months. This means that the data vastly
    overstates the influence of China, for example, when compared to appropriate
    data sources which measure actual web usage e.g. Cisco.

    In fact, when you use a more appropriate measure which reflects the actual web
    usage per country, China’s relative weighting compared to the US plummets.
    Basically the Microsoft decision to advocate inappropriate weighting data based
    on users means that people in China who access the internet a few times a year
    are inflating the IE stats and that’s just not correct on any level.

    We would also welcome a response from Microsoft on our adjusted numbers as
    outlined in our letter. We geo weighted our stats (according to their
    preference and despite our own objections to this methodology). These adjusted
    numbers are calculated with the CIA data exactly as desired by Microsoft. We
    continue to show a decline in IE with this geo weighting adjustment applied. http://gs.statcounter.com/press/open-letter-ms#differences-netstat

    • guest

      Your response comes off as personal and frankly juvenile with its catty references to Chrome, etc. His stuck to comparing two companies and their alternative approaches to measurement. Oh, and your sample size argument is statistically bs. But then others have already noted that.
      That aside, if Chrome hasn’t already overtaken IE then is soon will. So rather than splitting hairs with measurement agencies, MS should be trying to figure out what to do in order to reverse that.

      • http://twitter.com/fijiaaron Aaron Evans

        Get back to work, or you’ll be V- next year.

        • guest

          Should you be doing something useful? Like figuring out who actually owns Expedia these days instead of making a fool of yourself?

  • Guest

    Does it really matter whether IE’s market share is up or down? IE, like all browsers, supports HTML5 and CSS3, which means it works with every web site. Microsoft makes no money from its success and loses no money from its decline.

    Frankly, I’d like for Steve Ballmer to simply stop development on IE for Windows and focus on it for Windows Phone and Xbox 360, areas where no competing browsers exist. IE for Windows is a cost center, not a profit center.

    • guest

      Steve already stopped development on IE for more than five years, which is what started IE’s decline. And while IE is a cost center, it’s also the number one app most people use, be it on computers, tablets, or phones. If everyone moves to Chrome, for example, that helps Google compete against Windows with Chrome OS. If you’re browser implementation is sub-standard because you’re stuck with a 3rd parties browser, your OS is at a disadvantage. Investing again in IE is the right move. But the IE team hasn’t done nearly enough and their release cadence is simply ridiculous relative to Apple or Google.
      Regarding this story, Statcounter’s sample size argument is bogus. But the conclusion that IE continues to lose share is correct.

      • guest

        Should read *browsers* are the number one app people use, not IE specifically

      • Guest

        Microsoft makes as much money from IE as they do from Notepad, Calculator, Solitaire, Windows Media Player, and the other utility apps we all use on a daily basis, and as such they should all have equal billing in the strategy chart.

        I don’t think Microsoft fears Chrome OS taking over, by the way. The market has spoken and consumers don’t want to spend $400 on a laptop that is useless when it loses its wi-fi signal.

        • guest

          Notepad isn’t a strategically important app, nor is it something most people spend much time on daily. A browser is.
          MS didn’t fear iPhone, iPad, or Android either.

          • Guest

            Tell me how Internet Explorer is “strategically important.” If everyone using IE today used Chrome tomorrow, how would Microsoft suffer? How much is an IE user worth, in dollars, to Microsoft?

          • guest

            MS has already suffered in perception by losing 50% of the browser market. They’d suffer on the OS side when using Chrome browser eventually make using Chrome OS an easier sell, the same way getting hooked on Gmail made it easier to switch people to Gapps.

          • Guest

            Microsoft makes money from Android and, when Office for iOS launches this year, from iPhone and from iPad. Microsoft loses money on Internet Explorer for Windows, and for that reason Microsoft should not develop this product.