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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]


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