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I was just looking at W3Schools and Wikipedia for browser share statistics, and they report drastically different numbers for IE, especially. I understand that for all surveys, there will be some discrepancy, but the IE numbers are very different here. For September 2009, W3Schools reports: IE7: 15.3%, IE6: 12.1%, IE8: 12.2%. Wikipedia, on the other hand, reports, for September 2009, that IE has 64.66% market share, with higher values for each. Is that a significant difference that cannot be explained by margin of error issues? What's the issue here?

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As Winston Churchill once said, "Statistics are like a drunk with a lampost: used more for support than illumination." –  Molly7244 Oct 29 '09 at 1:58
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That is an awesome quote. I always said I don't believe statistics since they can always be made to say what ever you want. –  jschoen Oct 29 '09 at 2:01
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he also said: "I only believe in statistics that I doctored myself." :) –  Molly7244 Oct 29 '09 at 2:04
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lies, damn lies, and statistics. we sooo need a [damn-lies] tag. :) –  quack quixote Oct 29 '09 at 2:05
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If we're going for memorable quotes: "Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is fascinating; what they conceal is vital." –  David Thornley Oct 30 '09 at 14:16

4 Answers 4

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If you scroll down W3Schools says this is just the data collected from their site.

Browsers that count for less than 0.5% are not listed.

W3Schools is a website for people with an interest for web technologies. These people are more interested in using alternative browsers than the average user. The average user tends to use Internet Explorer, since it comes preinstalled with Windows. Most do not seek out other browsers.

These facts indicate that the browser figures above are not 100% realistic. Other web sites have statistics showing that Internet Explorer is used by at least 80% of the users.

Anyway, our data, collected from W3Schools' log-files, over a five year period, clearly shows the long and medium-term trends

Wikipedia linked to the counter who does not say how they got their data. But I assume it is from all the sites they monitor traffic stats for. They seem to be a pay service.

So it seems to depend on the sites being logged and they time of users they attract. The more tech savvy the lower the IE numbers will be.

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Maybe I'm alone here, but the first time I heard someone quote w3schools statistics I knew they wouldn't be accurate, since it's a tech-leaning site. Surprised so many people don't come to the same conclusion and keep quoting their stats like they're remotely accurate. –  DisgruntledGoat Oct 30 '09 at 16:47
    
I feel the same way, but at the same time at first glance it is not obvious that they are only reporting numbers for their site. You have to actually scroll down to find that section I quoted. So I could see where it could be confusing. –  jschoen Oct 31 '09 at 3:27

Getting "Real Statistics" is hard to achieve since many things come into play when determining accurate data. John Resig has a good article on his blog called " Determining Browser Market Share". It explains this topic better than I could here.

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There's numerous problems with trying to figure this out.

Usually, the data is collected from what the browser claims to be, and browsers are not always honest. It isn't as much of a problem anymore, but for a while there were quite a few websites that required certain browsers (mostly Internet Explorer) and enforced it with the user-agent field, so a lot of lesser-used browsers are set up to lie about what they are. For this reason, IE will tend to be overreported.

They're also collected from hits, but one hit isn't necessarily one person. Many people do their browsing using caches at some level (perhaps their company, perhaps their ISP), and so one hit on the website with one browser could result in lots of people reading that page on various browsers. The effects of this are probably random, although it may be that certain browsers have a greater tendency to be used behind proxies and caches, and hence are overreported.

There's also the question of who's using the website, since different websites have different demographics. I'd expect Linux websites to get fewer Internet Explorer users, while websites devoted to things like web design will get users who think about their web browser, and don't just use what's convenient, so they'll get more odd browsers and less IE. The average computer user will use what's there, which will normally be IE. Bear in mind that most sites interested in tracking browser types will tend to attract the more computer-literate users, and therefore will probably underreport IE usage.

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I recently published some browser statistics for two NON-technical websites that might give a more accurate picture of what the average user is using. Check it out here:

B2B Company Website (426 unique visitors)
Internet Explorer 61.9 %
FireFox 24.1 %
Netscape 1.7 %
Opera 1.4 %
Safari 7.9 %
Chrome 0.3 %
Others 2.4 %

IE 8.0 19.9 %
IE 7.0 21.6 %
IE 6.0 19.8 %
FF 3.5 10.7 %
FF 3.0 11.2 %
FF 2.0 1.2 %

Arts & Crafts Website For Moms (717 unique visitors)
Internet Explorer 70.6 %
FireFox 19 %
Netscape 0 %
Opera 0.8 %
Safari 6.9 %
Chrome 0.7 %
Others 1.6 %

IE 8.0 25.2 %
IE 7.0 32.5 %
IE 6.0 12.6 %
FF 3.5 6.2 %
FF 3.0 10.2 %
FF 2.0 1.6 %

Stats are for Sept. 2009.

http://www.blog.ofitall.com/development/browser-stats-for-non-technical-websites/

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Please don't just post a link to your blog. That belongs in your profile information. You can post the data from it, mention that it is from your blog and if people are curious they will follow the link from your profile. –  MDMarra Oct 30 '09 at 15:56
    
Ok. Thanks for the tip. I will do so in the future. –  Sherri Sep 28 '10 at 18:00

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