Browser usage: could UK government finally be rid of IE6?

In what seems to have become a roughly annual tradition, I’ve just done a survey of the browser usage amongst our UK Citizen Space users. As in previous years, I took the last month’s logs from our UK-based web servers, and ran them through an open source analysis package called Visitors.

I’ve generated two different reports: one for Citizen Space’s management pages (i.e. pages that can only be accessed by logged-in admin users), and one that includes public-facing pages as well. Here are the figures for our admin users:

IE8: 43.2%; Firefox: 16.6%; Chrome: 15.5%; IE7: 15.3%; IE9: 5.7%; Safari: 3.1%; IE10: 0.5%; Other Mozilla based: 0.1%

Admin visits by browser, April 2013*

This first chart shows something wonderful: last month, nobody used Internet Explorer 6 to administer their UK Citizen Space site.

For those who don’t know, Microsoft’s venerable Internet Explorer version 6 (AKA IE6) was released back in 2001, and is notorious for rendering web pages very differently from modern, standards-compliant browsers. To support IE6, web developers have to spend a lot of time writing workarounds to make web pages display correctly in all browsers. Of course, this increases the cost of product development without benefitting those users who don’t use IE6. Last year Delib decided to stop actively supporting IE6 in our apps, and these latest figures clearly vindicate that decision.

The second chart shows visits to all Citizen Space pages, including visits from members of the public:

IE8: 20.6%; Firefox: 15.3%; Chrome: 14.6%; Unknown: 10.8%; Safari: 9.7%; Opera: 6.7%; IE7: 6.6%; IE9: 5.0%; IE6: 4.9%; IE10: 3.0%

All visits by browser, April 2013*

As you would expect, this shows a much wider range of web browsers, including a few visits from IE6. The ‘Unknown’ useragents are mostly made up of crawlers, bots, RSS feed readers and other things that aren’t conventional human-controlled web browsers.

It is interesting to compare our statistics with current worldwide browser usage. At the time of writing, Google Chrome and Firefox are the most widely used browsers, followed by IE9 and then IE8. In contrast, our stats show that IE8 is by far the most common browser used to access Citizen Space.

My theory is that most of the activity (both administration and participation) on our Citizen Space sites takes place during the working day, where people are less likely to have a choice about the software they use, and are more likely to be stuck with a slightly out-of-date standard-issue browser. Incidentally, Edd at GDS made some interesting observations about this same phenomenon last month.

* For the purposes of these statistics, a ‘visit’ comprises all the requests from a given IP address and useragent on a given day.

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