Assumptions and Mac browser share

Logic Lane

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years as a grown-up, it’s this: Don’t make assumptions. All too often, things I’ve thought were no-brainers turned out to be questionable at best, like:

  • John Romero will make an awesome game on his own
  • Sony and Microsoft have made Nintendo irrelevant
  • Women will find my company tolerable

I often see techie types making assumptions based on their experience, like “program A is unusable” (because on his rather oddly set-up system, it crashed on install) or “no real programmers write in Ruby” (because he doesn’t know anyone personally who do) or “only a tiny fraction of Mac users browse with Firefox” (because it’s the default browser out of the box, and average users always use the default, right?).

It was this last assertion, and the accompanying statement “I don’t have to prove something so obvious” that inspired this article. I wouldn’t have been particularly surprised if Safari had a majority of the Mac browser market, but my personal experience had been that a fair number of non-techie Mac folks use Firefox. Beyond that, I wanted to get some real data, and not make assumptions. If you can’t provide some basis for your assertions, they’re not worth much. It’s a clear sign of a bad argument, and little gets me more worked up than weak logic.

The audience for a web site has a pretty significant impact on what browsers we see visitors using. Tech-oriented sites tend to have a higher percentage of users running alternate browsers like Firefox. You’ll get more Camino users on a Mac-oriented site, and Konqueror will show up more often on sites with content for Linux users. That means we have to at least take into account the content of the site when drawing conclusions from the numbers.

Here’s what I’ve found myself, and what others have shared with me, so far. Understandably, some folks shared their stats with me asked to remain anonymous, or that the site they come from not be revealed. I’ve described them as best I can. Also note that in some cases I received just info on Mac browsers, and others I had data for all browsers. I’ve calculated a ratio and “winner” at the end of each entry.

Is this data conclusive? Of course not. It’s a small sample of a handful of sites, and not particularly popular ones at that. But, it does seem to at least indicate that Firefox may be quite a bit more popular among Mac users than I – and certainly other people – thought.

If you’d like to contribute data, just drop me a line or leave a comment.

This site, obviously strongly tech-oriented, but also gets a decent amount of sport-oriented search engine traffic

Browser % of total
Firefox/Macintosh 19.31
Safari/Macintosh 13.38

Approx ratio: 1.5/1 Firefox

Sorority web site

Non-tech focused, active site for members of sorority

Browser % of Mac
Safari/Macintosh 48.44
Firefox/Macintosh 41.78

Approx ratio: 1.1/1 Safari

Personal blog, significant tech/mac content

Browser % of Mac
Firefox/Macintosh 53.86
Safari/Macintosh 40.19

Approx ratio: 1.3/1 Firefox

Abandoned non-tech subculture site

Very low, mostly search engine traffic

Browser % of total
Firefox/Macintosh 10.75
Safari/Macintosh 10.75

Approx ratio: 1/1

Abandoned personal blog

Some tech/mac content

Browser % of total
Firefox/Macintosh 61.15
Safari/Macintosh 36.21

Approx ratio: 1.7/1 Firefox

New sports blog

Browser % of total
Safari/Macintosh 50.74
Firefox/Macintosh 45.92

Approx ratio: 1.1/1 Safari

Abandoned sports web site

Very low, mostly search engine traffic

Browser % of total
Safari/Macintosh 3.43
Firefox/Macintosh 1.75

Approx ratio: 2/1 Safari

Low-traffic, non-tech site

Browser % of Mac
Firefox/Macintosh 74.15
Safari/Macintosh 25.85

Approx ratio: 3/1 Firefox

  • Thomas
    12/29/2007 12:11:48 AM

    Very interesting post. I was watching the exchange that prompted this post, and I too was intrigued by the claim. I did a little searching via Google and the only data I could quickly find was overall browser and OS market share reports. The numbers I saw indicated a 6% Mac OS share and a 5% Safari share. Combining these, you get about a 17% share of non-Safari browsers on Mac OS.

    I don’t put any stock in those numbers, I was just interested in what data was out there since a 10% or less share for Firefox on Macs seemed low to me. I find your data more compelling, and more in line with what I would expect, although that of course means little.

    Thanks for the post.

  • Adam
    01/09/2008 09:58:11 AM

    Hehe. Logic Lane. Very good!

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