The Adoption Rate of Internet Explorer 7

Web developers and designers have been dealing with the shortcomings of Internet Explorer 5+ for Windows for the last few years. Working around problems like the box model, double float margins, and so on have caused too many a designer migraine.

The promise of the numerous CSS enhancements in Internet Explorer 7 should put to the rest (most of) all hacks and workarounds.

With the WinIE7, the question arises: “When will Internet Explorer 7 get here?” Sure, we have the conference promoting the browser with the necessary promotional material, but when will others outside our industry start using the IE7? When will this new browser become something web developers will absolutely need to worry about when crafting their site designs?

Refining the Question

Depending on whom you ask (and when you asked), the release of Internet Explorer 7 will be arriving along with Windows Vista in January 2007. (Well, that’s the last I read about the launch date anyway.)

So, is January 2007 the date and time web developers need to make sure everything is ready to go for WinIE7?

While web developers will be the first to adopt the browser (if they haven’t already started tweaking with the beta release), a browser doesn’t simply come out of beta on Day 1 and start massaging the pulsating temples of weary web developers. It takes time for market penetration.

So, the questions is, “when will your users start using Internet Explorer 7?”

Finding the Answer

One way of estimating when to care about Microsoft’s new browser is to find more about the adoption rate of the current Internet Explorer over its predecessor. In other words, how long did it take for IE6 to make a difference over IE5? (For the purpose of this article, I’m combining IE5.5 with IE5.)

According to Wikipedia, Internet Explorer came out in August 27, 2001. Yes, you read that right. It’s been five years between major browser versions, if IE7 launches this year.

Now knowing the launch date of the browser, I needed some site statistics around the same time that IE6 launched.

Since I haven’t been running my own site in a consistent fashion–one year it’s a blog, one year it’s a static page, then the next year it’s a static page, now it’s a blog in need of a redesign–I couldn’t use my own site statistics.

I came across a couple of sites that publish an archive of their browser statistics. If you have been a web developer for some time, I’m sure you’ve come across their material as well.

The first site I came across was W3C Schools. They thankfully have set their statics in a nice table making it easy for me to skim for the information I was looking for.

Their browser stats shows that in 2002, IE6 support went from 30% to over 50% in the span of eleven months. At the same time, IE5 went from over 50% to less than 30% in usage. However, their statistics start after the launch of IE6. So, while interesting to note, the data is not much help to answer the question.

The next site I looked at was Engineering WorkStations from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Internet Explorer Browser Statistics from EWS Web Server
Time WinIE5(%) WinIE6(%) WinIE5 %Drop WinIE6 %Rise
Aug-01 90.6 0

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Sep-01 85.1 9.5 -5.5 9.5
Oct-01 80.4 14.8 -4.7 5.3
Nov-01 76 19.4 -4.4 4.6
Dec-01 71.3 24.6 -4.7 5.2
Jan-02 66.8 29.4 -4.5 4.8
Feb-02 62.2 34.6 -4.6 5.2
Mar-02 59.2 37.8 -3 3.2
Apr-02 55.3 42.1 -3.9 4.3
May-02 52.8 44.8 -2.5 2.7
Jun-02 49.8 47.9 -3 3.1
Jul-02 49.3 48.8 -0.5 0.9

Sep-02 43.6 55.1 -3.2 3.5
Oct-02 41.2 57.6 -2.4 2.5
Nov-02 39.3 59.7 -1.9 2.1

Some Analysis (Or, Truly Wild Assumptions)

  • IE6 registered almost 10% share in its second month.
  • The average drop in Internet Explorer 5 was 3.42%.
  • The average rise in Internet Explorer 6 adoption was 3.98%.
  • It took about a year before Internet Explorer 6 overtook version 5 as the main browser.

What’s interesting to me is how fast Internet Explorer 6 became on the radar for EWS. This could be for a lot of reasons we’re not privy to, but if I did have to guess as to the cause of the early adoption rate, I would wager it’s that the researchers at an engineering school are more inclined to update their machines than most of corporate America.

So, if we are to care about making our sites suitable for IE7, we have one month after the launch of IE7 to get the sites tested and prepared before not doing anything becomes a serious problem. Also, it will mean we will have to support the IE6 for at least a year after IE7’s release.

But even with the strong adoption, it still took a year for Internet Explorer 6 to become the dominant browser. (If you are Microsoft, you didn’t care because you own both IE5 and 6.)

What’s Your Number?

These statistics give a biased result. Like the W3C Schools, this EWS source probably serves a technical savvy audience. And they work great for EWS. Since they are their statistics, they can make predictions and plans based off them without fear they are off. For the rest of us, that’s not the case.

To get hard date for your own site, you will check the log files to determine what browsers are being used. Make the determination of when you should start preparing for Internet Explorer 7.

So, if you have a site that’s been around since August 2001. Take a look through your own log files and discover the adoption rate of IE6 over IE5.

  • How long did it take for IE6 to gain 5% browser share? 10%?
  • How long did it take for IE6 to become the dominant browser your visitors use?

Once you find out the answers, please post them in the comments to let myself and other people know too.

12 thoughts on “The Adoption Rate of Internet Explorer 7

  1. Matt, while Firefox is a good browser making great strides in market share, I’m not that optimistic about its impact two years from now.

    Microsoft has thrown its weight behind the launch of Internet Explorer 7. They’ve committed to building an unprecendeted buzz for a browser: a full-blown conference in Las Vegas, Web design celebrities, keynote by Bill Gates, etc.

    If this showing is an indication of what they are capable of for vaporware, then when IE7 does launch and become a reailty who knows what Microsoft has planned. Whatever it is, I don’t think Firefox has the monetary resources to combat it.

    Nonetheless, if I were a member of the Firefox team, I would be pulling out all the stops before the end of the year when IE7 is supposedly launching.

  2. However, one thing that hasn’t been discussed in this article is whether or not the glaring security issues that always haunt IE will improve with IE7. I think that is how Firefox got its toehold in the browser arena and may be able to keep it.

    It seems every version of IE has been a nightmare when it comes to security, will this one be any different? Fortunately for me, I’m on a mac using Firefox and don’t ever have to worry about security issues of IE, however, the majority of people surfing the net are using IE but Firefox is closing the gap. Just because MS throws money, time and glitz behind their new browser doesn’t mean it will be any better in terms of security.

  3. Jen, I don’t think the security issues about Windows or WinIE7 will slowdown the adoption rate of the new browser.

    From what I’ve been reading is that Microsoft is putting a lot of PR on the security issues related to the browser. So, they are addressing those fears to their consumers who actually care about it or know enough to be concerned.

    However, there are many, many organizations where they only use, for one reason or another, Microsoft products. Switching to a non-MS browser would be difficult for them to do, believe it or not.

    The only thing I can think that would slow down the strong adoption rate of WinIE7 is if there is a severe security flaw in the browser being exploited within days of the launch date. Yet, this setback will only be temporary. Microsoft still has the money and infrastructure to push the new browser (or any software) out to the market expeditiously.

  4. You have to be careful comparing 2001 adoption rate to 2006/7. People are on the internet far more than they were back then, they’ve also learnt a lot more. Also, you have to wonder if Microsoft will make IE7 a critical update and push it out to users that way…

  5. I just wish IE7 was better than it actually is. It seems insane that they haven’t made it fully standards compliant. Everyone would be happy if it was more secure and content rendered consistently across all browsers – the amount of time and money that must be wasted on trying to get things to work in IE must be unbelievable.

    As MS are pushing this as a high-priority update I think people will get it pretty quick, I reckon it’s probably the big corporations that are going to be the slowest. We’ll probably see people wondering why all sorts of layouts are broken in IE7, and the irony of how the people still doing old-fashioned table-layouts working fine… I digress

  6. @Steve: Automatic Update definitely will increase the adoption rate as I mentioned in my Web Visions presentation. Also, coupled with the release of Vista OS, IE7 should help Microsoft take back some of the ground it gave up to Firefox rather quickly.

  7. Microsoft has done a lot to speed up the delivery process with automatic updates and and critical updates right in your face until you install them over the years. I think the IE7 update will be high priority, and i think the spread will be fierce. Especially with the release of Vista, this is Microsofts chance to keep us interested. Unfortunately it seems they’re just trying to keep consumers happy, and developers/designers at bay. Firefox is still my browser of choice. Hopefully Vista will be good. It certainly has some nice eye candy, and Office 2007 is a tremendous improvement, so I’m still holding judgement on the future of MS.

  8. I loved reading this:
    “Matt, while Firefox is a good browser making great strides in market share, I’m not that optimistic about its impact two years from now.” – April 2006

    As a web developer, I, too, was optimistic about IE7. Since IE7 is not a rewrite of the original code, but rather a hack of previous poor code, it’s still the same piece of garbage, it’s just garbage with paint on it. You can still trigger many of the same bugs that IE6 had, even if it’s a little more difficult to do.

    Two years from your statement is coming up fast (April 2008), and I think Firefox will grow in leaps and bounds in that time, and Internet Explorer will continue to sink and sink. IE8 is coming up, too, but I’m done with optimism about this browser, as it is consistently lower than expectations. Sure, IE will probably stay in the game, but they will never be at 95% again.

  9. I’m curious to see when the US military will begin to roll into IE7. They seem horridly behind the times when it comes to web technology. We work to make sure things are functional for both IE7 and IE6 but I have noticed that by trying to keep things consistant in IE6 that it is FULL of bugs and nightmares that require javascript hacks to get around.

    IE7 works a lot like Fireworks and runs a lot faster than Fireworks. It is also innertly compatible with a lot of other Microsoft products we use. To make Fireworks work in a corporate environment we at least had to do a lot of manipulation to make that browser even function.

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