Musings of an anonymous geek

February 22, 2007

Safari isn’t that popular, and a neat Google search

Filed under: Technology — m0j0 @ 11:15 am

Some number of *months* ago now, someone tried to justify my supporting Safari in a web application by saying “Safari is the most popular browser on the Mac”. That person further asserted that as Macs become more popular, Safari is also sure to become more popular. Now, I use a Mac, and I know lots of other Mac users, and I don’t know anyone *except* for this person who uses Safari.

Of course, that’s unfair. Most people I know running Macs are geeks. Geeks can’t stand Safari. In spite of claims that Safari is “the most compliant browser”, the fact is that Safari is as compliant as Konqueror, and most people do *not* use Konqueror. The reason is because no matter how much geeks like standards and compliance and all that, they’re not going to *not* use Web 2.0 applications that the rest of the digital Earth is using because this *one* browser doesn’t handle JavaScript in a way that every other browser does. Indeed, there are standards, and then there are, you know… “standards”.

Anyway, I’m supporting Safari. Whatever. It’s not that hard for what I’m doing I guess (yet). But it still bothers me that someone is so willing to latch on to the glossy marketing and assume that it’s gospel with absolutely nothing in terms of numbers to back that up. So I held an informal poll. I asked a whole bunch of friends in sysadmin IRC channels if they could provide me with the percentage of their Mac users using Safari vs. those not using Safari. I specified that I did not want statistics from geeky/technical sites, because I’m happy to assume that those samples would be skewed.

I got quite a few responses from people happy to tell me their numbers. A few even linked me directly to the statistics for their site. That led me to a cool thought: there’s already mountains of free web user agent statistics out there on the web – you just have to *find* it, which brings us, of course, to google. Want to see the webalizer page for a whole bunch of web sites? Type this in as your search term:

“Usage statistics for” allinurl: webalizer

You’ll get back a list of links to webalizer pages for those sites that choose not to protect access to them. However, most sites use webalizer only to record the top 15 browsers/platform combinations, and Safari many times doesn’t make it on the list. In its defense, this is due to the crawler agents and the thousand versions of Windows out there that make for lots of different browser/platform combos. So I added “safari” to my search and got back a lot more useful information.

In short, I looked at webalizer statistics for about 12 sites that are not technology-heavy content producers. I also got numbers directly from admins of about 5 sites that are also non-technical. That’s where the science ends. I did not tabulate numbers and do all kinds of work to figure this out – I’ll leave that for someone with time. What I was able to discern from looking at the data, though, is that, while the race is somewhat close, Safari is *not* “the most popular browser on the Mac”. Firefox is.

I’d *LOVE* to see a more useful statistical analysis than this to get s’more hard numbers. Does anyone know of a site that compiles/aggregates/analyzes this kind of data?

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ALSO – if you’re an admin who has access to the logs of a non-technical site, POST YOUR STATS regarding Safari vs. $not_safari usage on Macs. Thanks!

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