If a picture is worth a thousand words, what about an animation?

I’ve often joked that there are lies, damned lies, statistics and web statistics!

You’d have thought that when a web browser connects to a web server, you’d be able to count simple things like the number of visitors to your site with some accuracy, but it turns out to be rather complicated by caches at both ends, by search engines and other automated systems checking your site, by proxies and firewalls and VPNs and pre-loading and… well, you get the idea.

And it can get more difficult when you try to make generalisations about the web as a whole. Take the question of which web browser is the most popular. The browser generally tells the server, so you can come up with some numbers. But which servers’ numbers should you use? Those visited mostly by teenagers? By tech enthusiasts? By business people, or by mobile users? You’ll get very different numbers.

I use Safari for most things, and at the time of writing, these summary tables on Wikipedia will tell you that it has a share of about 3%, if you’re looking at desktop browsers as reported by NetMarketShare, somewhere around 40% if you’re looking at tablet-based browsers reported by StatCounter, and between 14% and 24% if you’re looking at browser usage overall, depending on whom you believe. So this figure is one to be taken with an even bigger pinch of salt than most.

Having said all that…

I do like this animation of web browser usage stats by James Eagle. For young people, it’s a history lesson, and for those of us who have lived through it and been intimately involved with it, this simple graphic encapsulates three decades of development and progress, of nostalgia and relief, of corporate battles and legal battles, of innovation and frustration, and of careers and companies born, thriving and expiring. Nicely done.

Here’s a link to James’s original tweet.

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