We were interested to see how accessing council sites differed from how people view the internet generally. What better way than to look at the browser?

From the early internet days when Microsoft targeted Netscape, the browser market has been a key battleground for one simple reason – controlling the screen has always been key to making money. The two biggest tech behemoths – Google and Apple – clearly still hold this view as both have invested heavily in their capabilities, which is reflected in the current UK market share rankings:

Chrome

43.4%

Safari

31.1%

IE/Edge

11.2%

Firefox

6%

Android

5.6%

Opera

0.9%

Other

1.8%

Source: StatCounter

Google’s Chrome takes the number one spot. Lead by the popularity of its search engine, it has expanded into cloud services, including email, maps and office apps. These are offered seamlessly across all platforms.

Safari is in second mainly due to the rise of the iPhone/iPad. People are comfortable with the Safari browser on their mobile phones as it enables them to synchronise their profiles and user data across Apple devices.

Internet Explorer, once accounting for more than 90% of the market, has fallen from grace. The user experience lags Chrome, and Microsoft’s failure to move Windows to the mobile market left the door open for Apple. Microsoft is trying to catch up with Edge, but its cloud offerings are much more complicated to use and don’t cross over onto different devices easily.

Does this ranking hold up for users accessing council sites? See below the browser league table for the CANalytics population.

Chrome

59.5%

IE/Edge

23.4%

Safari

8.1%

Firefox

5.5%

Android

1.7%

Opera

0.3%

Other

1.4%

Source: CANalytics

Three things stand out. Chrome is dominant. Microsoft and Apple have swapped places. And Android (and Safari) has dropped significantly. Let’s speculate about the changes.

One thing we know from the same CANalytics data source is that mobile usage on council sites is lower than on the internet generally. This doesn’t seem unreasonable – we can imagine if we were comparing council sites with like-for-like transactional internet sites, we might find a similar level of desktop/mobile usage. And with desktops more dominant, it makes sense that Chrome would have a higher share.

The Microsoft/Apple swap may well come down to council policies.  Many councils still use IE as their default browser because of legacy systems and concerns about network security. When council employees access the website for customer services or related reasons, they will be inflating the Microsoft numbers.

The drop in Safari and Android could also be related to less usage of mobile devices on council websites that was noted above. This market share will most likely have shifted to Chrome.

If these speculations are accurate, this points to a greater need for councils to optimise their websites to Chrome and move away from legacy Internet Explorer usage in order to align themselves with the internet at large and synchronise with their citizens more effectively. In fact, it would come as no surprise that council employees at home have already made the switch.

It may well be time for Town Hall to join in.

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