posted by Thom Holwerda on Tue 29th Mar 2011 23:09 UTC
IconAh yes, why not? The last time we did this, it was March 2009, so it's been two years since we offered a little insight into what kind of operating systems and browsers you, dear readers, are using. In those two years, a lot has changed. I will also explain why in the few cases that OSNews does host video, I will host it in WebM.

These statistics are collected using a tool called Mint, which provides easy access to all sorts of statistics and other fun stuff. The tool is quite user-friendly, but I miss more detailed information on what distributions Linux users are using, and it would be nice to get a better breakdown of the "other" category when it comes to operating systems.

These statistics cover the 72 hour period which ended 2200 CET/2000 GMT on Mach 29, 2011. Why 72 hours? Well, I wanted to cover a period after the release of Firefox 4.0 and Internet Explorer 9, so 72 hours seems like a good compromise. Better yet, it covers a part of the weekend as well. Also, it's the longest time interval I can choose in Mint before I have to hit "all". Ahem.

Of course, the usual disclaimers apply: these statistics are entirely useless unless you want to know what our readership uses. We're a very technically-oriented website, and as such, our statistics reflect that.

Operating system usage

The majority of our readers use Windows, but it's a very narrow majority.

If you look at the breakdown per version, you'll see that like two years ago, Vista isn't popular. The 51% share for Windows breaks down in 25% Windows 7, 20% Windows XP, 4% Vista, and the remainder is stuff like Windows 2000 and even Windows 98. As said, breaking down Linux is sadly impossible, since it doesn't tell us which distributions people are using.

As for Mac OS X - the 19% breaks down in 16% Snow Leopard, 1% Leopard, and the remainder 2% is iPhone, iPad, and Tiger. As you can see, for all the hype mobile platforms get, iOS barely even registers on the radar. iPhone and iPad each have less than 1%.

Comparing these results to two years ago, we get this:

It's clear that Windows is in decline, and both Linux and Mac OS X profit from that. I'm very happy we have such a diverse audience here, especially since we know that the 2% "other" are all Amiga users.

Browser usage share

Our browser landscape is also quite diverse.

Firefox is still king with 47% and breaks down into 27% for Firefox 4.0, and 20% for the various versions of Firefox 3.6. There's a few users on Firefox 3.0, 3.5, and 4.2 (?) as well. The Chrome breakdown is a mumbo-jumbo of versions, but most are using Chrome 10.x or higher, but we have a few 6.x, 8.x, and 9.x users as well. Safari is incredibly boring and basically everyone is using Safari 5. Opera's 6% breaks down into 4% 11.x and 2% 10.x.

Internet Explorer's breakdown is fascinating. The 9% breaks down in 4% 8.0, 2% 9.0, and 2% 7.0. The remainder 1% are IE6 users, and that lone guy who thinks it's cool to change his user agent to IE999.1. It's not.

Here, too, it becomes obvious that mobile browsers - for all the attention they get - simply aren't very important (yet). MobileSafari is set at less than 1%, and Android doesn't even register (although it might be AppleWebKit (Generic) at less than 1%).

Comparing the browser figures of 2011 to those of 2009 - well, Chrome is massacring the other browsers. However, as true geeks, we will never forget that if it hadn't been for the hard work and persistence of the Mozilla team, Chrome would've never been able to rise as fast as they have. So, go team Mozilla.


Flash' death has been greatly exaggerated. In 2009, 8% of our users did not have Flash installed. Two years later, 11% do not have Flash installed. I'm not entirely sure if a Flash blocker registers as a Flash install anyway, but looking at the figures, I would guess that it does. Resolutions are a big mess, and there's no clear winner among our stats.

If you look at these figures, it becomes clear why I have decided that in the few cases where we host video (instead of linking to it or embedding it from YouTube or whatever), we will host it in HTML5 WebM. I try not to use Flash, because it is simply not the best choice performance-wise for 49% (non-Windows) of our readers (I'm not exactly thrilled about our Flash ads either, in case you're wondering). This leaves me with HTML5 in either H264, WebM, or both.

Looking at reader support, WebM wins hands-down. Chrome, Opera, and Firefox 4.0 all support WebM, and together add up to 59% - a figure that will only go up as Firefox 4.0 permeates to the remainder of Firefox users still on 3.x. Chrome, too, is still growing. As such, looking at which of the two formats is best supported by our readership, WebM is the logical choice.

Why not do both? First, it takes up too much time - time I don't have. Second, there's the issue of H264's licensing. OSNews is a commercial entity, and as such, we don't belong in the royalty-free for free web-video thing category thingamabob. We have ads, and while they don't make us particularly rich, they do cover hosting costs. We cannot host H264 video for the simple reason that we are unwilling to buy a license.

All this isn't that much of a concern, considering we don't host much video. However, I figured a rationale might be welcome for the few times that we do. I will always link to a version that you can play; either a link to the source, or a direct download, whatever. I will also provide links to the codecs needed to play WebM in IE9 (and Safari once those become more stable).

An additional benefit is that while the alternative operating systems scene might no longer be the prime focus of OSNews due to a lack of activity in that field, it's still where our heart lies. Those alternative operating systems will always be able to play WebM - which can't be said for Flash or H264. This decision does hurt users of Mobile Safari, but I can't please everyone. Considering they make up less than 1% of our readers, well, shucks.

Most of the videos we post are embedded YouTube videos, and those always come in a nice iframe embed code that will display WebM if you've entered the YouTube HTML5 beta, or Flash or H264 if your browser does not support WebM.

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