The recent news that Chrome has passed 20% browser market share (according to StatCounter) was impressive for a browser that hit the market just 30 months ago. One subtle point that was hardly mentioned in the tech press is that, as the same narrative was trotted out time and time again (Chrome surging, Firefox holding firm, Internet Explorer in decline), there was nary a mention of Safari. Is Apple's browser just that thing that comes preinstalled on your Mac, or does it have wider strategic significance for the company?
Safari is actually doing pretty well... on the Mac. If StatCounter is to be believed, OS X was used by 6.36% of web surfers over the past three months while 5.04% of users had Safari. According to Stat Owl, share for Safari on Windows has been hovering around 0.5%, so this means that around 80% of Mac users are sticking with Safari and pretty much no one else is using it. Safari will continue to gain share as Windows users switch to Mac and personal computers users switch to tablets and smartphones, but on current trends it will take ages until it is a player in the broader web space. On a personal note, we do a bunch of add-on development projects for Firefox, Chrome and IE every month here at Salsita, but we've received precious few inquiries about Safari and none of these has ever turned into a real project.
There are three broad options for Apple moving forward:
- Accept the status quo. Continue to push for market share with Mac and iOS and treat Safari as a necessary component of the operating system.
- Push Safari on Windows. Apple clearly had at least some inclination to pursue this path back in 2008 when they started including Safari in the iTunes autoupdater on Windows. This apparently didn't work out so well, but Apple could take a cue from Google and find a convincing way to market Safari as somehow better than other options. But with Chrome having taken up the mindshare slack as the streamlined, fast and secure alternative to Firefox's open source message of freedom and IE's "it was on the computer when I bought it", it's hard to see what kind of niche Safari could carve out.