Just a quick update on the browser stats currently in use by Helium users.  As a rule, we use these to figure out which browsers to support and how much time we should spend testing in each.  If you didn’t see my earlier post about Helium and the browsers it supports, you should check that out as well.

These stats are as of this morning and are rounded – so if something doesn’t add up perfect, it’s just because of rounding.

Browser Families

  1. Internet Explorer – 63.56%
  2. Firefox – 26.77 %
  3. Safari – 6.81%
  4. Chrome – 1.37%
  5. Opera – 0.78%

No other browser family gets more than 0.5%.  Interesting to note that IE and FF account for almost 90% of our traffic and if you add Safari you’re at 97% (an overwhelming majority).

Browser Versions

Mainly, this goes for showing the various versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox.  The others are such a small percentage that it’s negligible:

  1. Internet Explorer 7 – 45.67%
  2. Firefox 3 – 22.84%
  3. Internet Explorer 6 – 17%
  4. Safari – 6.81%
  5. Firefox 2 – 4%
  6. Chrome – 1.37%
  7. Internet Explorer 8 RC – 0.83%
  8. Opera – 0.78%

At this time, we actively support IE6 and 7, Firefox 3 and Safari (92% of all traffic).  However, any of those 8 should run fine and the last 4 should have at worst some minor rendering errors compared to the rest.

Internet Explorer 6

If you are one of the 17% of our users that uses IE6, I ask you to consider upgrading.  IE6 is approaching a decade in use.  Newer browsers are much faster, have better javascript and CSS support (meaning you’ll see many new features and cool effects in all websites you visit – not just Helium), and are much less secure.  Most security issues are a direct result of running obsolete software.  Where IE is also built into the operating system, this only excerbates the problem.

So what should you do?  The first important step is to upgrade to IE7.  I would do this even if you don’t use IE as your main browser.  Why?  Simple, it’s part of your operating system and it will still help increase the security of your computer.  You can upgrade here.

Now wait, not sure what a browser is, or which one you’re running?  Most likely you’re running IE – did you click a big blue “e” to get online?  That’s Explorer.  If your operating system is Vista you should have 7 already.  Anything older it’s likely 6 unless you’ve already upgraded.  To check, simply click “help” at the top of Explorer then “About Internet Explorer” and it should display a popup with “Version: X” – the first number will let you know if you’re running 6 or 7.

Trying Other Browsers

I also strongly encourage you to try other browsers.  I use and recommend Firefox 3, which can be downloaded here.  Why would you want to try Firefox?  Multiple reasons.

  1. It’s open source.  That means that anyone can fix bugs, add extensions or make themes for it.  Open source platforms typically have large, active communities that are always improving it and Firefox is no exception.
  2. You can add extensions.  Extensions are small programs that extend the functionality of Firefox.  Many are built for geeks like me that allow us to find bugs and such – like the web developer’s toolbar or firebug.  But there are many other cool ones.  One I highly recommend is stylish – it lets you download styles to juice up your favorite sites.
  3. You can download themes.  Themes allow you to change the appearance of the browser itself.  For example, my brother has a Harley Davidson theme on his.  I used to be a big fan of Noia.
  4. It’s fast.  From my personal experience and use of heavy javascript / AJAX sites like GMail, Facebook, MySpace, etc I’ve found it to be much faster than either IE or Opera (my old browser of choice).

If you want to try some of the other ones, you can find them here:

  1. Safari (Windows, comes standard on a Mac)
  2. Chrome
  3. Opera

Hope that helps.

A lot of times on the boards there are issues reported and the common question we ask is “What browser are you using?” But, what is a browser, what’s the difference, and what browsers does Helium actively support?

What is a browser?

A browser is a program that allows you to read websites. Websites are documents typically written in HTML which the browser then parses, processes and displays. Unfortunately, early development of browsers let to the development of proprietary standards being developed. What does that mean? Basically, unlike (for example) an image program which has set standards like bmp, jpg, gif, etc and will render an image basically the same regardless of program and operating system a website may appear vastly different depending on the combination of operating system (OS) and browser that you are using.

What’s the difference?

What sets one browser apart from another is subject to personal opinion mostly. Most people don’t even know they have a choice, they simply use the one that is provided by their OS – either Internet Explorer (IE) for windows or Safari for Mac.

Those in the web community refer to what are called standards compliant browsers – those that best follow the standards suggested by the Web Standards community in order to get closer to the goal of having a page render exactly the same regardless of OS or browser.

Although the list changes fairly regularly, popular standards compliant browsers are considered to be (in no particular order): IE7+, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome. Each has slightly different operation, extensions (features that allow you to add new functionality to the browser), and even themes (that allow you to change the look of the browser).

As a Web Standards advocate I particularly like to promote Firefox because it is open source – meaning the code is open and can be downloaded and edited by anyone for the betterment of all versus proprietary which is closed and you only get the executable file. Because of it’s open source nature it has probably the most robust extension and theme communities – including useful tools like the web developer’s toolbar, firebug, ad blocker and stylish.

What browsers does Helium actively support?

Helium supports the following browsers at the present moment (in no particular order and with current analytics information on percentage of visitors to Helium that use that particular browser). This list continues to change and it’s not to say that Helium won’t work in other browsers – just that it’s not actively tested in those and hence is more likely to experience bugs/glitches:

  • Internet Explorer 7 (~47%)
  • Internet Explorer 6 (~20%)
  • Firefox 3 (~17%)
  • Safari (~6%) (Note that we focus on the Mac version)

No other browser gets more than 1% of traffic at this time – Chrome (~0.8%) and Opera (~0.6%) being the closest.

Also, once IE8 comes out of beta and starts gaining more widespread acceptance it will likely be added to the list.

This is the end, beautiful friend…

In order to get the best and safest web experience possible it is always recommended that you upgrade to the latest official (i.e. non-alpha/beta) release of your browser of choice. Most browsers (Firefox, Opera, Safari, etc) will issue a popup when you start them if there is a new release and instruct you where and how to get it.

Internet Explorer 6 does not. And it is a browser that is over 7 years old and is quickly losing more and more support in the web community because of it’s flaws and the time developers (like myself) must spend trying to fix bugs that have no apparent cause, rationale or sense.

So how do you know if you have IE6? Do you know what tabbed browsing is? If not, you probably have IE6. Another is to click the “help” link at the top and then “about internet explorer” – does the first line say “Version 6.x.x”?

If so, please go here and download IE7. Note that Microsoft has even gotten rid of the validation check, so you can download it even if you have a “less than legal” version of Windows (not something I nor Helium recommends). If you do, I’ll give you a cookie.