Does It Matter Which Browser You Use?


Web browsers are similar enough to each other that it doesn’t matter which one you use. Or does it? Some browsers don’t display some software applications. Some browser features are hard to live without. The majority of people here at SparkFun express a preference for one browser or another and trends suggest a preference among visitors to our site as well.

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“I like Firefox with the EFF’s ‘HTTPS Everywhere’ plugin
because it is fast and secure.”
Nick Poole, Marcomm

“I use Chromium (open source Chrome that runs on Linux) because
of features like reopening closed tabs (Shift + Ctrl + T), custom search
engines, and bookmark sync…”
Jason, IT

I have to use Chrome at work because it is the only browser that
runs the backend system without glitches.
” – Trance, Shipping

I use Firefox because I don’t like the way Chrome doesn’t let you
control its self-updates.
” – Trevor, Operations

Visitors to the SparkFun website also tend to use Chrome (last 90 days):

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Other browsers used in the last 90 days included PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Nintendo Browser, Nintendo 3DS!

A fair number of people seem to use the browser that came with their computer operating system: Internet Explorer on Windows, Safari on Macs and other iOS devices, Firefox on Linux; however, a larger proportion, and especially technical and creative audiences, have migrated to using Chrome and signing into Google applications no matter their OS.

The [Chrome] hover zoom extension is probably the best browser
extension ever invented (and for a long time there was no Firefox version,
now there is, but it is not as good).
” – Chris, IT

Engineering is the only department where Windows machines are dominant and Chrome is not the predominant browser. The proportion of employees in each department using Chrome (non-scientific survey) are: Education (75%), Shipping (75%), Distribution (75%), Production (75%), Marcomm (70%), IT (70%), Directors (50%), Engineering (33%).

I use Firefox because I am a creature of habit.Pete Dokter, Engineering

Not surprisingly, visitors to our website resemble our internal engineers in that Windows is the most prevalent operating system (recent 90 Days):

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It will be interesting to see if the trend toward Chrome use continues. For a number of years, Firefox had the reputation for sucking up too much CPU and Internet Explorer was for “grandparents” and “virus-y.“ And although those perceptions have largely passed, many people have not gone back.

Firefox was the most common browser used to view the SparkFun website until February 2012. And it wasn’t until September 2010 that Chrome was used more than Internet Explorer.

“I started off with IE, then I used FF for many years, then switched
to Chrome… 2 years ago? I’m not an early adopter by any means but
Chrome doesn’t have nearly the security issues that IE does. FF is fine
but Chrome won me over when they put search and the http box into one.”

Nathan, CEO

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Perhaps because we come from an open source community, there is a fair amount of backlash against browser dominance (i.e. Chrome, and Google). SparkFun employees recognize that having a variety of choices, including some open source, is the best way to help push the web forward.

“I’ve been on Chrome for a while because the development tools
are head and shoulders above everything else, but I am switching
back to Firefox because I like being able to press “/” to search.
And Google sketches me out.”
Brennen, IT

“I use Firefox because I don’t know if I trust Chrome.” Mike, Engineering

A handful of employees cited speed as the reason for their Chrome preference, and the evidence seems to bear this out. The following browsers had the quickest page load time in the past 90 days (I threw in the rendering engine to see if that had some impact on the results - and it doesn’t seem to, although this could be because of the different versions in use out there):

  1. Chrome (developed by Google in 2008, Webkit rendering engine)
  2. Internet Explorer (developed by Microsoft in 1995, Trident)
  3. Firefox (open source, developed by Mozilla / Netscape in 2004, Gecko)
  4. YaBrowser (developed by Yandex (Russian) for fast loading, Webkit?)
  5. Maxthon (developed in China by Maxthon Ltd, Trident and Webkit)
  6. BlackBerry (developed by BlackBerry, LTD, Webkit)
  7. Android Browser (developed by Android in 2003, bought by Google in 2005, Webkit)
  8. Amazon Silk - (developed by Amazon for Kindle Fire and Sony's PlayStation Vita, Webkit)
  9. Opera - (developed by Opera software in 1996, Presto)
  10. SeaMonkey (open-source, community-developed in 2006, Gecko)
  11. Rockmelt (developed by Rockmelt, Inc. in 2010 for iOS and Android social apps, Webkit)
  12. UC Browser (developed by UCWeb for mobile devices in 2004, proprietary rendering engine)

Interestingly, users of Internet Explorer shop more frequently than users of Chrome and Firefox (although many more orders are placed using Chrome and Firefox due to the larger number of users).

Browser by Highest Conversion Rate (most orders placed per visit, last 90 days)

  1. Internet Explorer
  2. Chrome
  3. Mozilla
  4. Firefox
  5. Safari
  6. Opera
  7. Android Browser

What about outside the U.S.? Among the top ten countries that buy from SparkFun, all of them have a greater percentage of people using Chrome than other browsers except Germany and France, with the majority of visitors from those two countries using Firefox.

What is your preferred browser? And why?


Comments 67 comments

  • Eyes thread, waits for first in-earnest mention of Lynx.

    • This comment posted in Lynx… I’m thoroughly impressed this actually worked. Major kudos to your web guys and gals.

    • Thanks for mentioning that. At work I ssh into my server and read my email in alpine. Occasionally I will hit a link, and lynx pops up. At this point, the most annoying thing is so many sites are using cookies, it’s just a pain due to all the questioning whether to accept one.

      In reality I use FF, and I prefer using FF on my S4, since it ties together with my other machines I use for browsing, making searching much easier.

  • Working from AmigaOS4 limits my browser choices.. Neither Firefox nor Chrome are available. Kudos to Sparkfun for providing and article and comments section that do NOT require Flash nor other unnecessary options. Basic HTML, even if it is a fallback, is far better than just blocking anyone who does not have the latest Flash/Acrobat/Java/Whatever is cool this week.

    • Working from AmigaOS4 limits my browser choices..

      Well, this is my favorite comment in some weeks.

      Edit: Outta curiosity, what are you running?

      • We currently have available two diffferent ports of “Origyn Web Browser”, which is webkit based. There IS a platform-specific port of FireFox called “Timberwolf” that is getting quite close to ready, but there are still a few wrinkles to iron out. I believe there are a few text browsers as well, but I have not yet tried them.

  • “Internet Explorer - The number one browser for downloading Chrome”

    • Flashback to the day they announced: “The most common search request from AOL’s search engine was google.com”.

  • I currently have Opera, Chrome, and Firefox open with different tabs in each. It depends on what I am doing. Some things just run better (or do not run at all) in different browsers. I do some web development also, so I like to check sites on different browsers to try and figure out what is wrong with my code. I also sometimes like to log into different accounts on the same site (yes, I am odd…) so using multiple browsers means I do not have to log out of my primary accounts to accomplish tasks (like work amazon vs personal amazon, or more pressing, work SparkFun vs personal SparkFun orders)

    With your last list of purchase conversion rate, is this accounting only for number of orders? I would be interested in seeing what the amount spent per order based on browser was. Maybe IE gets more purchases of small amounts, while Chrome or Firefox have larger dollar amount orders?

    • Erubus9856, I also keep multiple browsers open (all day long). That way I don’t have to open incognito tabs. And to answer your question - yes, the conversion rate is based on the number of visits that resulted in an order. I will check on whether different browsers give significantly different order amounts on average…

      Just realized I probably should not have included Cyber Monday when I looked at this info because Monday was a crazy day for shopping here. At any rate, turns out you are right. Big differences in average order value depending on browser used. Very roughly: Chrome 150% more than the average for all browsers; I.E. about normal or 100% of average; Firefox 65% of average; Safari 50% of average. Thanks for the tip.

    • I feel like school systems would be using IE more, and they would be doing less browsing, and more straight-up purchases. That and government entities. If you are forced to use IE, you’re probably just doing it to make a purchase and then bounce.

  • I use FF because Chrome is a resource hog. Also, with FF, at any given time if a plugin crashes, you can manually kill plugin-container.exe, refresh the window, and you don’t have to restore your whole session. At work I keep my browser open constantly with all the windows I need, so not having the browser crash completely is helpful.

    • Ditto. As somebody who is a ‘digial pack-rat’ I have ~100 tabs open pretty much all the time. Firefox currently is using ~2.25 GB of RAM and is singing along without any complaints. (137 tabs right now if I counted correctly.)

      The click-to-enable plugins bit is quite nifty, as is Firebug (I use that for debugging web apps.)

      • Oh, and let’s not forget the venerable ‘browse by name’ feature. Sure, it takes a quick search and a visit to about:config to enable it, but that is a super-nifty feature.

  • i like firefox brower since it is secure.

  • I really can’t believe that no one has mentioned Opera.. Been using Opera for 5+ yrs now and is much faster than FF and IE (Which I used to DL FF). The only one I can’t give an opinion on is Chrome. Tried it a few years back as after I downloaded it, started it for the first time (XP Pro), it crashed. Restarted, I did get to Google.com and it crashed again. Uninstalled and used Opera ever since. I do use Firefox as I do work and design websites and need to know if they work on FF. I really think that Opera could compete against IE and FF if people just tried it..

  • I use Firefox because Chrome is not reliable enough to be use daily. Also sites are not compatible with Chrome, so that is another reason why I do not use Chrome. Firefox just works for me. I have tried Opera, Saferi, and of course Internet Explorer. I prefer Firefox.

    The extensions that I use in Firefox are Flashblock, Adblock Plus, and Download Statusbar. I disabled PDF plugin and use an external PDF viewer like Foxit Reader when I am in Windows. In Linux, I use Okular as an external PDF viewer.

  • I use Pale Moon, a Firefox build for windows that’s a tiny bit faster and kept the 3.5 UI. I have gone into long rants against minimalism in browser UI, but one key thing is that I like having a separate search box where I can select what service to use (In my case, google, wikipedia, wiktionary, wolfram|alpha, youtube, and amazon). http://www.palemoon.org/layout-differences.shtml does a good job summing up my UI problems with FF 4+ and to a lesser extent, chrome.

  • I’m a FireFox fan and have been for years. I see Chrome is popular I haven’t seen anything in using it that would compel me to change my preferred browser. Internet Explorer strikes me as a poor joke and having had a bit to do with it’s development after IE6 just reenforces that opinion :(

  • It’s interesting how many people didn’t know Internet Explorer had search capability in the URL box (since like IE4) by typing a ? first before the search term, like: ? sparkfun I always hid the search box when I figured that out to clean up the toolbar. Then I found it funny when Chrome touted it as a new feature. :)

    I use IE primarily at work with Chrome and FF occasionally to help development. Chrome at home because I don’t have Win8 & IE11 on every desktop yet to sync bookmarks.

  • “I use Firefox because I am a creature of habit.”

    +1, been on it since Phoenix 0.5.9 iirc. I experimented with Opera this year and even inhaled (tried to consider this a non-mozilla laptop in both the Win7 and Funtoo realms) but it didn’t last.

  • “A fair number of people seem to use the browser that came with their computer operating system: Internet Explorer on Windows, Safari on Macs and other iOS devices, Firefox on Linux”

    The default browser on Linux varies with the distro. For example, on Sabayon it’s Chromium.

  • I use IE 11 for all of my browsing/ debugging etc needs. However, for a select few sites, I use firefox (Sparkfun, Facebook, Pandora).

    I do this to separate work from play. IE - important stuff = IE, play stuff, FF. I don’t want the suggested sites etc of my play showing up in IE when I’m typing a path, for instance.

  • Google Chrome. I don’t have to have to install extra non-free packages to get youtube to work.

  • I expected more Linux users. I probably account for half of that 6% since I visit sparkfun about 20 times a day. :-)

  • Loved seeing this on a website that has nothing to do with computer technology, as a matter of fact they sell archery equipment: “Login Notice: This site is optimized for Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome. If you experience trouble logging in from Internet Explorer, please try a free download of Firefox or Chrome.”

  • FF because it’s pretty much the same as chrome, without the forced layout. FF on windows actually has the option to have a menu bar, which all programs should have and should be standard. There’s no way I’m going to remember the menu layout for every single program I use, or the hotkeys for features I rarely use. Removing the menu bar doesn’t even actually save space on the screen, why not instead shorten the URL bar or whatever they call it now and put the menu bar on the same line? It’s just as bad as the ribbon in Microsoft Word.

  • This was really interesting, although with the approximately 13% mobile users, how about a slightly more mobile friendly site (although it has improved over the last few years).

  • I use Netscape 4.08. I am part of the 0%!

  • My first browser was lynx in 1993, which I used at college to visit college and library web sites. I didn’t even know web pages could have pictures until 1996. Then it was netscape, mozilla, then firefox. I use Chrome now because when I first tried it shortly after it came out (I don’t know if it’s the case anymore), it rendered much faster than the alternatives, and ran javascript faster too. Also the syncing, minimalist interface with lots of room for what you’re actually reading, and url and search in one place. OS is Windows at work, and Arch Linux at home.

    On a side note, am I the only one who sees Nick staring at a floating magnifying glass?

  • I really like Google Chrome because all of my tabs and history is synced between my laptop, my tablet, and my phone. I have also noticed a huge speed difference compared to other browsers.

  • At work, we are supposed to use IE, and that’s what I do most of the time. It’s tricky to know if the issues encountered are due to IE, or whatever the IS department has going on in the background, e.g., the HTTPS errors that pop up, and images that don’t seem to load properly when poking around on SparkFun’s site. Every now and then I’ll open up FF, but it gets all grumpy on my work computer. Never mind me trying to troubleshoot the issues, because I’m supposed to be working in the first place, right? I actually loaded up Chrome two days ago because I was getting tired of the outdated browser messages when checking gmail.

    At home, it’s pretty much all FF, all the time, for no real reason other than firefox is fun to say [cue Ylvis]. After reading through this post, and the subsequent comments, I’m beginning to wonder what I’m missing. Great, now I have another thing to add to the to-do list… thanks a lot…

    But, to be honest, I think I typically hold the folks who put together the sites themselves accountable for any issues encountered. I mean, come on… putting together websites is easy-peasy! Well, I know it’s not really that easy, but you know what I mean. Website issues, even if they are my fault, my browser’s fault, my ISP’s fault, make the website’s owner look like a dork (not that I think the folks at SparkFun are dorks… it’s the folks in the IS department at work).

  • Every time I try Chrome, I lament the state of their adblock plugin, cringe at the horrible keyboard shortcuts, and nod sagely since I finally understand where Firefox got their most recent dumb design ideas (moz says “how dare you try to stop a gif animation!”). I even use Firefox on android (as annoyingly bad as the font sizes can be) because of how much I dislike almost everything about the appearance and behavior of Chrome. One thing they do better is streaming video though. Chrome rocks at that.

    (And Firefox has syncing too)

  • At $DAYJOB, the IT department supports 32-bit Win7, so it’s limited to 4GB. Therefore I don’t use Chrome very often (burns way too much RAM), and do most of my work on Firefox, with IE8 as the default browser so corporate apps that only work on IE can run.
    On my Android tablet, I run about 4 different browsers - each have their limitations (e.g. Chrome doesn’t seem to like Twitter’s t.co or some of the other URL shorteners.) Also, I’m using Tor, which wants to have a separate browser app. On Linux, I mostly use Firefox.

  • I use Firefox because I don’t trust Google, and because IE doesn’t work well with AdTrap.

  • I use Firefox. IM[NS]HO, the only thing IE is good for is downloading FF when I am forced to use stuff from the Evil Empire (M$). Next step on bringing up a M$ system, once FF is up & running, is downloading & installing OpenOffice.

    FWIW, my “web development” is always down on the “bare metal” HTML code in a text editor. (My websites tend to be “slow-modem friendly”, with little to no “useless glitz”.)

  • Google Chrome because they are the most mature with the new W3C audio and video specs. I wrote a mini-moog emulator and a step sequencer - both in pure javascript and HTML5 (no flash). It runs well in Chrome, not so well in Mozilla Firefox, and not at all in IE.

  • because I have a lot of old engineering s/w, my main 2 machines use XP/SP3 so IE has pretty much outlived it’s usefulness. I have been using Firefox for a while and it is OK. I tried Chrome a few years ago but it kept blowing up on some of the sites i visit… like semiconductor manufacturers and other engineering oriented. I just tried Chrome again, yesterday and was pleasantly surprised at it’s speed… yes, on a 13 yr old XP machine.

  • Safari: Because I like all my bookmarks synced across my iOS devices via iCloud. One of the other big reasons was the carousel view for history. Although that seems to have gone away in the current release. I also like the multi touch gestures that are built in for page navigation, etc. Reading List and Reader are handy features too.

  • Minor typo: “…people seem to use the browser that came with their computer operating system: Internet Explorer on Windows, Chrome on Macs” I believe you ment Safari on Macs

    • Great catch Spec. Trevor here at SparkFun just let me know as well…I am going to fix in the text now. Thank you.

  • I’ve been using Chrome on all my Macs for almost as long as it’s been available. It’s fast, developer-friendly and recovers from a crash nicely (restore all tabs/windows). Safari is nice and is similar to Chrome in many ways, but Chrome feels better and seems to render more quickly (just anecdotal, but seems to be true). I could go either way between Chrome and Safari. I used to push Firefox, but over the past few years, it feels like it’s gotten heavier. Even in my VMs where I run Windows (for things like AVR Studio), I don’t ever fire up IE. Ick.

  • I use IE. I don’t see any requirement for plugins. It properlly uses Windows 7 taskbar by displaying individual tabs. Its a perfectly good webbrowser despite the unfounded stigma it has. I like programs that simply work. IE simply works.

  • I use FireFox, because it doesn’t suck (anymore).

  • I like turtles!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CMNry4PE93Y

  • Chrome, Firefox, and the Android browser. I have no personal preference as long as it’s not IE.

  • I had used FF for years, then started using Chrome in Beta. I didn’t love it, but kept it around, kept updating, kept watching it improve. Then in 2012 I took a Coursera course in Python programming, and found that some of the code as it was being taught didn’t operate as expected in FF (things like HTML color codes). I used Chrome as my primary browser at that point, but also worked in FF to figure out how to adjust the code for that browser. It was actually really good for me. These days I probably split 70/30 between Chrome and FF, respectively.

  • Any breakdown of Desktop / Mobile use for Safari? I am curious how much of your traffic is from a Mac vs iPad/iPhone.

    I was a big Firefox fan, but I went back to Safari after the last OSX upgrade. Having everything sync between devices, even my mobile ones, is a nice feature.

    • You can do sync with FF, that feature is 2 or 3 yrs old.

      • Syncing with an iPad was key, but you are probably right that I could have gotten that going sooner.

        I still use FF as my secondary browser when I need to use another google account or something like that.

    • ChrisBob, Okay, last 90 days, those using Safari: Desktop/Mac 47%; Mobile/iOS 53%. As for Apple visits, last 90 days: 64% Mac; 36% Mobile (of that: 56% iPad, 42% iPhone, and 2% iPod (!?). Thanks!

  • Chrome, after FireFox got really sluggish on Google Maps and at YouTube (which may or may not be side-effects of Google making changes on those sites, which in turn may or may not have been intended). I still use FireFox from time to time for a few addons that I simply haven’t bothered to look for in Chrome addons (edit page before print, for example, to cut out banners and unnecessary whitespace in order receipts).

  • Chrome by far because of the ability to sync my tabs, extensions, and themes between my two desktops, my laptop, my smartphones, and my tablet. Chrome FTW.

  • I was an early adopter to Chrome. I was in the beta, and those beta builds were horrid at times, but when it was finally released, it’s the only browser I use… To an extent.

    At home, it’s Chrome or bust on all my machines (including phone). The reason is because I can “login” into the browser and have all my bookmarks and past websites available on all of my devices, so I really don’t lose a “beat” when I browse the web.

    Now at work, this is different. Due to being heavily M$ influenced, I have to use FF and Chrome with the IETab plugin for both. The reason is so I can do my work effectively without having to touch that POS IE browser. Now to keep me sane with all this craziness, I use Chrome for “outside” browsing, and FF for “inside” browsing. This way my personal things (like finance, email, music) doesn’t get in the way of my work browsing.

    • IE is a POS browser? But you require it because your assuming non-POS browser can’t do what IE does. LOGIC!

      • I don’t think you quite understand, and the logic isn’t flawed. (I know you’re trying to incite rage response, but I’m going to explain to you why your response is wrong).

        M$ is used heavily in all industries, so for most IT, it is easier to support M$ (cause they did all the work to integrate things together) than to integrate different software to each other. Now when it comes to Sharepoint, M$ wants you to only use IE and other software. Why should they support other browsers? It would hurt their bottom line.

        Sharepoint heavily relies on IE9+ features. I can use FF/Chrome to browse Sharepoint sites, but I can’t do anything else (as an example, I want to open an Excel/Word doc from the browser; with FF/Chrome I’d have to download it first, with IE it’ll just open cause Sharepoint documents are on a shared drive). For me to limit browser usage and still work effectively, I have to use IETab, which will use the pre-installed IE dll’s in order to fake the Sharepoint sites into thinking I’m running IE.

        Now the POS side of IE is this: 1. It is slower than shit even on 1Gbps LAN. 2. It won’t let you do anything until it’s “fully” loaded. FF and Chrome start quickly and let you go on in mere seconds, IE can take upwards of a minute or two. 3. Commonalities between FF and Chrome allow for me to not miss a beat, but IE has different keystrokes and other tid-bits that don’t translate well between anyone else. 4. Chrome/FF don’t stack tabs onto the taskbar icon like IE (IE treats each tab as a new window).

        The list goes on and on…

        Hopefully you feel some shame in trying to think I’m wrong.

        • Dudes, eaaaaaasy.

        • number 1 and 2 disproved here http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2365692,00.asp

          3 and 4 just seems like preference which I understand. I like that IE treats each tab as a window it makes it alot easier to find a tab, but again preference. Alot of your arguements still go back to pre IE8 which is where all the the stigma of Ie comes from because IE has been slow to catch up. They are still a bit slow since they have a lifecycle of about a year while the other 2 big contenders are working a monthly cycle. They should step that up for sure would definately be an approvement to not have to wait a year for newer innovations made to browsers.

          MS is also dropping activeX this is why you can’t use sharepoint on firefox and chrome. Not because firefox and chrome can’t support activeX because MS is charging them to do so or because MS wont let them but simply because firefox and chrome chose not to support them because they arn’t web standard (HTML5, JScript).

          But to say IE is bad or a POS or to start referring to MS as M$ is the real assurtion of rage in this arguement. You obviously haven’t used IE in a very long time which is fine once you get infest time into one peice of software the other competitors become less relivent to you. I wouldn’t sit here and say you should try or you should use IE because they are all on a level playing field so using the one that your comfortable with is the best solution. But to say one is flat out worst then the other is just simply wrong.

      • It has happened to me. Some old and slow-moving software was written for IE and only IE back in the day. At work you are stuck with those tools for the moment and so yes, this happens. For example, ADP suggests IE, FF or Safari, no mention of Chrome. It used to only work on IE but now I use it with Chrome.

  • Firefox for the last several years. Performs well enough and I became tired of learning the quirks of new browsers.

  • I’ve been using Chrome since 2009 because it works so fast and the http and search bars are together. Before it was FF for a while. However, some website drop-down menus don’t work in Chrome and I just boot up something else. It’s interesting how verrryyyy slow IE and FF boot up when I haven’t used them in a while.


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