Surprising SA browser stats

Internet Explorer may still cling to the top desktop browser spot in South Africa, but over the course of 2013 Microsoft’s browser has actually slipped to fourth place overall.

That’s according to the latest statistics from StatCounter, a web analytics service that reports usage statistics of browsers (among other things) based on raw page views.

The StatCounter GlobalStats website lets you query usage statistics by region and by platform, which reveals that mobile browsing now dominates in South Africa.

This is clearly illustrated in the graph below, which shows that after a few months of steady growth, mobile page views from South Africa suddenly spiked in October 2013 across the sites tracked by StatCounter.

Website page views by platform in South Africa, December 2008 - January 2014, StatCounter
Website page views by platform in South Africa, December 2008 – January 2014, StatCounter

By contrast, StatCounter’s worldwide desktop versus mobile trendline shows a far less dramatic shift. Desktop browsers accounted for 71.82% of the total page views in January 2014, while mobile browsers made up 22.4%.

The dramatic increase in mobile page views in South Africa correlates with the sudden spike in Opera’s usage share StatCounter saw during October 2013.

This anomaly didn’t go unnoticed to StatCounter either, and the analytics company includes the following statement in its graph for South African mobile browsing statistics:

On 26 September, we saw a large increase in traffic from Opera browsers. This activity was not bot-related and appears to have been entirely legitimate. Opera traffic returned to more usual levels at the end of October. Unexpected but legitimate spikes in our stats do happen (e.g. in Mexico on 1 July 2012 browser stats) albeit that we are unable to provide explanations in every case.

StatCounter does not report separate usage statistics for Opera’s different browsers, but on the desktop front Opera only accounted for 0.98% of page views in South Africa during January 2014.

On tablets, Opera was neck-and-neck with Chrome, generating 6.43% of page views, but is dwarfed by the likes of Safari (57.49%) and Android (28.14%).

This suggests that Opera’s dominance in South Africa comes from its mobile browsers, though it’s not clear whether its sudden surge in October 2013 came from Opera Mini, or its other mobile browsers.

While some may not find the statistics showing Opera’s rise in South Africa surprising, Internet Explorer’s drop from first to fourth place overall between September and December 2013 is curious.

Did an upward trend in South African mobile browsing dramatically increase, or is there reason to doubt the accuracy of StatCounter’s data for the South African market?

Browser rankings in South Africa across all platforms, December 2008 - January 2014, StatCounter
Browser rankings in South Africa across all platforms, StatCounter

Regardless, StatCounter GlobalStats shows that Opera overtook BlackBerry in May 2013, Firefox in July 2013, and both Chrome and Internet Explorer in October 2013.

BlackBerry’s browser also overtook Firefox in July 2013, and then Chrome and Internet Explorer in November 2013.

Chrome then overtook Internet Explorer in December 2013, though IE is still ahead of Chrome when it comes to desktop browser page views at 41.35% to 36.04%.

Analysts and industry commentators have long said that more and more people will be accessing the web from a mobile device.

In South Africa it already seems to be the case that most website page views come from mobile devices and, if StatCounter is to be believed, we blew through the desktop/mobile inflection point pretty suddenly.

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Surprising SA browser stats