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The Browser Wars - Visualized as Tree Rings (axiis.org)
175 points by nym on Dec 11, 2009 | hide | past | favorite | 41 comments

I applaud the authors for attempting a new kind of data visualization. However, I find two major flaws in the graph:

1) Because the perimeter of a circle grows as a function of the radius, an arc must grow just to represent the same share. This is misleading, giving an impression of growth where there is none.

2) It is difficult to tell which arcs on one side of the circle go with arcs on other parts of the circle. There is simply too much distance between them to judge accurately which arcs belong to the same time period.

Yeah, but then the graph wouldn't look like a Firefox logo :)

Yep. This is brilliant!

This is misleading, giving an impression of growth where there is none.

But there is growth. Perhaps it's the static percentage based graph that's misleading, I find this graph of more or less the same data rather intriguing:


And since the absolute total has grown close to linearly, the tree rings are not that misleading after all.

Is the market really growing by 2 x PI x the width of one of their slices? That would be quite the coincidence.

Your link is much easier to read.

The market doesn't have to grow by 2 * PI anything. It's just a constant. Since the radius grows linearly, you can map any linearly growing series of data and you'll find it looks good in this presentation format.

You're right, just need to multiply by some scaling factor, as long as the growth stays linear.

So the way to resolve this would be to calculate the total users for each browser each year, and scale that entire ring outwards.

Not only that, but the dataset doesn't have even time spacing. In the earlier years, it skipped a couple months, and only recently did it start to do every month.

However, that's not reflected in the visualization, and we're lead to believe that this is sampled with even steps over time.

Keep in mind that this is a tech demo used to show a visualization of someone else's data (W3C in this case). So the author likely cared a lot more for visual appear and demonstrating functionality than for the way the graph might be interpreted.

The growth of the size of an arc is only misleading because the graph naturally draws you to compare different browsers as a percentage of the market.

Since the market has grown basically linearly, the arcs may actually be in direct proportion to the actual number of users, in which case there is very real growth.

The confusion comes when you see growth of absolute terms when the more interesting statistic is what the relative growth is.

Particularly, if one browser's arc remained the same size on each ring you might assume that it is staying the same. It has the same number of users, but it is losing prominence.

Then again, the number of users on the Internet has grown every year, so even if a browser just held its % market share steady, that would mean an increase in quantity of users.

This graph does not repeat not show global browser market share. It is for traffic to the w3.org website. Any comparisons to global browser trends (PI*2 growth, etc) or "wars" is not meaningful.


Interesting! The title is a bit vague for me -- when I think browser wars, I think of the mid 90's. This graph kind of picks up in the middle of story. It's like skipping "The Fellowship of the Ring" and going straight to "The Two Towers."

Why don't these graphs ever break down into the major versions of Firefox? I know there is still testing done on 1.5, 2.x and then of course 3.x as the current version. Why break down IE, Opera and Netscape but not Firefox or Safari?

Because it makes the Firefox share look larger.

It seems to be based on this dataset, which doesn't provide a breakdown of Firefox versions: http://www.w3schools.com/browsers/browsers_stats.asp

Note that this is from w3schools.com, not w3.org (a completely different site). This is for a web developer audience, so it kind of makes sense; from a developer point of view there are much bigger differences in standards compliance between IE versions than between Firefox versions. But mostly they just seem to want to keep a small number of columns on that page.

It also appears like Chrome is eating into Firefox's market share.

Maybe the assumption is that people are just auto-updating these.

They stopped breaking down opera after 8.

It will be interesting to see if Chrome retains it's growth.

Also an nice reminder of how fast Mozilla/Firefox grew initially as well - I thought Chrome was exploding on the scene and had forgotten how fast FF took a decent market share. A neat reminder not to wear rose tinted specs.

Very cool; however if you look at the graph is seems like Firefox is the dominant browser because they did not seperate our the versions of Firefox (or not show versions of IE)

Best demoed with Axiis :)

But I found a 404 in the examples page:


This is actually just a sample for an open source visualization library. Look through the other samples. They are interesting. Wish it wasn't flash, but still nice nonetheless.


Firefox has a 47.4% marketshare as of August 2009??? Does anybody know what sources were used? It would be nice to see the same graph but this time with real data...

It's about which websites you're checking. On, say, cnn.com you might get a more IE-centric audience. On places like Slashdot, Linux would have a higher market share than IE. It's extremely difficult to make an accurate census of who is using what on their computers.

Chrome has 7% market share? I'm a Chrome user myself but that number is much higher than I expected. What's the source for growth? (those YouTube videos maybe?)

Doesn't surprise me at all, Google has the advantage that MS has - 'Brand Awareness' - Joe Q Public sees Firefox and sees a brand with no trust backing, unless they've already been preached to by a geek friend, but they see 'Google Chrome' and know that they trust Google/YouTube.

It doesn't really help firefox that many of us geeks are switching to Chrome|Chromium|Iron for various reasons, too.

I think (maybe) that Google advertises it to IE users on the front page at times (all the time for IE6 users?).

Smells like bullshit. Firefox doesnt have more usage than IE. Must be traffic to one website, not global usage.

It's cool, but probably would have worked better laid out in a stacked bar chart with x being the time axis.

Neat. They should add a 3rd dimension with market size as ring size.

Does that image look like the Chrome logo, or it just me? :)

I thought it looked a lot like the Firefox logo. I suspect it is like a Rorshach test and the resemblances we find say more about use than the image.

I would have liked to see it start earlier, say 1997 or so.

Coincidentally, it looks quite like Firefox's logo to me ;)

Can't wait until IE9, IE10, IE11 ...

Don't hold your breath.

what happened in early 2008?

the empty space, which i believe is "other browsers" grow a lot then.

not quite as much as it did in 2006, but yeah. anyone have memories of what was going on in extremely-alternative browsers around these times?

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