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1.2. Browser Usage Statistics

Knowing which browsers are out there is just part of the battle. What really matters is how many people are actually using them. Browser usage is constantly shifting, so it is important to keep up with the latest trends.

Whether you use a free general statistics listing or your own server logs, knowing what browsers are most used can be helpful in deciding which technologies to adopt and where to draw the line for backwards compatibility. For instance, if you find that for some reason 45% of visitors to your site are still using Version 3 browsers, you might not want to switch your site over to style sheets just yet.

1.2.1. Browser Usage Resources

There are several methods for tracking browser usage: log analysis tools which you run on your own server, free general statistics listings, and professional statistics services.

1.2.1.1. Server log analysis

The most meaningful statistics are those culled from your own site's usage. There are software tools designed just for this purpose, all of which work basically the same way.

When a browser accesses files from a server, it leaves a record of that transaction on the server, including a little data about itself: specifically, its version and the platform it is running on. This information is known as the user agent string, and it is used by analysis software to generate statistics about the browser usage for a site. A typical user agent string might look like this:

Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 5.5; Windows 98)

There are dozens of log analysis tools available at a wide variety of costs. Many are listed in the Yahoo! Directory under Business and EconomyFigure 1.2.1.1 Business to BusinessFigure 1.2.1.1 Communications and NetworkingFigure 1.2.1.1 Internet and World Wide WebFigure 1.2.1.1 SoftwareFigure 1.2.1.1 World Wide WebFigure 1.2.1.1 Log Analysis Tools.

You may also choose to sign up with a service such as The Counter (see http://www.thecounter.com) that puts a counter on your web page and provides usage stats on the page for free (in exchange for ad placement on your page). Other companies, such as SuperStats from MyComputer.com (http://www.superstats.com) provide remote analysis of your server for a monthly fee.

The Mozilla Legacy

The " Mozilla" identifier at the beginning of a typical user agent string is an interesting artifact from the earliest days of the browser wars. Netscape first released its browser under the codename Mozilla. Mozilla, for its time, was a fairly turbo-powered browser, so webmasters began targeting their content to it specifically.

When competing browsers (most significantly, Microsoft Internet Explorer) began featuring similar capabilities, they didn't want to be left out of the targeting action, so they put "Mozilla" in their user agent identification as well. Eventually, everyone was doing it, so the only way to truly identify the browser version was to include it in parentheses (such as MSIE 5.5 in the previous example).

1.2.3. Browser Features

Once you've determined the browsers of choice for the majority of your audience, you can make better decisions regarding which HTML tags and web technologies are safe to incorporate into your design. Likewise, you can determine how much of your audience you risk alienating by relying on certain features such as Java or DHTML.

Every HTML tag in Part II of this book is accompanied by a chart indicating which browsers support it. Exceptional attribute support (or lack thereof) is noted in the descriptions following each tag.

Table 1-1 provides a general listing of popular browsers and the web features and technologies they support. Bear in mind that although a browser may claim to support a given technology, there may be slight exceptions or irregularities in its support.

This table uses the following key:

Supported

Not supported

P

Partially supported

M

Mostly supported

Table 1-1. Browser Support

Browser

HTML 3.2

HTML 4.01

Animated GIFs (GIF89a)

Tables

Frames

Plug-ins

Java

JavaScript

Style Sheets(CSS1)

Style Sheets (CSS2)

DHTML

XML

Windows

MSIE 5.5

MSIE 5.0

MSIE 4.0

P

P

--

MSIE 3.0

MSIE 2.0

MSIE 1.0

Netscape 6.0

Navigator 4.7

P

P

Navigator 4.5

P

P

Navigator 3.0

Navigator 2.0

P

Navigator 1.0

AOL 3.0 (Win95)

AOL 3.0 (Win3.0)

Opera 5.0

?

Opera 4.02

P

P

no

Opera 3.0

M

Lynx

no

Macintosh

MSIE 5.0

P

MSIE 4.0

P

P

MSIE 3.0

MSIE 2.1

Netscape 6.0

Navigator 4.74

P

P

Navigator 4.5

P

P

Navigator 4.06

P

P

Navigator 3.0

Navigator 2.0

P

Navigator 1.0

AOL 3.0

AOL 2.7

iCab

P

P

P

P

P

Unix

MSIE 5.0

MSIE 4.01

P

P

Netscape 6.0

Navigator 4.6

P

P

Navigator 4.06

P

P

Navigator 3.0

Navigator 2.0

P

Navigator 1.1

Lynx

Set-Top

WebTV

P

P

AOL TV

P[1]

[1]Quicktime 2.5 and Flash 3 only.



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