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A window into the digital world of 2014

Last year was predicted to be the year when mobile browsing would overtake desktop browsing for the first time, when wearable technology would make its mark and when Apple’s long awaited smart watch would hit the market. Well only one out of those three seemed to actually happen and even that was a bit of a disappointment. So what did happen in 2014 in the world of digital? In this blog we take an initial look at a few of the headlines.

an infographic showing four key statistics from the digital sector in 2014, as discussed in this article

So, what were the headlines of 2014? Whilst mobile browsing did fail to surpass desktop browsing, it did rise again, growing 9% to 32.47% of the traffic share. This is no doubt largely due to the amount of time that we spend on the internet at work, an environment still dominated by desktop computing. But the interesting balance point for mobile browsing is that whilst 91% of us still use a PC / Laptop to browse the internet, 80% of us also use a smartphone and 47% of us also use a tablet device (Source ). Although this stat will no doubt vary heavily depending on sector, the growth of mobile browsing is still strong. Retail sectors and social media are clearly growth areas for mobile and media consumption happens more and more through mobile web and, more importantly, apps.

Whilst we know that mobile browsing is still on the up, the devices and operating systems that we are using have largely remained constant. The most successful device on the market, yet again, came from Apple. The iPhone 6 (the 6 and 6 Plus combined) sold more units in the first three quarters of 2014 than any other single device. But on the flip side, Apple only hold 14.12% of the market share, against Android’s 82.51%. So whilst Apple remains the device of choice, the market overall still remains staunchly loyal to the Android operating system.

The proliferation of mobile devices has also increased. The amount of smartphones sold in the first three quarters of 2014 was pretty much equal to the combined sales for the whole of 2013, and this is before the Christmas period which traditionally sees a surge in device sales.

Another interesting shift is that for the second year in a row globally active domains are down. The last two years have shown a reduction in the amount of active domains, the first time the figures have dropped since the invention of the internet. This is a very interesting change and as the figure has declined for the second year in a row it suggests that maybe the internet has reached saturation point in terms of the amount of websites available. This will be a statistic to watch over the coming years, but with a shifting focus to apps it may well be a sign that the internet may be becoming more focussed.

Browser stats are notoriously difficult to judge. They vary widely between sector and demographic, so for consistency The Digital Timeline uses W3Counter and has done for its stats since 2007. Only five years ago Internet Explorer still dominated the browsing market, largely due to inflexible corporate work environments and a lack of end user understanding of alternatives. But over recent years it has declined massively, particularly with Google’s release of Chrome, which now outstrips the other browsers quite considerably. It now accounts for 42.5% of browsing (although figures vary depending on sources) and Internet Explorer is now firmly in the same region as Firefox and Safari. Chrome, which has grown by 8.8% this year, seems to have acquired its growth evenly as well, with Internet Explorer down 4.3%, Firefox down 2.4% and Safari down 2.3% respectively.

Chrome seems to have found its place as the new consumer browser of choice, with Firefox remaining the technical users' browser – although the increase in developer tools in Chrome is marked, as Firefox has consistently reduced its market share for the last five years. Whilst Apple remain a minority stakeholder in the computing market, Safari is likely to remain in the mid-teens, especially considering a lot of Apple users prefer to use Chrome for their browsing. Internet Explorer still dominates a lot of workplace environments, particularly with large corporate organisations. But over the next few years it will be interesting to see how this develops, as workplaces move towards mobile and cloud working, where there will be much less reliance on laptops and PCs and more reliance on mobile devices. Windows only holds 3% of the mobile market, so Microsoft has a lot of work to do if they wish Internet Explorer to remain a serious player in the browser marketplace.

Over the course of the year we will look more closely at specific areas of the 2014 digital stats and discuss how this may affect our work in digital. In the meantime, The Digital Timeline takes an interesting look at the life of digital since the early internet.


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