Here’s What Your Favorite Web Browser Says About You

A screen displays the logo of the open-source web browser Firefox - LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images

Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

By now, most people are aware that almost everything they say and do on the Internet — whether it’s browsing Reddit late at night, or commenting on a friend’s Facebook post — is monetized in some way, shape, or form. Not only are behaviors and habits scrutinized, but so are the platforms you use to actually get on the Internet. That includes hardware, like your iPhone or Surface tablet, and software, whether it be your phone’s default browser or a preferred program like Chrome or Firefox.

And when it comes to your browser, big business can generally get a pretty good idea of who you are just by knowing which program you’re using.

Data collected by CivicScience, a market insight and research firm, has all but confirmed that fact, and the results of their polling are generally in line with conventional wisdom. For example, Americans polled indicated that Google Chrome was their favorite browser with 37%, eclipsing Microsoft’s Internet Explorer at 29%, and Firefox at 21%. Safari was the only other browser with significant market share at 10%.

Source: CivicScienceWhile these insights show what respondents prefer, the makeup of individual users who gravitate toward one browser over another is largely generational. Specifically, yet unsurprisingly, millennials are more likely to be Chrome users than older people, who like Internet Explorer. And if you’re a Chrome user, the data shows that you’re more likely to own and browse on a tablet computer and live in the city than users of other browsers.

Safari is also big with millennials, although it makes up considerably less of the overall user-sphere than Chrome. This makes sense considering it’s the default browser for Apple products, which millennials gravitate toward. Firefox has a heavy user base between the ages of 35 and 54, and other browsers like Opera were a bit of a mixed bag.

By dissecting the user and demographic information for the major web browsers, CivicScience has been able to paint a picture of who people are, simply by looking at usage data. The question is, why is that necessarily important? The answer mostly concerns businesses and how they can tailor things to suit specific audiences, or play to the percentages.

Jennifer Sikora, vice president of marketing for CivicScience, says that tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple will find this information incredibly useful when planning for updates or future product offerings on the web. “It’s definitely valuable to the companies that make browsers, and of particular interest to anyone thinking of optimizing their websites for certain audiences,” Sikora told The Cheat Sheet. “Data may only tell what percentage of people are using a particular browser, but it doesn’t tell them much about who these people are.”

Now, companies can take the two sets of data — one being their web analytics, and the other these user profiles — and get a better picture of who their audience and customers are. This pairing potential represents the true value that CivicScience’s data presents.

One other big factor that CivicScience found in their research was the prevalence and relative importance of what they call “market mavens,” which are individuals who are generally on top of the latest trends, are early adopters of new technologies, and are very vocal about their experiences. For example, we all know someone who camps out in front of the Apple Store for the latest gadget, and then proceeds to talk your ear off for the next two weeks about it. That person would be a market maven.

Market mavens are incredibly important to businesses, even when it comes to web browsing.

“What we’re trying to help our clients understand, is that for ‘market mavens’ for their particular type of product, they need a better area of focus than just targeting a generic demographic group,” Sikora said. This relates to browsers in that a good experience, with plenty of early adopters, can lead to new competitors successfully entering the market.

Look at the rise of Chrome, for example. It was introduced by Google in 2008, well after its main competition, and has since become the world’s second-biggest browser by market share. And of course, the most popular by CivicScience’s measures.

Like social networks or other applications, companies can garner a lot of information and tailor products simply by knowing how you’re using the Internet. As we’ve seen, a lot of that information is generational, though things can always change. With a lot of new offerings on the horizon, where the current takes browser development will be interesting, to say the least.

Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger

More from Money & Career Cheat Sheet: