I’ve been tracking Netscape 4.x usage the past 6 months on TheCounter.com. Since they track over 350 million visitors a month to various sites that use their service, it’s pretty safe to say they’re sampling a broad cross–section of the web–using population.
Netscape 4 has lived entirely too long. Developers have been supporting it since 1997. As it approaches its sixth birthday, old coding practices are still rampant on the web as people accept that if even a small percentage of the population is using it, they must cater to it. In internet years where everything once moved 10 times the speed of sound, if not faster, this has been a considerable setback for people who want to move on to the latest and greatest.
The good news: according to these stats, NS4 usage is at all time lows hovering around 1 percent. This means that less people use NS4 today than use a 640x480 resolution, a different percentage of the population that developers stopped catering to long ago. The logic governing NS4 support must therefore apply to 640x480 support if consistency is strived for, however most will completely ignore low–resolution monitors but still code for the broken browser.
The stats for the past few months are encouraging. Based on over 350 million users, here’s from August, 2002 onwards:
8/02 - 10,549,936 (2%)
9/02 - 9,869,530 (2%)
10/02 - 9,507,201 (2%)
11/02 - 7,935,732 (2%)
12/02 - 6,008,601 (1%)
01/03 - 6,982,143 (1%)
February’s results are skewed because they only aggregate ~115 million rather than 350 million. Increasing the numbers threefold, February weighs in at 6 million again.
For a browser that has been around for so long to remain active has been a considerable bee in every commercial developer’s bonnet. We’re starting to see more developers drop it, and the more that follow suit, the more likely the hangers–on will finally upgrade as they see an increasingly broken web.