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Chrome Snatches IE's Browser Crown

Chrome Snatches IE's Browser Crown

Reliable statistics on browser usage are hard to pin down, but based on StatCounter's best estimates, Google's Chrome has inched ahead of Microsoft's IE. "This is now more critical to Microsoft than Google," noted tech analyst Rob Enderle. "If Google didn't have a browser, they would still be dominant in search. For Microsoft, this is one of their power pillars."

By Peter Suciu TechNewsWorld ECT News Network
05/21/12 2:29 PM PT

While Google remains the search engine champion, it is also now apparently the top dog with the Web browsers where searches take place. Google's Chrome is now the most popular Web browser, having overtaken Microsoft's Internet Explorer worldwide, according to the latest figures from StatCounter.

Chrome took the lead with 32.76 percent of the market compared to IE's 31.94 percent, and while this is not the first time Chrome has surpassed IE -- it happened in March for a single day -- this new estimate is for an entire week. But does it actually mean anything?

Yes and no. For one thing, Chrome is now the leading browser throughout the world, but it has just 23 percent of the market in the United States, where it trails IE's still dominant 37 percent market share. Mozilla's Firefox maintains 22 percent in the United States.

"It is really difficult to determine exactly what browser someone is using on a regular basis, especially as many people have multiple browsers," Rob Enterle, principal analyst of the Enterle Group, told TechNewsWorld. "But whoever controls the browser controls the platform on which search is conducted. That is in itself a statement of power."

Google Shines

Chrome certainly seems to have some shine on it with this news, which follows last week's news that Google Chrome is likely headed to the iPhone. Google's browser could arrive on the Apple handset later this summer, according to a Macquarie Equities Research report.

Coupled with the latest news, it is clear that Google is likely going to remain a major force -- even if the StatCounter numbers should prove to be somewhat inflated.

The stats vary based on provider. Internet Explorer claims 54 percent of the browser market worldwide, compared to Chrome at 19 percent and Firefox at 20 percent, according to NetMarketShare's numbers. That's a big difference from the StatCounter figures that put Chrome on top.

"It's hard to believe that these are accurate reports, given the number of Windows machines and the advantages that IE has on that platform," said Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence and Screenwerk.

Regardless of the numbers today, the market has seen big shifts in the past.

"Chrome is a faster browser and Google users have affinity for it," Sterling told TechNewsWorld. "Google has also aggressively promoted Chrome in the past."

Firefox Fades

Chrome's gains have come at the expense of Microsoft's Internet Explorer, which had nearly 70 percent market share in 2008, according to StatCounter, and Firefox, which for years was seen as the biggest rival to IE.

"Firefox was the up and comer, but the user base is moving to Google Chrome," said Enderle. "So Firefox has been swimming upstream."

Firefox had filled a void left by Netscape, another erstwhile top dog in the browser arena that eventually lost its business to Microsoft's Internet Explorer. IE had an advantage beginning with Windows 95, as the browser was built into the operating system. Even today, almost all PCs ship with IE installed and ready to browse.

Firefox began as an alternative to IE and remained its biggest rival until Chrome arrived on the scene.

"The differentiation between Chrome and Firefox is very little," said Enderle. "Firefox also gets a lot of its money from Google, so it isn't clear if they can get back in the game."

Search Is at Stake

It is possible that Firefox will fall by the wayside, as this battle isn't really about the browser but what it can do on the back end.

"Browsers can determine default search engine, which has obvious benefits," said Sterling. "They can also connect or integrate closely with other services, benefiting the source of those services -- that is, Google or Microsoft."

The battle could be all the more important for Microsoft as it looks to maintain that support for the back end, added Enderle.

"This is now more critical to Microsoft than Google," he emphasized. "If Google didn't have a browser, they would still be dominant in search. For Microsoft, this is one of their power pillars."

So it could be a two-browser battle going forward -- especially as Google may not have reason to help Firefox.

"In terms of what IE or Firefox can do to regain momentum, the answer is improve the browser, add features, make it faster, more secure, more stable and so on," said Sterling. "Firefox doesn't really do any marketing either. It could start doing some of that."


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