The unstoppable rise of Google Chrome


Earlier this year I reported that Chrome was destined to become the default web browser for Ubuntu. At that time, Chrome still had a fair way to catch up to Firefox’s userbase. Meanwhile, Microsoft’s Internet Explorer was holding out strong as the preferred browser on the internet. These stats are changing fast.

This month, StatCounter suggests that Chrome has finally stolen second place from Firefox if viewed on a global scale. Chrome usage has been growing steadily throughout the year, while Firefox usage has seen a gradual decline since around midway through this year. Internet Explorer has also seen a general downward trend that suggests that Chrome’s user growth is largely due to users switching from the other two browsers.

StatCounter Global Stats are fairly reliable, since they are based on aggregate data collected on a sample exceeding 15-billion page views per month (4-billion from the US) from the StatCounter network of more than three million websites. After having a quick look around at some of the other stats sites, it looks like they’re pretty much spot-on. Most other sites are showing that the crossover has already happened, or that it is likely to happen by the end of the month.

More interesting trends can be observed if you switch between continents. South America saw Chrome outdo Firefox way back in April, and Chrome is already ahead of Internet Explorer usage by close on 10%. Some suggested reasons for South America’s quick uptake of Chrome include the fact that Google’s social networking site, Orkut, has proved to be most successful in this region. Apparently IE had some quirks with the Orkut UI, and Chrome just seemed to be the obvious choice when interfacing with other Google products. Another feasible reason for this is that internet connections and home computers in South America are generally a bit slower, so a lean browser results in a better overall user experience.

Chrome took Firefox’s place in Asia back in September, while in Europe, Africa and North America Chrome still has some catching up to do if it wants second place. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t going to happen. Certainly the gap is rapidly closing, and it is clear that once people take to Chrome, they don’t leave. Since it’s that time of year when people like to make wild predictions, looking closely at Chrome’s growth over the last year, I would expect it to jump ahead of Internet Explorer midway through next year, and unless something crazy happens it should have more than half of all Internet users using it by the end of 2012.

Of course, that sort of prediction is a little bit enthusiastic. It will really depend a lot more on how quickly mobile internet usage increases. Currently, among Mobile devices, Safari is the king of browsers. That suggests that iPhone users tend to browse a whole lot more than anybody else. With tablet PC’s starting to flood the market, we’re going to see some big shifts in browser choice thanks to these new devices. Since a lot of them run Android, we could see Google pushing Chrome usage even further on these systems. That may make my predictions a little conservative, but who knows.

Times are exciting. We’re seeing a full-scale revolution in terms of people’s preferred technology. As more and more of our day-to-day applications and data storage requirements move out onto the Internet, we are likely to see the browser war heat up to something we haven’t seen since the late 90’s. I’ve tried Chrome a few times, but I generally prefer to use Firefox.

Recently, I tried out Opera and was impressed by its built-in mail client, but I’m quite happy with the applications that I already use. From my perspective, its quite difficult to determine exactly what motivates people to switch browsers. If you’ve recently switched, I’d be interested to hear what you switched to and your motivations for doing so. Drop a comment below.

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