Posted January 7, 2010 3:40 pm by with 14 comments

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In all the hubbub of the Nexus One premiere this week, another Google milestone has gone largely unnoticed. (Even I saw the headline earlier this week, but opted to cover a Nexus story instead.) While we’ve all anticipated Google coming out with a smartphone to end all smartphones (and start calling them “superphones” 🙄 ), they’re beating Apple in another area: the browser wars.

According to one measure, Google’s Chrome browser is now the #3 most popular browser, behind IE and Firefox. And why is that so important? Because the guy they just beat out, #4, is Apple’s default browser, Safari. Metrics firm Net Applications reports that Chrome has cornered 4.63% of the browser market, enough to edge out Safari’s 4.46% of the market.

PCWorld points out that the 0.7 percentage point bump for Chrome in December may have been fueled by the release of the browser for Mac and Linux. Safari gained 0.1 percentage point in December, so it doesn’t appear that Google directly stole a lot of their marketshare.

IE continues to dominate, with 62.7% of the market, although it lost nearly a percentage point in December (continuing a six month trend of around 0.9 point losses). Firefox also lost ground in December, falling 0.1 point to 24.6%.

With such a narrow margin of victory, Chrome and Safari will probably continue to vie neck and neck for that third-place spot for some time. Chrome was officially released for Windows in December 2008—pretty quick to take over that spot in the first place. What do you want to bet Google would be happy to repeat that victory in other areas?

What do you think? Is this a turning point for Google and/or Chrome, or for Apple? Or is this just another battle in the Google-Apple war?

  • I probably think this is just another battle in the Google-Apple War. Each would still have to think how to outdo the other. It’s really hard to compare both because it’s like comparing apples to oranges. But each have their own advantages and disadvantages. Anyway, congratulations to Google chrome for gaining the third spot!
    .-= Andrew @´s last blog ..Sometimes You Have To Blow Your Own Trumpet =-.

  • thanks for this type of article.after a along surfing i got this one.But now i think google beating everyone when ever google want to may be next victim will be sybian. thanks again.

  • I think Safari’s main problem is it’s limitation to pretty much only being used on Macs. I’ve never met anybody with it installed on their PC – everybody has IE since it comes with Windows, quite a lot have Firefox and recently I’ve noticed a few people mentioning Chrome. Safari rarely gets a look in, but Google has the advantage that it’s Google and can really promote its browser.
    That said, i think it is just another battle. I imagine Apple are working on the next plan for Safari now to get it back out there with more prominence…

  • Dean

    4.63% huh? wow, this is earthshaking (tongue firmly planted in cheek). Me thinks this only becomes a story when Chrome (or Safari) starts challenging IE and Firefox. Until then it is a complete non-story.

  • I’m not surprised at all that Chrome is gaining market share. Google’s addition of extensions is probably sucking away Firefox fans, while Chrome’s speed and efficiency are appealing to the tons of folks tired of using IE. Long live Chrome!
    .-= Josh Braaten´s last blog ..What’s Your 2010 Online Marketing Resolution? =-.

  • You miss the point. I don’t think that it’s that important for Apple to have the biggest market share with Safari. They don’t seem to be putting the marketing muscle behind growing it. What they care about is web standards – to ensure that the web doesn’t turn into a mess in which some pages use proprietary HTML that works only on IE, thus screwing up Macs and iPhones.

    On this, they seem to be winning the battle.

    Furthermore, Chrome and Safari use the same underlying rendering engine: WebKit. So websites that render well on Chrome should render well on Safari and iPhone. This is what matters to Apple. WebKit as a rendering engine basically doubled its market share since Chrome came out.
    .-= Marcos´s last blog ..Cold cold cold =-.

    • Mike

      I think this is a non issue for Apple, they want you to be surfing on a Mac so any increase in browsers that can run on a mac is all they should care about. Chrome, Firefox and Safari doesn’t matter.

      • Nathan

        Actually, it is an issue. Apple cares about WebKit because it’s the rendering engine for all of its devices. If a website works well in Chrome, it will work well in all Apple products, not just the Mac.

        In this “browser war,” Chrome and Safari are team players.

    • Thibault H.

      I think Marcos has got it exactly right! The article itself is off mark.

      Apple doesn’t really care if Safari dominates or not. That is not of their concern and that is not where they put energy. What they do what, and which is why they made Safari is to promote Web standards. For a long time, some major banking websites insisted on using only IE because they were using some Microsoft web standards that no one else by MS adhered to. That was a problem because Microsoft has not made an IE browser for Macs in a LONG LONG time. If the trend were to continue, the result would be disastrous for Macs because the required IE technology is not available to be used on Macs.

      Thus, Apple pushed for web standards and came out with Safari. As such, you see the tables turning now as MS is beginning to leave behind their own technology and adhere to internet standards.

      So Google is not really beating Apple at the browser war because Apple never got into battle for that.

  • Nathan

    Marcos is right. Because Chrome is based on WebKit, its increasing popularity is also a win for Apple.

  • Robert

    One thing you’re all missing is that Chrome is basically just Google’s version of Safari. The rendering engine for HTML and CSS is taken from Apple’s opensource Webkit project, same as Safari. Chrome’s JavaScript engine, while written at Google, has to be compatible with Webkit’s as well in order to access Webkit’s DOM and CSS. So an expanded Chrome market means an expanded market for designer’s and developers who want to create advanced web applications with HTML5 and CSS3. An expansion of Chrome on Windows is a win for Apple, getting developers to consider supporting the advanced features in Webkit.

  • MarcosD

    Safari will always be a niche product on Windows. Few people know what it is and unlike Google Apple is not blanketing every single banner space on the WWW with download safari ads. Safari on Windows is like Apple TV a hobby, a testing of the waters. Safari is the standard on one much smaller platform it is only natural that Chrome quickly take hold on the PC side where your standard option (IE) sucks.

  • Those commenting about Apple’s Webkit adoption by Google being a benefit to Apple are quite right. It doesn’t really matter to Apple if Chrome gains greater share than Safari.

    I believe that, from Day One when Apple started working on webkit, they saw this not as a way to “win the desktop browser war” (which is a battle getting more antiquated by the day — sooooo “1990’s”) but rather to extend cross-platform support on the web — cross-platform rendering engine support, specifically — something Microsoft has little interest in.

    After initially dismissing it, I am starting to see how Web 2.0 and cloud-based services might explode in the coming years. The cloud could take greater prominence on account of smart phones and the just-started industrywide push for tablets which could be used as thin clients to the cloud. Like, although MS has been trying to gain market traction with full-blown Windows tablets for years, I honestly can’t see tablets with weaker C/GPUs and limited storage capacity/RAM that simply surf the web and play media/readers as being something that can gain a significant user base, globally. Like, we already have smart-phones that do all that (albeit smaller) AND make calls. BUT, using such devices as thin clients to the cloud, where the cloud can be the powerful rendering back-end for anywhere-computing? Now THAT will impact people’s lives. Although… there’s Cloud security to contend with.

    So, Chrome’s user base, in concert with Safari’s, should ensure better support for not just Mac users but iPhone/iPod Touch users — and Apple’s “MacTouch” or “iTouch” tablet(s) (those are what I think Apple could call their tablets). THAT’s what I bet Apple had in mind when they started working on THE OPEN SOURCE Webkit.

    Remember: Apple makes money on hardware. Their high standards in UI design and functionality notwithstanding, everything they do in software is a means to that end.

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