Chrome streaks past Internet Explorer to become world's top browser

If the numbers at StatCounter are accurate then the world has a new Web browser champion: Google Chrome.

StatCounter, which collects data on a sample of more than 15 billion page views per month across over 3 million websites, has reported that Google's Chrome browser has officially surpassed longtime frontrunner Internet Explorer as the most popular browser in the world. According to StatCounter, Chrome (now on Version 19) had a market share of roughly 32.8% last week while Internet Explorer saw its share fall to just under 32%. Mozilla's Firefox held steady as the third-most popular browser in the world, accounting for a 25.5% of the total market share last week (Chrome surpassed Firefox to take over the No. 2 spot late last year).

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Internet Explorer's share of the browsing market has been experiencing a steady decline over the past few years. StatCounter says that Explorer (now on Version 9, with Version 10 on the way) hit its peak in November 2008 when it held a 70.4% share of the total browser market, followed distantly by Firefox and its 23.6% share. While Firefox has seen its market share remain steady in the 25% to 32% range since then, Explorer's share has fallen every year since its peak, dropping to 55.4% at the start of 2010, 46.24% at the start of 2011 and 37.5% at the start of 2012. Chrome, meanwhile, has gone from being a nonfactor in the browser market in 2009 to being the top-ranked browser in the world.

Explorer is still the most popular browser in the United States, however, as it held onto a 30.9% market share last week, followed by Chrome with a 27.1% U.S. market share and Firefox with a 23.5% share. This should be of little comfort to Microsoft, however, as Explorer's popularity has deteriorated sharply among American users in 2012, as it started out the year with a share of 46.1%. The browser's popularity has seemingly crashed over the past few weeks, dropping from a 41.2% market share in the first week of May to its current low of 30.9%.

Chrome has been surging in popularity ever since Google released Chrome 15 last year. StatCounter CEO Aodhan Cullen said last year that Chrome has had success in gaining acceptance in the enterprise as more people are using the browser during the workweek. He also noted that IT departments have quickly adapted to supporting and managing an alternative to Internet Explorer.

"Google announced Chrome for business exactly a year ago and IT administrations appear to have embraced it in a remarkably short time," he said. "Chrome 15 overtook IE8 for the first time during the five-day working week in the week commencing Dec. 5. It looks as if people favor Chrome on weekends at home but office commercial use has now caught up."

Google has been pushing Chrome not just as a Web browser but as a Web-based operating system that will store vital user data in the cloud to keep ample hard drive space open on Chrome-based laptops. Google is billing the platform as a low-maintenance alternative to Windows, as the operating system's reliance on the Web for data storage means that it can boot up in less than 10 seconds and it can push out updates automatically whenever you turn on your computer.

Brad Reed covers both Google and the wireless industry for Network World.  Be sure to check out his blog, Google Reed-er, and follow him on Twitter at @bwreednww.

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