Chrome's gobbling market share, and here's why

Google's browser ate away at Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari with help of its add-ons.

Google's Chrome was the only major Web browser to gain market share last month, eating away at Internet Explorer, Firefox, and Safari.

Chrome's market share increased by 0.4 percent to 5.6 percent, according to Net Applications, continuing a 16-month ascent that saw its usage double in the last six months. Internet Explorer's share was down 0.5 percent to 61.2 percent -- its smallest decline in a year -- and Firefox lost 0.2 percentage points, sliding to 24.2 percent of the market.

The two leading browsers also lost market share in January, so the big surprise in February was Safari's 0.1 percent dip to 4.4 percent, its first loss in share since Google released a Chrome beta for Mac in December. Chrome overtook Safari in December, though Apple's browser continued to gain market share until last month.

Chrome has been on the move with new features over the last few months, perhaps explaining the rise in interest. First, there was the beta release of Chrome for Mac. Then, in January, Google moved two major features -- bookmark sync and extensions -- out of beta for Windows computers. Mac users got those features last month.

The result is a browser whose feature set is more closely in line with the big boys. Firefox has a prolific library of add-ons, and Internet Explorer has its own add-ons, plus Accelerators that provide shortcuts when right clicking in the browser. Even Safari has a small library of extensions.

But not all is perfect with Chrome. By adding extensions from third-party developers, it runs the risk of being buggier than before. Even some of my favorite extensions seem to be guilty, causing an occasional Flash crash. Chrome is also woefully behind on security according to tests by NSS Labs, blocking 7 percent of live malware threats and 26 percent of phishing attempts (though it did manage to stop the latest Twitter phishing scam, in my experience).

The biggest problem Chrome faces is compatibility, but hopefully that will improve as the browser eats up more market share and developers find that fixing Chrome compatibility issues is more worthwhile.

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Jared Newman

PC World (US online)
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