Chrome: Is There Room For Three?

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Can three browsers thrive in today’s world?

Google has decided that what the world needs is another browser.

Does it? 

Before you answer that, take a look here.  This is the Wikipedia page which shows the “market share” for browsers.  Here are the numbers for Q2 2008 (I used the Net Applications numbers, but all the others show the same trends):

 Internet Explorer  73.81%
 Firefox  18.43%
 Safari    6.14%
 Opera    0.71%
 Other    0.81%

I suspect a lot of you are saying “No way,” and there’s a reason for that.  The stats for people visiting this website lately are:

Firefox                48.80%
Internet Explorer   38.80%
Safari    4.90%
Opera    4.30%
Other    3.20%

I guess that means we don’t have an average audience.

On the whole, though, IE is roughly Intel, Firefox is roughly AMD, and Safari is roughly Apple when it comes to marketshare.  Unlike AMD, though, Firefox has come a long way the last few years (though not as far as some might think: 

Time Period IE     Firefox  Safari
Q2 2005 87.24%    8.08%   1.89%
Q2 2006  84.03%  10.67%   3.25%
Q2 2007  78.76%  14.92%    4.66%
Q2 2008 73.81%  18.43%    6.14%

Two trends are clear:

  • IE’s position has been steadily eroding, but that’s the point.  Change is gradual, there is no revolution going on here.
  • Less obviously, the percentage of people who use one of the top two browsers is over 90%, and while that dominance is eroding, it’s eroding even more slowly than IE’s position. 

So how does Google’s Chrome fit into the picture?  They’re obviously going to push their browser hard, and they have the wherewithal to do that for a long, long time.  No doubt offers to install Google Chrome with some other software will become as universal as offers to install Google Toolbar.

However, no matter how good Chrome is (more realistically, what it will end up being after a while), the reality of the browser market is inertia.  IE remains the course of least resistance.  While it’s fair to say that Firefox is now making inroads into the vast Sixpack markets, it took years to happen, simply because the audience is, well, sluggish. 

On the other hand, as the statistics for this website show, the more technically adventurous are far more willing to change.  They use Firefox today, they could well use Chrome tomorrow.  

In the long term, Google will penetrate the IE market using the same methods it used with Google Toolbar, methods the Firefox folks can only dream about.  

Finally, like it or not, for the foreseeable future, this is a fight for the number two slot.  IE will continue to dominate for at least the next few years.  Chrome is probably a bigger long-term threat to IE due to Google’s money and resultant ability to penetrate the pomore sluggish sections of the browser market, but where does that leave Firefox?

I think Chrome makes Firefox the weakest link.  It will grab some of the more adventurous, and more importantly, will grab some, maybe most of the less adventurous drifting away from IE.  If the browser market is inherently a two- rather than a three-horse race, I think Firefox ends up being the one being voted off the island.  It won’t vanish for a long time, just like Netscape didn’t, but it could dwindle. 

This obviously won’t be a rapidly developing story, but we’re going to look at both the overall and our own statistics from time to time to see just how well Chrome is doing for both the overall browser audience and our own. 

If you haven’t noticed yet, we now have a comments section so you can now tell me to shut the —- discuss the issues raised in the article.   

I’ll try to pop in to see what you have to say, answer questions, and maybe take a couple swings myself.  That might be more entertaining sometimes than the articles.

 Ed

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