The Google Chrome browser has slid into third position in terms of worldwide usage in December, barely 15 months since its release. Usage of the browser jumped to 4.6 percent, up from 3.9 percent in the previous month - and effectively bumping competitor Safari down a rung. These statistics come courtesy of Net Applications, who compiled data from the 160 million monthly visitors to Web sites using its services.
CNET News attributes the surge in popularity to the availability of Chrome for the Mac OS X and Linux platforms. Having recently tried out the beta of Chrome 4.0, I would hazard that the real reason for its increased usage is its support of extensions, which allows for third-party plug-ins written by external developers. In fact, I recently made a switch to Google Chrome as my browser of choice, and have documented some of my thoughts and experiences in my post, From Mozilla Firefox to Google Chrome.
Based on the comments left by some readers, one factor that seemed to influence their selection (or rejection) of Chrome is its user interface. Reader Mike, who professed to have recently made the switch himself, admitted "The most difficult aspect of the move is becoming more used to the GC [Google Chrome] layout. I would like to better emulate my FF [Firefox] in that regard."
Whatever browser you are rooting for, reader Karan was probably right when she summed up the situation by writing: "Chrome is a newbie and has miles to go before it can develop a huge and consistent fan following as Mozilla."
Thinking back, I do recall being challenged by the minimalistic Firefox interface when I first made the transition from Internet Explorer to this "new kid on the block" a few years ago. I just realized that I have unconsciously attempted to mirror the layout of the user interface in Chrome to that of Firefox. I suppose that this is a timely reminder to IT managers and CIOs on how familiarity with existing tools can become a real barrier when migrating to new systems.
In the final analysis, though, I heartily recommend that companies still on Internet Explorer and contemplating a switch in their browser seriously consider Chrome as a viable alternative. Ditto to SMBs building Web applications that require a robust and standards-compliant rendering engine - and who don't have any requirement to support plug-ins.
Ultimately, I expect the usage figure of Chrome to increase in the coming months, as Chrome 4.0 eventually makes it to a "stable" build. Already, the number of Chrome extensions out there is substantial, and it won't be long before a tipping point is achieved.