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Google's Chrome: Brand new but not so shiny?*

September 24, 2008 |  5:00 pm

Shortly after Google unveiled Chrome, Chief Executive Eric Schmidt said the new Web browser "represents some of the best Google can do." Then he encouraged everyone to try it.

How Chrome stacks up against other browsers But not many people are. Chrome gained market share within the first 24 hours of its release on Sept. 2, but since then it has given back much of those small gains to the leaders, Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Mozilla's Firefox, according to Vince Vizzaccaro, executive vice president of marketing and strategic alliances at Internet measurement firm Net Applications.

Chrome shot up to 1% of the market but has since fallen to 0.77% as of last week, according to Net Applications. Apple's Safari was not affected since Google has yet to release a version to run on the Mac operating system. Chrome is currently duking it out with Opera Software ASA's Opera for fourth place. Net Applications bases its findings on tracking the browsers of unique visitors to 2 million websites around the globe. As you can see in the accompanying chart, Chrome use spiked after it launched the week of Aug. 31 and rose a little the following week but then slipped.

"Chrome started off pretty fast and furious," Vizzaccaro said. "Within 24 hours they surpassed 1% of usage market share which was shocking and impressive. Since then, they have been slowly fading in market percentages. The trend has a slight downward angle to it."

Google CEO Eric Schmidt

Microsoft declined to comment other than to pump up its latest version of Explorer as "faster, easier, more safe and reliable than ever before."

Mozilla's John Lilly said it was premature to draw any conclusions. "It's only been three weeks," he said. "That's not a helluva lot of time. We don't know anything about anything yet." That said: "We are seeing lots and lots of users come back."

So, if users are returning to Explorer and Firefox, why? Are they not convinced that Chrome offers the speed or features that would get them to ditch their current browsers? Are they concerned about privacy? It's hard to tell, although Chrome gets more usage at night than during the day when people are at work using corporate-sanctioned browsers. A Google spokeswoman issued the following statement: "We're pleased with the response we've gotten from users thus far."

To reverse the slide, Google will have to market Chrome, Vizzaccaro said. Thus far, Google has settled for promoting it on its home page and sponsoring links on the Google and Yahoo search engines.

So far, there have been no announcements about deals with vendors such as Dell and Hewlett-Packard to get Chrome preloaded on personal computers. (That's how Microsoft trounced Netscape during the first browser wars back in the 1990s, although Firefox has captured market share without crafting such deals.)

But, like with most things Google, Chrome is not your ordinary browser. Consider how Schmidt described Chrome: "Chrome is more than a browser, it is a platform for applications," he said. "From my perspective, the Chrome announcement is the beginning of a new platform."

That platform will host Google's online applications such as word processing and spreadsheets to compete with Microsoft's lucrative office software empire.

-- Jessica Guynn

Market share graphic by Wil Ramirez / Los Angeles Times

Photo: Google CEO Eric Schmidt. Credit: Matthew Staver / Bloomberg News

* Post updated to explain why Chrome was showing up on the research firm's measurements Aug. 31 when the browser launched Sept. 2; the measurements covered the week of Aug. 31.

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