Google kills Chrome usage growth

Chrome's browser usage share fell in January, according to Net Applications, after 14 months of consecutive, solid growth. Competition didn't kill Chrome growth, Google did, with its decision to reduce the browser's search page rank. Which browser benefitted most? Internet Explorer, of course.

It's a stunning turnabout for Chrome, which likely will see continued trend during February. On January 3, Google announced a temporary downgrading of Chrome's page rank -- how high it appears in searches -- following a minor scandal with a third-party ad agency. The marketer paid bloggers to write about Chrome, which violates Google policies on sponsored links. The search and information giant treated itself like other advertisers, perhaps more harshly, and lowered Chrome's search ranking for 60 days.

Between November 2010 and December 2011, Chrome usage share rose from 9.57 percent to 19.11 percent. In January, share fell to 18.94 percent. Meanwhile, Internet Explore got a big boost, gaining 1.1 points month on month for 52.96 percent share. That's down from 60.35 percent in November 2010.

Firefox is the more disturbing trend. Usage share fell nearly 1 point month on month to 20.88 percent. Firefox 10 desktop and mobile released yesterday. The question to ask (and please feel free to answer in comments): Is Mozilla's rapid-pace release schedule hurting Firefox adoption. The development cycle means a new browser version about every six weeks, which makes enterprise adoption harder. The current version might be obsolete even before being fully tested for deployment among larger businesses.

Safari continued its downward trend also, falling to 4.9 percent usage share in January from 4.97 percent in December.

Chrome's loss demonstrates the value of Google search and foreshadows benefits of connected services, like Google+ or Gmail. How Google benefits Chrome:

  • Leverage from search (Google share is tops in most geographies)
  • Web applications that run in the browser, from the cloud rather than desktop
  • Marketing -- Google is aggressively advertising Chrome, now in TV commercials
  • Rapid-fire development cycle delivering new features (Chrome 10-16 released last year)
  • Little legacy -- Google doesn't need worry about supporting business users or years of plugins

Despite Chrome's decline, v16 held on to the usage share ranking of its predecessor. Chrome 16 was second to Internet Explorer 8 in January, with 15.9 percent to 27.45 percent usage share. IE9 was third, followed by Firefox 9, with 11.64 percent and 8.57 percent share, respectively.

IE6 continues to live, despite fervent Microsoft efforts to kill it. The browser ranked fifth, with 7.93 percent usage share. I've got to ask. Do you still use Internet Explorer 6? Are you willing to admit it in comments?

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