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Chrome threatens Safari's browser share spot, Firefox falters

Google's Chrome browser is closing in on Apple's Safari for the third spot in browser market share, Web metrics company Net Applications said this weekend.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer (IE), meanwhile, again lost share last month, although the company's newest browser, IE8, surged past the 10% mark to end July at 12.5%, more than half the share of the once-dominant IE7 edition.

Net Applications' July results introduced a new methodology that weights browser usage share by the estimated size of each country's Internet population. According to Net Applications, countries such as China, which has an estimated 253 million Internet users, were previously underrepresented, while others, like the U.S., were over-represented in its unique visitor tallies.

The bottom line: Net Applications' new methodology throws a monkey wrench into earlier browser rankings.

Safari took the biggest hit, falling from a May “old-method” share of 8.4% to the new July share of just 4.1%. (Net Applications applied the new methodology retroactively to its browser numbers so that, in the revised data, Safari's May share was just 3.7%.)

U.S.-based Net Applications explained the change on its Web site, where it specifically called out Apple's plunge in both browser and operating system share. “Since Mac share in the U.S. is significantly higher than the rest of the world, Mac and Safari shares drop in the global reports,” said the company.

Discarding the old data put a new spin on each browser's current share, although it didn't really change the overall trends. IE, which accounted for 67.7% of all browsers used in July, continues to lose ground to Firefox, at 22.5%, Safari (4.1%) and Chrome (2.6%), all which gained share last month. Opera, which by Net Applications' revamped estimate accounted for almost 2% of all browsers, remained flat, as it has for months.

The tweaked numbers, however, put Chrome in much more favorable light compared to Safari, the current No. 3 browser. Previously, the separation between Safari and Chrome was a daunting 6.6 percentage points; now the gap is only 1.5 points. Both browsers added to their shares during the last two months: Safari grew by 0.37 percentage point, while Chrome gained 0.41 percentage point.

Even if Chrome keeps up its pace, however, it will need more than a year to pass Safari. The Google browser's average gain during the last 11 months, while twice that of the average monthly increase by Safari, has an edge of just 0.12 percentage point per month. At that rate, it will take Chrome 13 months to slip by Safari.

Chrome's growth trend may change in the future, when it releases versions for the Mac and Linux; currently, Chrome is only available in a production edition for Windows. Google has released developer-only versions of Chrome for the Mac and Linux, but has not set a time table for code suitable for day-to-day use.

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