Google Chrome's Market Share Has Not Topped Internet Explorer's

by Ostatic Staff - May. 23, 2012

In case you hadn't noticed, even the mainstream press picked up on this week's news from StatCounter showing that Google Chrome--at least for one week--had become the world's most widely used browser. Radio stations and newspapers heralded the news that Google's young browser had overtaken Microsoft's Internet Explorer. But, while Chrome has made mightly leaps in market share during its young life, the reports seemed a bit sketchy. Now, Microsoft is officially disputing StatCounter's numbers, and offering up an explanation for how they are inflated.

Widespread reports based on StatCounter's numbers claimed that Chrome got more global usage than Internet Explorer between May 14 and May 20--the first time Chrome had ruled the browser roost for a whole week. Quickly, though, it became clear that StatCounter's numbers factored in regions all over the globe where Chrome is popular, and Internet Explorer is actually still the most popular browser in the U.S.

Now, a Microsoft blog post is questioning StatCounter's overall numbers. The post notes this:

 "Starting in June of last year with Chrome v13, Chrome began “prerendering” certain web pages in Chrome. With prerendering, Chrome is opening separate Chrome tabs based on user search queries at or from Chrome’s Omnibox that are invisible to the user. If the user then clicks these search links, then the tab and page will display. However, a certain portion of these links will never be clicked and the user will never see them – remaining invisible to them and therefore not real user page views of those prerendered sites. Last month, Net Applications began removing Chrome prerendered browsing traffic from its statistics, noting that “prerendering in February 2012 accounted for 4.3% of Chrome's daily unique visitors.” In doing so Net Applications became the first company to adjust its data reports for websites Chrome users never visited."

Long story short, the post contends that Chrome preloads an invisible tab that users never see, and it contends that StatCounter counted these preloads. The post continues:

"At least one writer noted 'analytics companies that don't take into account pre-rendering may be inflating Chrome numbers.' One such company is StatCounter, who simply publishes their data as they record it, without any adjustment for prerendering."

It should be noted that StatCounter is responding to the prerendering claims, but the Microsoft post notes that there is still no indication of "what percentage of Chrome share is being removed from StatCounter data.

Chrome has come a long way in a short time, and may indeed become the world's most popular browser, but for now, Internet Explorer still has leading market share of 54 percent according to NetApplications. Finally, it's worth looking into NetApplications' explanation of how prerendering should be handling in compiling browser usage numbers, which is posted here.