How Google's Chrome Browser Could Overtake Firefox
For several months now, Google's Chrome browser has been posting larger market share gains, by percentage growth, than open source rivals. From February to March, preliminary Net Applications data showed that it jumped from 5.6 percent share to 6.1 opercent share. By contrast, Firefox rose from 24.2 percent to 24.5 percent over the sam period, and Safari rose from 4.5 percent to 4.7 percent.
Chrome has also been in the news in the wake of Google's and Adobe's partnership focused on building Flash Player 10.1 into the browser. Especially with Google's Chrome OS due to arrive later this year, there are good reasons to believe that Chrome could represent serious market share competition for Firefox.
Chrome OS essentially adds operating system plumbing to the Chrome browser interface, and has the potential to introduce the Chrome browsing metaphor to many new users. Google has already announced numerous hardware partners who will ship netbooks based on the new operating system, and there is also a good chance that many users will use it in conjunction with other operating systems, including Microsoft Windows. These trends could give Google a pronounced distribution advantage when it comes to getting users used to Chrome browsing standards.
It's also true that Firefox is getting major updates at a much slower rate than the Chrome browser is. That's partly due to the fact that Firefox has a much larger user base, but Google has demonstrated that it can deliver improvements to its browser at a rapid-fire pace. No doubt, as Chrome OS receives upgrades and has more developers working on it, the basic Chrome browser can inherit functionality from it, helping to keep the rate of improvement high.
While some people don’t realize it, Mozilla makes the bulk of its revenues from Google. In fact, more than 90 percent of Mozilla’s revenue comes from search-related deals, and in Google’s case, that’s in exchange for a search box in Firefox that steers users of the browser into Google’s lucrative search-and-ad ecosystem. However, if Google's browser share continues to rise at a torrid pace, its deal with Mozilla may become more questionable. Mozilla's deal with Google is up for renewal in 2011.
The real wildcard in the race between the Chrome browser and Firefox is what impact Chrome OS has. Some predict that it could be substantial, and if Chrome OS becomes lucrative for Google, the sheer number of developers thrown at the core Chrome architecture could become daunting. For years, people predicted that browsers and operating systems would converge, and Google clearly has its eyes set squarely on that trend. Later this year, we'll see exactly what impact an open source operating system can have on its sibling browser.