Rising browser powers: Chrome, iOS

Net Applications' latest statistics show the up-and-comers of Web usage. The new IE9 beta now is used to view 1 of every 400 Web pages.

Stephen Shankland Former Principal Writer
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Stephen Shankland
3 min read
In September, IE dipped back below 60 percent share and Chrome gained 0.5 percentage points of usage.
In September, IE dipped back below 60 percent share and Chrome gained 0.5 percentage points of usage. Net Applications / Stephen Shankland/CNET

Browser usage statistics for September provide a look at who's gaining clout on the Web: Google's Chrome, twin mobile powerhouses Apple iOS and Google Android, and Microsoft's IE9.

Google's Chrome browser continued its steady rise in usage on NetApplications' network of thousands of Web sites, which get tens of millions of visits monthly, increasing from 7.5 percent in August to 8 percent in September, the analytics firm said.

Microsoft's Internet Explorer remains the top-ranked browser, but its share dipped back below 60 percent, sinking from 60.4 percent to 59.7 percent. Second-place Firefox was essentially flat at 23 percent. Apple's Safari rose a tenth of a point to 5.3 percent. Opera kept its 2.4 percent share.

Chrome is a rising force, a fact that's very useful for Google's ambitions. Not only does it help spread the Google brand, but it also serves as a vehicle to disseminate Google technologies. For example, on Thursday, Google said it will add support for its new WebP image format to Chrome in an effort to speed browser graphics. And it's working to improve the browser: Chrome 7 is getting Google Instant search abilities, some hardware acceleration, and WebGL 3D graphics support by default.

Net Applications' September statistics gave a look at how widely used IE9 is now that it's in beta: with a share of 0.25 percent for the last two weeks of September, that's a respectable 1 of every 400 Web pages.

Microsoft, after a long dormant period, is back in fighting shape for the browser wars with IE9, which in beta form features more extensive hardware acceleration than Chrome. IE9 is notable for its support of Web standards, including a host of newer standards that Web developers are eager to implement.

But standards support isn't an easy matter for Microsoft. For years, Microsoft's IE, not Web standards, was the technology for which developers coded their Web sites. To deal with this legacy of non-standard Web pages, IE uses a "compatibility mode" by which it renders pages using its older rendering rules.

The Net Applications statistics show just how often IE must call upon the compatibility mode. For the IE9 beta, this compatibility mode is used for about one of each eight pages. Clearly it will be a long time before the Web is fully modernized for the post-IE era.

Some of the most interesting trends in the browser market are with mobile devices, a much less mature market than browsing on personal computers.

Mobile browsing is exploding in usage with a new generation of devices coming to market. In October 2009, it accounted for 1.1 percent of all browsing, but by September 2010, that figure grew to 2.8 percent, Net Applications said.

A new class of smartphones and mobile devices is dominating that usage.

Apple's iOS devices--the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad--account for 1.2 percent of browser usage. That's up from 0.4 percent in October 2009.

Google's Android operating system, which is chiefly used in mobile phones but is beginning to arrive in tablets that compete with the iPad, lags well behind but is growing. Its share of browsing rose from 0.02 percent in October 2009 to 0.24 percent in September 2010.

The statistics don't reflect a large element of mobile Net usage through applications, however. Although iOS and Android browsers outclass the mobile browsers that came before, they're still slower than on PCs and hard to use with small screens in many cases. Many companies therefore choose to make their Net-connected services accessible through applications rather than just Web sites.